Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Royal wedding podcasts are not for me

My excitement for the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle has, like that of many British people I know, peaked at somewhere less than zero. I know some people from other countries sometimes find this hard to comprehend, but the default position of my social circle on the Royal family has always been ‘don’t care, don’t pay attention, didn’t we abolish them already?’.

For instance: I was on holiday in Italy over the long weekend of Queen Elizabeth II’s diamond jubilee in 2012. The friend I was travelling with (a musician) needed to go and check out a church he would be playing in on an upcoming tour. We walked in to find the interior completely covered with union flags and hand-embroidered pictures of the Queen’s face — it was the Anglican church in Rome, and nobody does nostalgic 1950s monarch-love like the ex-pats — and it honestly took us about an hour after we’d left to figure out why it had been decorated like that, so little impact had this reign-length milestone made on either of us.

All of which is to say: Royal wedding podcasts are not for me. However, I have found myself fascinated in the last few weeks by how many of them are being made. In the UK iTunes store, there’s even currently a featured section on the homepage for them:

I could be wrong, but this is the first major royal event that I’m aware of that has been accompanied by such a stream of dedicated podcasts. Prince William and Kate Middleton got married in 2011, back when media companies had barely dipped a toe into the audio waters and Gimlet was just a twinkle in Alex Blumberg’s eye.

But the more I thought about it, the more I could see that royal podcasts make total sense from a commissioner’s point of view. Royal weddings in particular provide the perfect combination of worldwide interest and a total information vacuum, meaning that podcast hosts and guests can just endlessly speculate without ever actually being proved wrong (I mean, Meghan Markle isn’t going to suddenly re-activate her instagram account to set the record straight on what kind of lace she’s having on her dress, is she?).

There’s also an entire existing media industry dedicated to this baseless speculation to draw on. Scanning down the episode descriptions for some of these shows I saw that royal editors have been rubbing shoulders with bridal magazine correspondents, as well as etiquette coaches and so called “insiders” on the guest rostas.

And then there’s the moment itself. Of course, interest in Harry and Meghan will peak on 19 May, their actual wedding day, but there’s no need for these podcasts to be limited series covering just that event (and indeed several aren’t — they are retitled and repurposed feeds for existing Royal family podcasts).

As part of my producing job, I’m currently planning a limited series for the football World Cup this summer, which will obviously only run for the duration of the tournament itself. Football continues, of course, but the discussion will move on. But this wedding-level of speculation about Harry and Meghan will continue for their entire lives. Is she pregnant yet? Is he losing his hair? Do their children look like Princess Diana? It will never stop.

Perhaps we should all be making podcasts about the Royal family — when the audio nuclear winter comes, they’ll be the only things that survive.


The podcast recommend

Ben writes in to tell us about Help I Sexted My Boss:

“Etiquette expert (yes that's a job) William Hanson and Radio 1 DJ Jordan North are a pair you’d probably never put together, but on this podcast with a simple format they’re given the space to be themselves, leading to often quite hilarious situations. They give helpful advice — most of the time — for modern situations. You probably shouldn’t take their words 100 per cent seriously, but you will definitely enjoy it — regardless of the reliability.”

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The podcast links

  1. Alexa and Siri Can Hear This Hidden Command. You Can’tNew York Times

  2. Why can’t podcasts be more like Radio 4?Spectator <- this is a very stupid question, just fyi

  3. Pirate Radio Stations Explode on YouTubeNew York Times

  4. Who Is “Alex, Inc.”‘s Audience?Wil Williams <- the show has now been cancelled, RIP the big audio to TV boom

  5. Miranda Sawyer on true crimeGuardian


That’s everything for today. Thanks for reading! Don’t forget that you can subscribe to get two extra emails about podcasting from me every week: I do commentary on industry news on Thursdays, and playlists of great shows to listen to on Sundays.

Coming up this week — I ask whether a branded podcast can ever be considered ‘good’ and a playlist of sport podcasts that I, a non sport person, enjoy.