Discover more from Search Engine with PJ Vogt
Wait, should I not be drinking airline coffee?
A mystery and an investigation with our guest, Queer Eye's Antoni Porowski
Search Engine, our new podcast, is up and running. You can expect new episodes most Fridays at 5am eastern time, here’s a link to our full schedule.
And here’s our launch episode.
The episode is about a conspiracy theory first told to me by Queer Eye’s Antoni Porowski. A disgusting rumor about airline coffee. Antoni heard that you’re not supposed to drink it, because it’s full of bacteria, and he heard that the people who work on the plane, the flight attendants and pilots, stay far away from this stuff.
So we looked into it. Our investigation took us, as my favorite investigations often do, to a lot of places I wouldn’t have expected we’d wind up. You can hear the results in the episode.
I’m going to include some diagrams and images that were referenced in the episode at the bottom of this email. I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone who hasn’t gotten to listen yet. But once you’ve listened, scroll down to the part that says “Extras”.
Social … media?
If you think it’d be funny to watch a geriatric millennial stumble into the on-camera internet, you can follow along there. Please be nice. I’ll get better at this over time.
If you are a subscriber to the paid version of our newsletter, we are turning payments back on now. If you want to become a subscriber and help us make this thing, there’s a button below. Five bucks a month.
Thanks for reading Search Engine with PJ Vogt! Subscribe to receive new posts and, if you’d like, support our work.
A bit about Search Engine (spoilers for the episode after this point)
Part of the reason it felt appropriate to launch with an episode about all kinds of people doing all kinds of experiments is because that is very much the spirit we find ourselves in right now, as we publish a new podcast in the strange podcast landscape of 2023.
I’ve said this before, but Crypto Island, our last show, was an experiment. We were testing out how feasible it was to make an independently produced podcast miniseries. Narrative podcasting, pre-2022, was mostly big: big budgets, big teams, big companies. We’d worked in that world before and seen its upsides and downsides. We wanted to try something that was built small, on purpose.
We learned a lot from that experiment, and when it was done, we started futzing around with experiment number two.
The idea was that what came next should be a small weekly show, building on the Crypto Island feed. That was, for a slightly scary amount of time, pretty much the entire idea.
But then, we made demo episodes, we sent them to friends. The vision got sharper. And what emerged was a weekly explainer show. One where the topics could be very broad, maybe even idiosyncratic. Sometimes we’d report stories and tell them with multiple voices, sometimes we’d just try to find a good question and the one person who seemed to have an answer to it.
The show we were initially calling Weekly became Search Engine. Search Engine is experiment number 2.
Here’s what we’re testing this time: Can we make a show that comes out regularly, with a fairly small team, that’s both fun to listen to and fun to make?
If Search Engine works, it’ll work because of you. Because you listen, because you share it, and because some of you decide to contribute to the show financially.
My industry, the podcast industry, is re-learning right now a lesson media has always known, which is that advertising is a fickle financial model. Ad rates are significantly lower than they were a few years ago. That’s why you may have noticed the eerie sound of some of your favorite podcasts going to an ad break and then not playing any ads. That’s not a good sign.
Nobody knows exactly what’s going to happen, although, as my Dad likes to remind me, nothing’s ever as bad or as good as it seems.
How the show works, right now. And how you can help.
At Search Engine, we’re fortunate this year to have the support of Audacy, which is selling the ads for the show. This pays for our staff and operations budget. Substack subscriptions will pay for weird reporting experiments. Like, for instance, with this airline coffee story you just listened to.
We got an answer that we were satisfied with. But along the way, we also started to test the airline water ourselves. Every time one of us took a flight, we took samples and shipped them to a lab.
We’re hoping to have a decent sample size to publish the results of our experiment by the end of this season of Search Engine. Those tests will be paid for through your Substack subscriptions. We have more, stranger tests coming down the line. Paid subscribers are also invited to attend our periodic meetings, so we can ask them questions like — is this newsletter way more podcast-inside-baseball than anyone wants to hear?
This newsletter, and this podcast, are a conversation between the four of us at Search Engine and you all.
Thanks for being here,
Extras from the episode:
Here’s that photo of the tank that Antoni wanted to see: