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Episode 29 — Who Is Baratunde Thurston?


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#1 Earwolf Admin

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Posted 17 August 2011 - 11:03 PM

If you haven't asked yourself this question yet, you will after listening to this episode! Part political activist, part social media innovator, and one-hundred-percent hilarious, Baratunde joins Jeff this week to discuss the evolution of entertainment platforms, the creative mindset, and the power of The Thank You Economy. This is a guy who is funny enough to work for The Onion, but is sincere and thoughtful enough to create of one of the only non-ironic or cat-based "viral videos" that I can think of! When you're done listening, go to Baratunde's website to learn about the million other things he's created that we didn't have time to address.



#2 Steve K.

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Posted 18 August 2011 - 07:02 AM

Just an FYI. Baratunde's website link does not open in another window. So if you go to the website while listening to the podcast, you'll have to start the podcast over unless u right click and specify to "open in new tab or window."



#3 Steve K.

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Posted 18 August 2011 - 08:24 AM

Wow, one my favorite Wolf Dens so far. Baratunde sounds incredibly intelligent. This theme of being yourself ultimately transcends to all facets of life. Good stuff.

Jeff, I think I have your tag line for your EarWolf CEO personalized tee-shirt. “Earwolf is in the business of producing content…and trying not to go broke in doing it.”



#4 Julia Hays

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Posted 18 August 2011 - 08:28 AM

Great episode with a very interesting, funny guest. You have a new fan here, Baratunde!



#5 Jeff Ullrich

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Posted 18 August 2011 - 12:49 PM

Thanks Julia and Steve! To everyone else, where's my comments, yo? This was my favorite episode yet, let's talk about it!



#6 Rutabaga

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Posted 18 August 2011 - 02:28 PM

I like Baratunde’s idea of a premium Earwolf service. I think it can be as simple as a gated RSS feed that just throws out some extra content as it becomes available. There aren’t a ton of premium Earwolf episodes, but I’d be happy to have a feed that delivers them to me without having to go into iTunes to buy the individual episodes (which aren't even automatically podcasts). I don’t even think it has to be about giving people $30 worth of brand new exclusive content every 6 months, but instead just taking the hassle out of collecting all the awesome stuff Earwolf people do and throwing it into one feed as a reward for what is basically a donation. A bit like a more selective internet video version of the Earwolf Live App. What I am describing is sort of just a video podcast mixed with the already premium episodes, but I can’t possibly be the only one who just doesn’t watch that many streaming videos on their computer. I want to download stuff (preferably automatically) and watch or listen when I actually have a free minute or five. As long as the hosting costs and time spent are less than the $$$ per customer, I think it would be win-win as a substitute for or complement to straight donations.
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Really great episode all around.



#7 Good

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Posted 18 August 2011 - 05:58 PM

very good episode. Baratunde is great. one of the big things when getting donations is the transaction fee. Some places will state that they prefer checks over a credit card for this reason. Maybe you could state that you prefer a lump sum. Additionally, I like the idea of paying into a yearly fan club membership, especially if it meant I got a tshirt and/or some premium content. Another thing I took away from him and last week's episode is that NYC comedians aren't that aware of Earwolf as a whole. I feel that it is a market that needs to be developed. I understand why, but Earwolf is too Los Angeles Alternative Comedy based and it may be time to bring in outside talent. So, what I'm saying is that Baratunde would be a great person to have his own comedy podcast HINT HINT.



#8 jughead

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Posted 19 August 2011 - 03:53 AM

I thought it was pretty telling when Baratunde pointed out that it will be very difficult to get people to pay for an audio only medium with all of the other multimedia options that are out there today. That being said, I don't think having video of these podcasts taken will play very well because I believe it would take away from the character voices that are prevelant on most of Earwolf's shows. It would be hard to think "Alan Rickman" when I am sitting there watching the voice come out of James A's mouth.



#9 Bucho

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Posted 19 August 2011 - 01:33 PM

Baratunde was a really solid guest for The Wolf Den, especially with how he brought in a couple of new angles on established ideas.
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As for the subject of video, it seems like to make one worth watching requires a significant jump in production time. I know several podcasts (Keith and The Girl, Carolla, Pardo, Kevin Pollack) run video either live or archived, but I never watch them, I only need the audio. The strength of podcasts for me is the same as it was with radio - they can be enjoyed while your eyes (and hands) are otherwise engaged. Even with shows like Real Time With Bill Maher - a show primarily created for video - I only listen to the audio.
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Having said that, I would love an edited (say 3-5 minutes) video version of highlights from Who Charted. One reason I don't watch those other shows is that I don't have spare hours to just watch people yapping, no matter how funny they might be. What I do have is spare chunks of minutes here and there. That's one of the huge strengths of Zach and Scott's Between Two Ferns videos, and in fact the strength of Funny Or Die in general. The only other internet video thing I've watched regularly apart from Funny Or Die is CHUD.com's movie discussion videos and the Penny Arcade TV series, which also usually sit between 6 and 12 minutes. A lot of what's on them is discussion, but because of the cinematography on them they're visually witty and interesting too.
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Often during Who Charted it's commented that action is going down in the studio - usually Ku-ku and the guest throwing shapes during the music charts - which should be seen. I also think it would be superentertaining to see the look on Wee-wee's face as he delivers his ridiculous questions and proclamations, and probably even more entertaining (superuberentertaining) to see the perplexed look on the guest's face or Ku-ku's delightfully animated cracking up face.
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It would probably require 2-4 hours extra production depending on how experienced the editor is and at least two cameras to put such a thing together but whether it would be included in a premium package behind a paywall or even just a great promotional thing to get the show in front of more people as part of the Funny or Die partnership, I think it would end up paying for itself.



