[00:00:00] Nolan Higdon: Yeah. And that’s one, that’s one area that the podcasting space, you point out, really, really interrogates that you could have a, you know, critique of the Democrats from the left, uh, and a critique of the Republicans from the right. And you can find some unity from both of those critiques, right?
[00:00:20] Matt Bailey: Right.
[00:00:21] Nolan Higdon: And that sounds, I know, totally foreign to people who listen to legacy media, but you, you see it occur in this, in this podcasting space in like a very real way. And, you know, like we were talking about earlier, it doesn’t mean at the end of the podcast you do agree with everything you hear, but it is so refreshing just to hear something different that comes from like a learned place, you know, that’s, that’s interesting, it’s captivating for people who care.
[00:00:44] Bumper Intro-Outro: Welcome to Endless Coffee Cup, a regular discussion of marketing news, culture, and media for our complex digital lifestyle. Join Matt Bailey as he engages in conversation to find insights beyond the latest headlines and deeper understanding for those involved in marketing. Grab a cup of coffee, have a seat, and thanks for joining.
[00:01:06] Matt Bailey: Well, hello and welcome, dear listeners, to another edition of the Endless Coffee Cup podcast. And today we’re going to talk about podcasting. And I received a, a great book, and some of you, those of you that have been listening for a while, you might recognize one of the authors Nolan Higdon, who has been on the show before, as well as Nicholas Baham. Guys, thank you so much for making the time to be on the show.
If, if you could just give me a short introduction, you know, for each of you, and also what was it that made you want to write this book about podcasters? We’ll decide who goes first. Nick, oh, okay. I’ll pick on you, Nick. Go ahead and go first.
[00:01:49] Nicholas Baham: Alright. Got an error right there, I apologize deeply. I know…
[00:01:52] Matt Bailey: We’ll fix it in post.
[00:01:54] Nicholas Baham: …how that is. Uh, so…
[00:01:54] Matt Bailey: Fix it in post processing.
[00:01:56] Nicholas Baham: Right, right. So, uh, I’m Dr. Nicolas Baham. I am a, uh, Professor of Ethnic Studies at Cal State, California State University East Bay, and I teach Black Studies and a Genders and Sexualities in Communities of Color program. But also, a number of years ago, you know, as a professor you do occasional radio interviews and things like that, expert interviews.
And I had the opportunity a number of years ago to get involved with Project Censored and also appear on the radio with my good friend Nolan Higdon. We turned what we were doing on the radio into a podcast called “Along the Line.” Also, I turned that into my own membership with Project Censored on their, on their board.
So, after doing, what, almost about 300 episodes of Along the Line, which was a largely political and cultural podcast where we were seeking to really ferret out the truth about really serious issues like child trafficking or, you know, dark money, or, and other issues like that, and really provide some form of an explanation for people.
We said, “Look, what about all these other podcasts that we’re engaging with?” It seems like a lot of these other podcasters are, there’s a, there’s a genre of them, of people who are looking to decolonize themselves from dominant ideologies, be those neo-liberalism or neo-fascism, or, you know, things down to, like, how we eat, sexuality, patriarchy, racism, sexism, et cetera. And that’s where the idea of the book began.
[00:03:36] Matt Bailey: Great. Great. Yeah…
[00:03:39] Nolan Higdon: Uh…
[00:03:39] Matt Bailey: …I was telling the listeners, uh, uh, Nolan, yes. I was telling the listeners, uh, this book, I, I got to tell you, I, I added so many new podcasts as I was going through the book. It was just, “I got to search it, add it,” so, this was a, a fantastic read. Nolan, I didn’t mean to cut you off. Welcome to the show, man. It’s good to see you again.
[00:03:57] Nolan Higdon: Yeah, right back at you. Always a pleasure to, to see you, Matt, and, uh, be a part of the Endless Coffee Cup universe. Thanks for having us on the, the program.
[00:04:04] Matt Bailey: Sure.
[00:04:04] Nolan Higdon: And Matt’s always been a great supporter of us. We really appreciate it. Yeah, to, to pick up where Nick left off, actually, Matt, what you said, one of the, you know, one of the most, you know, sort of basic hopes we had of this book is that we could become like a resource where people could go to learn about what different podcasts are out there. So, I’m glad to hear that you picked up the book and, you know, were introduced to these different podcasts.
One of the most exciting things about doing this research was finding all these new podcasts. There were so many voices or issues that I was exposed to that I would not have been had I not done this, this research. And, you know, the, the idea really germinated with Nick. I still remember the morning when Nick, uh, just came in and said like, “You know, there seems to be like all these podcasters who are like decolonizing themselves. Has anybody looked at this?”
And so, you know, I went and I did my, my little scholarly literature review and I said, “You know man, nobody has. Like, people have looked at like how to make your own podcast. There’s a lot of books on that. There’s a lot of books of how to teach with podcasts, but nobody’s actually looked at these podcasters.” And from that, the, the project was, was born. And for the next couple of years, we’d spend our time listening to podcasts, talking on the phone, talking about podcasts, sharing our favorite clips of podcasts, and, you know, this became our world.
