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I have a new story for you
The final episode of the Crypto Island series.
Thanks for being patient. This is the last episode of Crypto Island. I hope you enjoy it. The rest of this email is meant to be read once you’re done. It’s about the end of Crypto Island and the beginning of my next show.
Here’s a link to the episode.
And, you can subscribe here for news about my upcoming show.
Thanks for listening to this series.
I’ve helped create three radio shows. With each show I was trying to answer some questions.
This show, one of the big questions was – can you make the kind of radio I like to make independently?
The thing is, the kind of podcasting I like to do is traditionally thought of as really expensive. Not so much because of the microphones and computers, but because making 45 minutes of a reported story can take weeks (or, sometimes months) of a bunch of professional people’s time.
There’s the fact checker, who makes sure every single sentence has a citation, but also that the sentence reflects what the citation says, and that the thing being cited is actually true, which it’s often not, which often means time spent tracking down an obscure expert to ask them a very specific question.
There’s the sound designer, who has to write the exact right piece of music to make you feel the thing you’re supposed to feel at the right moment, but not too much of that feeling, because that will feel corny, and actually, the moment they spent two days beautifully scoring was just cut from the story because the fact checker realized that moment involved someone saying that’s not quite true.
There’s the reporter, who has to come up with an idea for a story, which is usually not an idea but a hunch, and then go somewhere, and ask a bunch of people a bunch of prying questions, and hope that something happens in that place, and that the thing that happens is surprising, and true. And that involves guessing, honestly. And hoping. It often doesn’t pan out.
There’s the editor, who has to sit with the reporter with their hours and hours or days and days of recorded tape, and find the two minutes here and there that are captivating. And then listen to all those captivating bits and figure out what order they should go in, and decide which bits aren’t so captivating, and what the story was actually about, anyway.
Usually there are more people helping.
But anyway, that team eventually has a draft, and the team plays the draft for people they trust and they learn stuff about the story, most of it bad. They learn that the parts that are supposed to be interesting are boring, the parts that are supposed to be funny are kind of offensive, and that the middle is just really confusing.
And then, all those people take the thing apart and re-write it and try it again and again until it works.
It’s a maddening process. It can last three days or six months. It resists automation, it resists perfection. The more ambitious the story — ambitious meaning trying to say something complicated, or trying to tell a story in a different style — the longer all this usually takes.
At a big company, with a large staff, you can hedge your bets. For instance, you can do some lay-up stories to balance out the long shot stories. But no matter what, everything is always a bit of a gamble. Time and money are finite, and you’re trying to spend them in a way that gets you the best story by deadline. It’s tricky. It’s a bit like gambling. Sometimes it’s scary, sometimes it’s tremendously fun.
Crypto Island was me trying to figure out if I could tell those kinds of stories with a much smaller team, without working with a big company. And the answer is … I’m not sure. Kind of?
Artistically I really like what we made, financially it was not sustainable.
Some very wonderful listeners contributed money, which helped defray the costs of paying the fact checker and sound designers. My editor was doing this for free on the side of her full-time job. And I took on some side work to make it all make sense.
So, was it worth it? I think so. Because I got to make a show: which means I got to think about and try to understand the world a little bit better, and in doing so helped some strangers who were doing laundry pass the time.
And it was also worth it because now you are here. Not just you, but a bunch of you’s. Subscribed to this newsletter, and subscribed to the podcast feed, and now I can make a new show for you at the same place and not have to start from zero.
That new show will be its own experiment. It won’t be about crypto (although, I’ll still cover the crazy things that do happen in crypto). I’m planning to call the new show WEEKLY, with PJ Vogt. The idea right now is that it’ll come out twice a month.
Right now, what I’m saying about it to my friends is this.
It’ll be a show where I, a professional obsessive, call smart people I know to have conversations about the questions I’m curious about. Sometimes it’ll be about the news, sometimes it’ll be about the internet, sometimes it’ll just be about things I’m personally fascinated by.
I want it to looser and more conversational than Crypto Island, or really any work I’ve done before.
I’ve never made a show like that, and I feel nervous and excited to try. I’m going to take some time to pilot it, and then it’ll pop up sometime next year. This time there will be ads.
This job, talking to strangers, and having strangers listen, has provided me with an unusual life. I feel very grateful for it. Thank you for listening.
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