Old Time Radio Ads: Now on Your Podcasts!

So many of the ads you hear on podcasts these days evoke the ones on AM radio back when the DJs who played the records or the stars of the regular programs would tout the benefits of soft drinks or laundry detergent or cigarettes.

That goes back a hundred years or more and even I am not that old, but I used to listen to a weekly program of old-time radio dramas and sitcoms on the NPR station in DC and some of them had the ads embedded.

Now every time I hear a podcast host speak favorably about their sponsor — especially when I get the feeling that this person is extremely unlikely to ever use that product — all I can think of are the sort of ads that were common on the radio in, say, the 1930s.

I find it shocking that these people — these very smart people — have to do this. I don’t mind them asking listeners to pay directly for the program, but it bothers me to hear a professor tout a product.

At the very least, the ads could be done by actors, as they are on television and radio these days.

You will of course tell me that I should pay to support these programs. After all they cost money to make. But the problem is the way they’ve decided to have people pay.

Most of them are ad-free for paying listeners, or so they say. I suspect to get that benefit, I will also have to log in through a special app or some such, making it a lot more difficult for me to just scroll through what’s available on my different subscribed podcasts.

But the bigger problem is that I have to go separately and support each one. It’s the same problem with magazines and newspapers, all of which want you to subscribe to them, and only them. And while there are certainly some publications and podcasts and TV series and whatnot I prefer to others, the truth is I want access to all of them.

I’m not going to listen to only one podcast or read only one newspaper.

I don’t want just one source of news. I want to browse among many. But nobody wants to set up an easy way to pay for that. Everything is a separate app.

And those separate apps can all screw up. Today there are notices on social media that Patreon has screwed up its payment system in some way. Apparently some of the creators aren’t getting their money, but also the supporters aren’t getting their receipts or any notice of whether there is a problem with their payment.

Apparently I need to check my credit card and check Patreon to see whether the people I support got their money. That kind of glitch does not make me inclined to keep supporting people there. So not only is it a problem that I can’t support a range of people, but I also can’t trust the program that is supposedly making it possible for creators to get some income.

In an app like Substack, you only get the individual newsletter you pay for. I want a dozen points of view, or more; not just one or two, but I can’t afford to give $50 a year times a dozen newsletters. Nor do I want to read every word someone writes in their newsletter. I might only want to read part of what they do.

It’s not that I object to paying. What I object to is paying for access to only one thing. 

I would love a system where I paid a monthly fee and the software kept track of which shows I listened to and which publications I read and so forth and paid them each a share of my payment.

I am damned sure we have software capable of doing that, but way too many companies don’t want it. They want to capture the market, to tie us up with their product and only their product.

It’s like loyalty cards at the store. Or Amazon Prime. And it’s not just money: even the people who promise they don’t want to make you pay still want to make you register, which means another password, another log-in, another app.

To me the real promise of the Internet was that I could find so many different things. I grew up in a small town, went to small town schools, used the bookmobile for years before we got a small town library. The only bookstores were in downtown Houston.

We got one Houston newspaper. My parents subscribed to The New Yorker, Playboy, The Atlantic. (After I left home my father went in for Rolling Stone.) That gave me some exposure to ideas beyond small Texas towns, but not near enough.

College was better, at least with the libraries and bookstores and broader range of people. Living in Washington, DC, offered me even more.

But there were still so many things I never heard about, never ran across. The Internet changed all that for me.

Do away with the damn paywalls. Set up a system that gives me access to everything for a monthly fee. Pay the writers and the others who are making things worth reading or seeing or listening to.

Let’s have tech that can give us all the possibilities.

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