[00:05:16] Matt Bailey: Fantastic. Well, dear listener, the name of the book is, “The Podcaster’s Dilemma” and the subtitle is, “Decolonizing Podcasters in the Era of Surveillance Capitalism.” That hooked me right there. So, let’s start with some, just like you do in the book. What are some key definitions? What do you mean by decolonizing? Let’s start there.
[00:05:41] Nicholas Baham: We’re looking at is we’re looking at people who are challenging dominant ideologies. And, and again, there’s a range of, of things that we’re looking at. Anything to people who are critiquing monopoly capitalism, such as we deal with today, or frankly, even surveillance capitalism, to patriarchal structures around a marriage and family, to the way that we eat right now, and they, and critiquing the food industry, health industries, et cetera.
We were, we were looking at people who are dismantling the very things that we often take for granted in our society. And that’s what makes them so powerful is that people simply take for granted what they hear from any authority or organization that seems to be authoritative without really being able to peek back behind the curtain and see, you know, who’s funding this, what the real interests are behind it.
[00:06:35] Matt Bailey: Absolutely. And that, I think, is a, one of the great features of podcasting is you’re hearing from maybe experts and authorities who won’t make the evening news, or, or won’t make the, the talking head shows. That these are people that are passionate about it, that have firsthand experience, and they’ve got a drive to share it with others.
And, it, I think that has been one of the most refreshing parts of being in this, this podcasting industry is you hear so many different perspectives on things that you ordinarily would never, never be exposed to. And, you know, and, and I guess that’s the dilemma part is the other side of it is everything’s tracked. Everything is coded. Everything, everything, every podcast I listen to through Apple, Apple knows about.
[00:07:29] Nicholas Baham: Yeah.
[00:07:29] Matt Bailey: And so, we’re using the same technology that allows that tracking.
[00:07:34] Nolan Higdon: Yeah, this was, when you hit, that’s the dilemma right there for, for podcasters, right? These tools offer so many opportunities to network, to community build, to interrogate, uh, these dominant ideologies, but they do come with a cost, you know, and survey, being surveilled, being tracked, losing privacy around communication and things like that. These are realities in, in surveillance capitalism.
And so, the more we rely on these tools, the more normalized that becomes, and you have this kind of weird space, i.e., the dilemma where these tools have so many possibilities. We can’t stop using them, but at the same time, they have so many threats to our livelihood, yet we still can’t stop using them. And in the book, you know, we, we didn’t write this book to like sort of mock podcasters. We love the podcasting space. So, it’s, it’s less of a judging the podcasters and more of a warning to podcasters about, “We need to think about where this is going. How can we best protect this space?”
[00:08:28] Matt Bailey: Yeah, I did get that at all, that it, it, it’s not a critique or take down of podcasting, rather, I, I felt like you’re propping it up, that this is a legitimate media outlet to, to learn, to discover alternative voices.
[00:08:46] Nicholas Baham: Yeah. You know, the thing is that, and I’ll let Nolan, just because this, um, is ish more than mine, but, uh, challenging legacy media, corporate. That’s also sort of the broader context of decolonization, but one of the things that we uncovered here, uh, and we, in chapters of the book is an internet historical connection between podcasting and revolutionary radio. That in the period after World War II to help countries, you’re looking at colonizers, whether that was in, uh…
[00:10:00] And then we find over time that as podcasting and digital media develop, you see things like the 2013 Turkey protests where people are using mixed media. They’re using radio, they’re using a little bit of podcasting, they’re on social media, et cetera. So, we drew a direct connection between these podcasters and what in Fanon’s critique of the use of radio in his text, “Dying Colonialism.” And, and then we provided a sense of how our podcasters worked through three different stages of a decolonization process and kind of divided up our understanding of pro- of podcasts based on who fit in each one of those different stages.
[00:10:23] Nolan Higdon: Yeah, and I, and what we sort of found, to Nick’s point, and, and Matt, you sort of foreshadowed this earlier, people are gravitating toward the podcast space. We, we now have numbers over a longer period of time for the podcasting space. Podcasters are drawing audiences that are on par with like prime time television news shows and programs. They’re getting subscriber bases that are on par with like other legacy media outlets.
So, they’re drawing audiences that are comparable sizes. They’re having a much bigger cultural influence in terms of what people see. And they really, you know, for someone who’s critiqued media for all the years we’ve critiqued media, they really stand as an example of what we’ve talked about for years, which is this news media system is not serving the public, right? They would always say these things, like, “Yeah, well, we have the budget to do, you know, really high-quality broadcasting.”
Well, people are turning into podcasts that are done, you know, quickly with noise in the background and mics that are making sounds, and they’re listening to these, you know, for three hours. Or we heard like, “Well, audiences have short attention spans.” Well, they’re listening to like three hour interviews with people talking about some like esoteric topic that they’ve never heard of, but they’re totally engaged in the process.
I, you know, we’ve heard that like, “Audiences, you know, they can’t handle things they’ve never heard before.” There’s like radical ideas in these spaces that people are, are listening to. So, again, time and time again, the podcasting space just stands in direct contradiction to what we’ve been told about news media in this country for decades.
[00:11:47] Matt Bailey: Absolutely. I, I share all the time, one of my, my top podcasts is Dan Carlin, the Hardcore History. I, I think the average episode is four hours or five hours long. And then he does them in a series of six or eight episodes. So, you’re well into the twenty hour, you, you, you know, very quickly if you’re going through it.
And so, the whole concept of this attention span, you know, it, and coming from the marketing standpoint, we’ve realized it’s not that people have short attention spans, it’s that you’re boring. You’re not providing any relevant information that, that is interesting to me, or it’s the same pablum that you’ve just been throwing out there over and over and over, and I’m tired of it.
So, I think people, for the large part, I think your listening audience really kind of reflects the broadcasting audience, and that was fascinating to me. When you started breaking down the host and some of the common factors, education, media. What have I got down here? Backgrounds and, and critical expository writing. That was amazing to me about the podcast host, and you have very well-educated well-written people who are now finding a new outlet, and I think that, that was, that was probably one of the more fascinating parts of the book that I found.
[00:13:08] Nolan Higdon: Yeah. We def-, we definitely were, um, fascinated by that, by that finding. And I also, I think it, you know, what I hope that people take away from the book and we didn’t write with this intention, but this is something that we’ve come to realize as the book was being published.
But there, there is sort of a, not sort of, there is an actual concerted effort to dismantle this space, right? It gets attacked for being full of fake news or problematic ideas or, or hateful ideas and these are being used as pre-tax to try and marginalize a lot of the very podcasters we, we preview. And I would encourage people to, to think of it less of a war of fake news versus truth and more of a war of legacy media versus new media.
These new media personalities are a threat to the livelihood of legacy media. And when you understand the conflict in that context, it starts to make a little more sense why they’re so aggressive about these, you know, seemingly small indiscretions or, or, you know, not widely known guests and things like that.
[00:14:04] Matt Bailey: Absolutely. That, as, as you pointed out and, and I’m, I’m not surprised to hear that there is this reaction coming because it, it’s a lot of independent voices and any time you have a lot of independent voices it’s going to go against, and, and I, I love how the, you, you know, you’ve got this, we are questioning what we’ve been told. And you, I, I was fascinated with the, the podcast that they’re about race, but they’re about, “Let’s tell stories,” and those stories are what’s going to change people’s minds.
It’s some of these narratives of, it’s not just, we’re saying, “This is the way it has to be,” it’s giving reason, stories, personal anecdotes. And, and that’s what you get in a conversation is you get real information from a person who’s experienced these things, and that’s what creates the empathy. Hearing two people debate and yell at each other, Nolan, we’ve talked about this, the WWE style of, of news, that doesn’t cut it. But podcasts, they take their time. And I think that’s the appeal of it.
[00:15:07] Nicholas Baham: And also, too, I would add that you, you know, you’ve got, as, as you’ve alluded to, you have actual people in the community who are speaking on these podcasts. You have, in many cases, hosts who are embedded within their communities as, uh, uh, for the podcasts. One of the, my problems, uh, with legacy media has always been that when they speak about a community, they will often bring in an expert who’s not in the community and be able to speak about the community.
[00:15:36] Matt Bailey: Right.
[00:15:36] Nicholas Baham: Or you, or you, you get into a space where you presume that an idiot like Tucker Carlson speak, will somehow speak on your behalf about your interests. There’s no way. He’s not even in the real world at this point. Okay? He is wherever he is bunkered in.
So, what you’re getting here is, you know, what, what did, how did these ideas play out for real people? Now, if you take one of the areas that people have asked us a lot about, which is, uh, sort of the, the very intimate areas around sexuality. A lot of the podcasts that we looked at around things like non-monogamy, polyamory, et cetera, fascinate me because there is simultaneously this marketed mass media present, presentation of these ideas. I can now see a host of different shows on Netflix about this. It says nothing about how this could play out in, in, in, in an ordinary person’s life.
And one of the things I find fascinating about these podcasts are the kinds of real warnings that people give about certain types of lifestyles. So, they’ll say, “Well, I’m engaging in this. This is what I’m doing. These are the ups and downs. This is how I would advise you.” None of that’s in the glossy presentations that you’re seeing on Netflix or whatever, um, whatever streaming channel you’re picking up.
So, you’re getting something that is much more real from our podcasters. And that’s the other part of it. It’s, it’s the tone of realness. And people I think, I think, I don’t think we give people enough credit for being able to figure out, or being able to have their own sort of bullshit meters.
[00:17:23] Nolan Higdon: Yeah. The point about authenticity, too, that, that Nick is getting at, I think it’s really clear when you, when you juxtapose like legacy media and, and the podcasting space. So, as you point out, Matt, that, they’ll talk about issues, very important issues like race, but they’ll generally choose or tokenize one individual from like a credentialed elite class to be like the person who talks about, you know, the “black vote” as if like in a, in a homogenous way we’ll talk about all, um, black people from this one credential elite position.
In the podcasting space, there’s like way more complexity for what it means to be black in America and it’s debated through those stories and narratives. And so, you, you get a much more sophisticated understanding of what it means to be black in America, like listening to these podcasts as you ever will from like the three minutes that are dedicated to Black Lives Matter from the one token person on MSNBC before the commercial break. You know, and, and I think that’s the, that’s the difference that I, that I see between the two.
[00:18:20] Matt Bailey: Absolutely. And you, you bring up a great point and that was one where, as, as I, look, I’m making notes and it was funny ’cause I made a note and then you hit it, that the mass media, corporate media narrative is a false dilemma. You’re either left or right. And one thing that podcasting does is it, it widens that middle. I was fascinated with the, you know, the neo-liberal, the podcasts that are railing against that neo-liberal, “There’s left or right and you’ve got to choose, and they, they believe this, they believe this,” and they’re hammering everybody and questioning the, the narrative, questioning the messages that are being brought down.
And so, I love that, I, I, I have got no other way to say it. They’re just widening, widening that middle space, that it’s not, uh, a false dilemma here. That there is a lot going on here, and I, I, you know me, I’m like, “There’s a third way. There’s a fourth way, a fifth way.” We, we, we can’t just be thinking in these binary choices of politics or, that, because I, I think you, you bring this out, too, it, it just creates that dilemma and it creates people fighting against each other and no real conversation is had.
[00:20:00] Nicholas Baham: Yeah, because we don’t actually live our lives in binaries. Particularly on podcasts that deal with race or, or with gender, they’re dealing with very complex intersectionalities, conflicts with sections with class, physical ability, et cetera, et cetera. And once one starts to think about all of that, one is really getting to the space of how real people actually live their lives, which is really a process of, as I move through the course of my day, I am, I experience moments where I have greater or lesser cultural, social, political power, because I’m in different context engaging with different intersectionalities of who I am and how I truly live.
[00:20:20] Matt Bailey: Absolutely. And that’s, that’s one thing I, I think with the past couple of elections that has really, I think, stood out to me more than others is basing a judgment on someone based on how they vote when there’s a world of nuance that went on to make that happen, but yet, people were being judged based on that binary who you voted for.
[00:20:43] Nolan Higdon: Yeah. And that’s one, that’s one area that the podcasting space, you point out, really, really interrogates that you could have a, you know, critique of the Democrats from the left, uh, and a critique of the Republicans from the right. And you can find some unity from both of those critiques, right?
[00:20:59] Matt Bailey: Right.
[00:20:59] Nolan Higdon: And that sounds, I know, totally foreign to people who listen to legacy media, but you, you see it occur in this, in this podcasting space in like a very real way. And, you know, like we were talking about earlier, it doesn’t mean at the end of the podcast you do agree with everything you hear, but it is so refreshing just to hear something different that comes from like a learned place, you know, that’s, that’s interesting, that’s captivating from people who care.
It’s just so much different than kind of the bland, like, okay, I know it’s the democratic MSNBC. They’re going to rail on the Republicans, or I can flip over to Fox and they’re going to talk about the Democrats are destroying freedom. I got it. I’ve been listening for 30 years, you know, same stuff.
[00:21:37] Nicholas Baham: And there are also…
[00:21:37] Matt Bailey: That’s so true.
[00:21:38] Nicholas Baham: …I would say, too, Matt, there are also, because of that, there, our podcasters are asking questions that people, other people are afraid to ask. So, you know, for example, when we were looking at things like the interrogation and critique podcast, which is one of, which is like our first stage of the decolonization process, there are people who are asking really hard questions about things like, “What is the white responsibility for racism? What is…”
You know, there, there’s one podcast “Scene on Radio” that gives a fourteen-part primer on the historical underpinnings of white supremacy. None of that stuff is covered in legacy media. You can get some of that on PBS if Ken Burns decides to produce it, but outside of that, it’s not readily available to you. So, there, there are so many other questions at a much deeper level. You know, what is a Karen? Now, that seems like a, a pretty simple question, but when you listen to it in the podcasting space, that’s covered at a kind of depth that you will never see.
[00:22:41] Matt Bailey: Well, it’s covered in depth and it’s an enjoyable way to receive it.
[00:22:46] Nicholas Baham: It is. Yeah.
[00:22:46] Matt Bailey: I, I, I mean, you guys, you picked up on that, that they’re not necessarily setting out to be comedy, but they’re humorous.
[00:22:54] Nicholas Baham: Yeah.
[00:22:54] Matt Bailey: And it brings such a, an authenticity that you mentioned, and I, I love that story and, and then the transcript of the show. That was, you know, another one I add, I had to add because that was just such a, a great way of setting that nothing we’re experiencing right now is in isolation. There is a history, there is, uh, a wrapper to this that we have to understand.
[00:23:19] Nolan Higdon: Yeah, one of the, somebody, uh…
[00:23:21] Nicholas Baham: Yeah, it, it, go ahead, um, well…
[00:23:21] Nolan Higdon: Oh, I was just going to say one of my favorite examples of that is, uh, remember we listened to the podcast, Nick, that did, they broke down the history of the census, which, which sounds like the most boring topic in the world, right? The history of the U.S. census.