#10 Rutabaga

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Posted 19 August 2011 - 02:58 PM

After writing my post I checked out the iTunes Video Podcast section, and I am really surprised Funny or Die does not already have a podcast. I’d assume the biggest issue is hosting / bandwidth costs and the idea that they want to drive more traffic to the actual website. It just seems like sketch videos would work incredibly well in podcast form. Happy Tree Friends looks like the most popular comedy video podcast by a huge margin, and while I haven’t watched any of that in years, I assume it is just quick cartoons like their site was. I agree Bucho that it isn’t necessary to watch an episode of Bill Maher or even Never Not Funny as video, because the audio is wonderful and so much more versatile. All other talking head shows fall into that category to me. But quick sketches or even a web series like Held Up or Layers (something I am not sure you can even watch anymore) would be super cool to be available as downloadable bonus content.
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Maybe the Funny or Die partnership will be a gateway for some stuff like this, because I am sure there a million rights / licensing issues that go along with what I am saying. Caroline is always linking to cool stuff in the Earmails, but I am just rarely in a place where I can watch them while I am reading it. Sometimes the best part of the internet is just its ability to let an expert aggregate stuff and filter out the noise. Earwolf already has the expert, if they could just go one step further and deliver it to my phone, I’d be super happy.



#11 astralweeks

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Posted 19 August 2011 - 03:39 PM

Really fun and informative! Get well Jeff.



#12 Bucho

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Posted 19 August 2011 - 04:13 PM

I agree with you about streaming video too Rutabaga, and all this cloud malarky in general come to think of it. Unless you have a perfect connection, which is often not the case if you live (or vacation/holiday outside of major metro areas) it can be ropey and being able to just download it to play at your leisure is way better.
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And to expand on the power of audio a little more, even though this is tangential to the episode, ever since I was a kid I've made audio tapes of my favourite movies. Right now I have audio from episodes of Futurama, 30 Rock and The Sarah Silverman program on my mp3 player. Obviously I took in all these things with my eyeballs first, but I love my favourite episodes so much I can play the audio while I wash dishes or mow the lawn and get a lot of entertainment from hearing them. Admittedly I do this less and less as more and more podcasts fill up my playlists, but sometimes it's just what the doctor ordered. And by doctor I mean Dr Spaceman.
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Apart from anything else doing that taught me how much of the power of film and tv - especially when it comes to the charisma and personality of actors - is aural. As much as I'm a dork for cinematography I'd never just watch something with the sound off, but hearing just the audio can be a lot of fun. As much as they each produce video themselves I've often heard Jesse Thorn and Adam Carolla go on about the power of audio and that being Earwolf's raison d'etre I think it'd be wise for them to maintain the focus in that area for the time being.
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I think the idea of something like a Who Charted highlights video is more viable - at least at this early stage - because the production effort required is only 2% of what it takes to produce full sketch videos. You're filming a studio performance that's already happening anyway, so setup time is virtually nil, and then cutting together a compilation of the parts which might be hooks for potential new listeners.



#13 Sara1326657700

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Posted 19 August 2011 - 07:39 PM

I would pay for a premium membership if it meant getting the podcasts a day or so early. I think it's just a simple way to get donations, and could be just enough of a perk to get a lot of loyal listeners to subscribe. Maybe include a coupon or something for the store? Buy one shirt, get the second half off? It'd help clear out some inventory, at least.

Also, I think it would make sense in the 'commercial' part of each show to have more crossover and feature an ad from another Earwolf podcast. It would help get listeners more informed of other shows and have a better idea of what else there is on the network. Maybe even have that show hype an upcoming guest, or Paul Scheer tell what the next movie they'll be reviewing will be. But it could just be bits, like the Prof. Blastoff ones, so they won't be outdated for people in the future going through the catalog.



#14 Daniel Liddle

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Posted 21 August 2011 - 09:48 AM

I loved listening to Baratunde. You can tell that he's interested in more than just profitability, or even in actively designing communities. What really came through in the interview was Baratunde's ambition to play with the underlying procedures of media formats. On one level this comes out in the fact that he's into learning Python, as well as his anecdote about personifying the swine flu. More importantly it came out in the moments where the conversation jumped to less digestible ideas like "thank you culture" and the changing relationship between creator and audience. Of course this had as much to do with Baratunde's threads as Jeff's direction. Good show sir.
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The conversation on audio/video formats brings up an interesting situation, one that the growing comedy podcast field specifically calls into question. There have been many conversations on Earwolf and other podcasts which describe how audio podcasts build on a level of intimacy and freedom. Many are describing podcasts as "punk rock." in this respect, and it seems at least part of this designation comes from a reclaimation of audio-only media. I for one probably wouldn't watch video content. It would need to be as produced as a FOD skectch (so who knows!) in order to grab my attention, and even then I wouldn't commit as much time to watching the video as I do listening to the audio.
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I don't think media is progressive.
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I also wouldn't use early access or inside ticket information. I live too far away and I listen to most of the podcasts a few days late anyway. But with that said it might be a bonus for those with more access to the LA scene.