But, but, but they did it for the purpose of showing how the racial categories changed over time, and so, how your identity was dictated by the federal government. And so, it was this really like powerful message of history about how the power of government to control people’s identities. And so, it’s, it’s those kind of like deep analysis that provides historical context for listeners that, you know, it helps you become a more informed participant in democracy than anything you’ll ever get in, in legacy media. But Nick, I know you were going to say something.
[00:24:03] Nicholas Baham: Well, uh, uh, there were two comments, one, uh, for Matt and then I also want to pick up with what you were saying, Nolan. Matt, I do think that the sort of self-effacing humor aspect of these podcasters that we listen to is really important because it is, it is one thing to go from legacy media where, frankly, just to be honest with you, there, there are people who don’t even have degrees in journalism who are passing themselves off as “journalists” and having incredibly high opinions of themselves that are almost a hundred percent unwarranted. And here we do have a number of people in the podcast space who have the credentials, right?
[00:24:42] Matt Bailey: Right. Right.
[00:24:42] Nicholas Baham: But are consistently self-effacing. And what I like about that is the, is the sort of inbuilt critique of authority, which for me always as a listener triggers, “Okay. I need to, this is part of a journey and I need to continue investigating. There, this is not the be all end all.” It, we are opening up a conversation and I like, but the other thing, too, is that in our three part analysis, first looking at podcasts that critique and interrogate, and then second of all, looking at those that have counter-narratives, there’s something, the third part is podcasts who are so engaged with their communities that they, uh, represent in and of themselves a call to action.
There’s another piece that is lacking from legacy media, and we’re talking about things like Black Lives Matter. Co-founder Alicia Garza with “Lady Don’t Take No,” or, uh, there’s one that I love called “Rebel Steps” where they, they actually give you these, these instructions on how to flush pepper spray out of your eyes and how to deal with being arrested by the police. And they give you actually the most sort of the closest picture of what we were talking about around, uh, revolutionary radio where there could, the, these are almost the sounds all of, of the streets while the protests are happening. And there isn’t anything like that at all in legacy media that’s that grounded in what’s happening.
[00:26:17] Matt Bailey: Absolutely. And, and I, it’s not just even legacy media. I, I find that it, a lot of it is, it’s missing in education. You know, our, you know, from this revolutionary, are people actually aware of their rights and what those mean and what police can or can’t do and those types of things? So, I, I look at it from a governmental perspective, a historical perspective.
What podcasts are doing is they’re adding so much color to situations where for the media, it’s a blip. It’s, it’s what we’re going to talk about today, and then we go to the weather. And maybe never revisit it again until it comes up. So, you, you know, as you said, Nolan, you get the, you get the minute and a half talking head. Where is the podcast? We could just pull that apart and just pull on some of those threads and see where they go. I…
[00:27:12] Nolan Higdon: Well, well, one, yeah, one of my, you know, one of my favorite podcasts to review in this space, uh, that’s related to this topic was, uh, the “Bad Faith” podcast, which is hosted by, uh, Briahna Joy Gray. And what, what I like about her is, I, I think we’re roughly about the, the same age. And she went off to, I think, Harvard Law School. And, you know, she, she talks about how, like, in, in her schooling there wasn’t really a lot of conversation about like civics or how to organize and, and these types of things, right?
So, she ended up working for the Bernie campaign and, and she kind of got involved in that, but she rightly noticed that, you know, those in the new media space were getting critiqued for thinking you could, you know, like your way to like social justice. So, she, rather than sort of dismiss that critique, what she does in her podcast I think is very fascinating. She brings on these folks who have, who do organize, you know, like Chris Hedges and, and folks like that.
And, you know, she interrogates them pretty heavily for like three hours to basically teach the audience like, “Well, well, what does organizing mean? How does it happen? Like, what steps do you take?” And so, she tries to like pull from like this older generation to, to a perhaps younger audience. Like, “What, what do we actually have to do? What is organized…?”
I think that’s like a really powerful way that podcasting can be used, and as Nick pointed out, if we do have any critiques in the book, I think the one area we were sort of critical was there wasn’t enough sort of activist components in the podcasting we saw. That may change over time, but that was one of the, kind of the weaker areas we noticed.
[00:28:35] Matt Bailey: Hmm. Is that something where more people you think are being drawn to that in different areas, you know, the political and race and it, it, I, I mean, it seems to me there, there is a, a, there was a good foundation of, I, I would say conversation that would be helping people to understand. But then I think what you’re talking about is that kind of the next level is, “Now let’s look at some revolutionary ideas and topics.” Is that where you, as far as they should have had a little more on that, or, and, and, and is there a market for that? Are those kind of growing, do you see?
[00:29:13] Nolan Higdon: Yeah, I think, yeah. Speaking to that same idea, right? The, you know, the revolution will not be televised, so you have to leave the studio and, and get out in the streets, right? And so, but, but the podcasting space, just like revolutionary radio, it can be critical in building awareness, you know, setting goals, making people aware of events and things like that, but you need that strong, like, organizing base behind it.
[00:30:00] And so, I, we do see some people in the space working on that, but it, but it’s very much so in like the early stages and if we can, you know, connect it to what we were talking about earlier, like, if you watch legacy media, the way we solve all of our problems is just have the right party elected to all of Congress and the presidency. You know? So, so, for 20 or 30 years in this country, people have tried to elect their way to whatever transformative, you know, change they want. And it, it largely hasn’t worked because again, there’s not that organizing pressure on elected leaders. And so, I think the podcasting space is starting to get Americans to relearn these critical lessons about how change happens.
[00:30:08] Nicholas Baham: You know, Matt, the I, the ideal for me is someone like the young woman who, who videoed with her phone while holding her hand straight, the entire George Floyd. Someone who can broadcast from the street like that and create real change because what she did really informed about something, and for me as, as, as a black man, you know, just that, that knowing that finally people can see what I’ve always seen, right? Because so much of what we’re talking about here is stuff that it, it happens, but it, it, it’s just not seen.
You know, I’ll give you an example of this that we did actually on along, the “Along the Line” podcast. We got into one of the most underreported stories in this country over the past, maybe ten, twenty years, which are the disappearances of Black, Latinx, and indigenous girls off the streets of America…
[00:31:09] Matt Bailey: Right.
[00:31:10] Nicholas Baham: …into sex trafficking. Nobody reports that.
[00:31:13] Matt Bailey: No.
[00:31:13] Nicholas Baham: And nobody’s going to pay any attention to that until there’s a George Floyd like video from start to finish showing, you know, capture all the way to what, however it ends. And it’s, it doesn’t end well. But that’s, but that’s the kind of space that I would like to see the call to action podcasts moving towards, in addition to the interviews with activists and the helpful hints for what you do when you’re in some kind of a, a protest.
[00:31:42] Nolan Higdon: Yeah. And, and yeah, folks like Cornel West have, have talked at length about this, that, you know, this, this new media space can build awareness. Definitely around George Floyd we saw a huge protest, mass amounts of people in the streets. But that next level actually takes organizing that. So, you have this awareness, you can, you can see the numbers of people who are frustrated or angry about this who want to reject these processes.
But, but the answer never is just simply elect the next person into office with that energy. And that’s, that’s really, I think, where the podcast space is wrestling with is, you know, “How, how do we organize? What are we organizing around? Who are we putting pressure on? What are some of these goals we, we intend to make happen?” And, and I think it’s, it, it’s kind of in that stage, at least in my read. Nick, what do you think?
[00:32:24] Nicholas Baham: I, I a hundred percent agree with that. Yeah, that’s, that’s the next level of all of this. The beauty is that the space has, uh, there are podcasts that are serving as a foundation for that, and that the space itself can accommodate that.
[00:32:40] Matt Bailey: Yeah. Well, I thought that, that was a great part of the book where you talked about some of the podcasts that are going after that, the neo-liberal that, they’re critiquing the DNC. They’re criticizing Biden. “You made promises. You’ve weaseled your way out of them.” And they’re driving to that conclusion, that it’s not as simple as just electing the right people. It, it’s, “Now we have to do something.”
And that I thought was a fascinating part of the book to see how they’re searching for those answers and, “How do we affect real change, because it’s not going to happen in this existing structure.” That was a fascinating, uh, a couple of, couple of pages there, as well as some transcripts from some other podcasts of talking through this and, “How do we make that?”
[00:33:28] Nolan Higdon: Yeah, I think it’s one of those, like Howard Zinn had that, that quote that something about the, to the extent that, “You don’t know there’s been a change in social consciousness until it breaks through the surface.”
I sort of look at like the podcasting space where I could see where these potential breaks in like social consciousness are, are starting to germinate in so many ways, and I think the book really speaks to that, and that these folks are comfortable having these conversations that would never be accepted in legacy media or most, like, elite institutions. They’re having these conversations and they’re drawing in large audiences. And what that, you know, says about the future, I think, is very powerful.
[00:34:02] Matt Bailey: That is a great, great point. Things are starting to percolate through the surface there. Hey, what’s, it’s time to take a real quick break here, refill the coffee, and we’ll be back in a few minutes.
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[00:36:10] Matt Bailey: Alright, dear listener, welcome back from the break. Before we get back into the other part of the book, which is the surveillance capitalism piece and yeah, Nolan, you and I, we’re ready to jump into that. Uh, I got to ask guys, this is the Endless Coffee Cup podcast, so favorite coffee, beverage of choice? Are you a coffee drinker? What are you on, what’s your, what are you in?
[00:36:37] Nolan Higdon: Uh, I’m the most boring coffee drinker. I just love black coffee, dark roast. My favorite.
[00:36:43] Matt Bailey: Dark roast. Oh, wow. Okay. No, I, I am a black coffee drinker as well. I, I can’t have anything in that cup, but, uh, dark roast. Once in a while. That, great. Good.
[00:36:55] Nicholas Baham: I hate to disappoint you, Matt, but I’m a, uh, matcha latte with, uh, soy, almond, or oat milk type of a guy.
[00:37:05] Matt Bailey: Great. It takes all kinds. Is there, is there a particular coffee or a particular bean or anything like that that you go for if you see it available?
[00:37:16] Nicholas Baham: Well, this will be up to Nolan. For me, it’s yeah, it’s just straight matcha.
[00:37:21] Matt Bailey: Alright. Alright.
[00:37:25] Nicholas Baham: I got off of coffee a number of years ago, Matt. It, uh…
[00:37:29] Matt Bailey: Yeah.
[00:37:29] Nicholas Baham: I, I, I was a decaf man when I did drink coffee, but even that gave me the jitters. I’m kind of high strung as it is. So, uh, you know, just dampen down.
[00:37:40] Matt Bailey: Yep. Well, that’s good. I always like to know I got coffee drinkers, tea drinkers who, who’s on the show and, and what’s your poison there, so great. Thanks for, thanks for sharing that. And so, let’s get to the “Podcaster’s Dilemma,” that we’re using this amazing technology to reach hundreds, thousands of people around the world, and yet, it’s the same technology that can also, I, from what I got from reading, it’s the same technology that can be the downfall of podcasters.
[00:38:12] Nolan Higdon: Yeah. There’s, you know, anybody who works in the digital space, including podcasters, um, there is a new, you know, economic order that is, you know, reshaping a lot of our economy. Um, and it doesn’t, I, I think because it’s so complicated and it also, um, really stands in the contradiction for how we understand a lot of the popular digital companies, you know, big tech, we don’t have a lot of like substantive conversation about it.
And even in the podcasting space, uh, Nick and I, you know, we, we tirelessly looked to see about conversations of surveillance capitalism, and we found that they were pretty limited overall in the space. But, you know, essentially, and others can jump in here if they want, but, but surveillance capitalism, essentially surveillance capitalism is a new economic order that basically makes the user the product.
The goal is to get you on your screen, addicted to your screen if you will, by appealing to fear and confirmation bias, you know, they, they stole tricks from the gambling industry basically to give you little rewards, likes, notifications, all these things. And while you’re on your screen, you’re constantly giving data, your phone, anything that has a microphone, smart TV, smartphone, laptop, it’s recording all the time.
And the idea is to collect data, not just to, there’s kind of a myth that they sell data. That’s not really true. They, their algorithms collect and analyze data, and that analysis is sold to, say, companies who may want to nudge or predict your behavior, political parties who want to nudge or predict your behavior.
And this has proven quite, quite lucrative. The name of the game is, is maximizing and collecting data. You know, for those of us who’ve, who’ve studied history, though, there’s always been a strong connection between surveillance and exploitation. So, you know, you think of things like the, the slave system in the United States couldn’t exist without surveillance. The, you know, the suppression exploitation of women under patriarchy necessitated constant surveillance by their owners, male owners, fathers, husbands, et cetera.
[00:40:00] And so, we like to point out in the book that while you’re resisting these, you know, colonial legacies, one of them is surveillance and the digital platforms you’re using are predicated on onset surveillance. And so, this is a dilemma that we think that those who care about podcasting, which I believe all three of us are included in that, have to wrestle with.
[00:40:26] Matt Bailey: Absolutely. It’s, it’s one of those areas and we’ve done a couple of shows on surveillance capitalism. It’s, it’s something as a marketer I see every day. And even, even when I’m teaching other marketers at, at large brands, medium-sized brands, international brands, when I’m teaching other marketers, they’re very unaware of surveillance capital, they’re very unaware of the data that’s being tracked.
And so, one of the things I’ll do with them is I’ll show them, go to Google’s ad settings and see what Google thinks about you. And, and it’s a very surface level report, but people are still shocked when they see, “Oh, I’m in these categories. They know my age.” Well, of course they know your age, but without seeing it, it, it almost like it doesn’t exist. And so, marketers know they can, they can target people, but for some reason it doesn’t connect that, “I’m being tracked the exact same way.”
And one of the things that is just absolutely mind blowing to me is these are even, these are advertising in the International Advertising Bureau, these are advertising categories based on data tracking. What religion you are, if you’ve been in, if you’ve searched for abuse or incest counseling, if you are on any medications or have any medical conditions. These are actual advertising categories that can be targeted, and, and people just don’t realize the level at which people want to, advertisers will take that in order to get you to buy their product.
[00:42:05] Nolan Higdon: And, and you know what’s, yeah, and you know what’s so fascinating about that, too, that I always think of is these, these tools are a product of the, the military-industrial complex, right? The internet and GPS, you know, they were, they were made for the purposes of mass communication and mass surveillance from the DARPA program.
It really took the advertising industry to figure out how to put like a happy spin on tools you could never convince people like, you know, you couldn’t convince the average person, like, “Hey, we need you to carry around a tracking device.” Well, then all of a sudden, like, Apple packages all this stuff in the iPhone and people are like, “No problem. I’ll carry a tracking device everywhere.” But that, that connection, you’re right. It’s like sort of lost, I think, on how they, the two work in tandem.
[00:42:41] Matt Bailey: Absolutely. Yeah, it, it could be a, a scary thing when you just start breaking it down and yeah. I mean, that’s why I call myself a reluctant marketer. I, I am in this industry, I, I love what I do, but there is a drastic line that I think sooner or later, and, and I, and I am surprised to hear that yours, didn’t find a lot of podcasts that are, you know, decolonizing the tech space. That, and, and that’s, I guess that I would kind of put myself in there because I want to ask more questions about the tech space.
That we’re being pushed, you know, and, you know, Tik Tok comes on the scene. All we get in the media is how great Tik Tok is and, “Look how fast they’re growing.” There’s never a critique. There, there, rarely, I think, I think when the first year Tik Tok was really, throughout the pandemic I was looking at all the articles written about Tik Tok. Less than 1% were critique of the technology and of what it behaviorally would do. Everything else was these glowing, “Look at how fast it’s growing, and you need to be there.” It was fascinating to see how that legacy media treats that.
[00:43:51] Nicholas Baham: You know…
[00:43:51] Nolan Higdon: I’m on…
[00:43:51] Nicholas Baham: …the, the, the ethics of any particular new technology are never raised until after that new technology is fully implemented and then begins to cause harm.
[00:44:02] Matt Bailey: Right.
[00:44:02] Nicholas Baham: It’s only then that it really catches up to us. And frankly, with Tik, Tik Tok, I am, I’m, I’m annoyed by the number of fellow educators of mine who actually use Tik Tok in, in higher ed as a way of, for students to present material, because you’re essentially asking all students to register for something for which they will then all be surveilled.
I don’t, I don’t think any of us wants to do that because at, at our heart, I think a lot of us do understand that education can be liberation, but when you’re doing stuff like that, then you have to sort of question, “Am I really leading people down a path of liberation or just toward some other form of slavery?”
[00:44:43] Nolan Higdon: It’s, to Nick’s, to Nick’s point on that, and I think that’s a great, uh, point, and I, I think it, and I’ve noticed on the education space and to Matt’s point, I’ve noticed in the, the journalism space. So, now, I’m always invited on to like, you know, media programs and journalists say, “Hey, I’m going to interview you and I’m doing a story on data tracking,” ’cause of like the Facebook whistleblower. I can’t tell you how many times before we go on air the person admits to me they know absolutely nothing about the topic of data collection or tracking. And so, and these are people reporting on big tech, you know, and sitting in the education space.
A few, if Nick went into, you know, most meetings with educators and said what he just said, they would kind of look at him blankly like, “What do you mean no Tik Tok? It’s like fun, it’s connections, exciting, it engages students.” That surveillance capitalism component’s really missing, I think.
[00:45:26] Matt Bailey: Absolutely. I mean, I remember in my master’s course in, in education, one of the things when we’re setting a lesson plan is if you were using a third, third party book, tool, whatever, there was a column there. “Is it safe?” You’ve got to ask that about any resource that you’re using that’s external because you never know. And especially something like technology, you never know what’s going to, so, it, it, that just blows my mind, but yeah, Nolan, to your point, I’m amazed at how many in the space that report on the space, absolutely no concept of what these, what these terms mean, of the impact that it could have, or even the slightest bit of research into it.
And, and, and it, so, yeah, it, it always, it always bothers me. That’s why I, I, you, you know, I guess that’s why I have this podcast is I want to take a deeper look from beyond the headlines, especially in the tech space, of not everything is like it’s being promoted. There is an underside to it. You need to know what it is.
[00:46:31] Nicholas Baham: I mean, I think you could literally take the critics, the, of, of surveillance capitalism and put them in your kitchen.
[00:46:38] Matt Bailey: Yeah.
[00:46:38] Nicholas Baham: Um, there, there’s just, there’s just not a lot, but what we attempt to do at the end of this book, because, after all, who wants to end a story on a bad note? I mean, what would be the point of talking about all this wonderful stuff and then saying, “Oh, you know, but it’s all, you know, going to, to crap,” right?
[00:46:55] Matt Bailey: Yeah. Yeah.
[00:46:55] Nicholas Baham: So, we do have some recommendations. And of course, one of the recommendations that we have is that there are laws on the books, not in this country, okay? But there are laws on the book, books like Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act and the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation. The Canadian act was passed in 2000 and then the, uh, European Union’s was passed in 2018. And broadly speaking, what these allow you to do, well, they, they make mandatory the sharing of data and the collection of data. They make it mandatory that you actually consent.
[00:47:39] Matt Bailey: Yep.
[00:47:40] Nicholas Baham: And that you also, further, have the ability to edit. So, you, in other words, you have, you, you talked briefly about going in and what does Google think of you? So, under these acts, you would have greater access to what Google thinks about you and the ability to edit the things that Google thinks about you. So, if you don’t want Google to know that, you know, you’re doing, you’re doing crack at midnight, okay, or something like that, you can, you can deal with that. I’m being facetious, but that’s really…
[00:48:10] Nolan Higdon: Well, there’s nothing, there’s nothing wrong with doing crack at midnight, though, we want to make that very clear. We’re not coming from a place of judgment.
[00:48:19] Matt Bailey: Well, and that’s the key and, and that’s the whole consent piece. And I could connect you with a couple of people that are really, really outspoken. And, and what I find in this industry, the ones that are the most outspoken about surveillance, about this data collection, are people who have a background in data analytics. And I believe it’s because they’ve seen the data that can be collected over the years, as well as the layer on top of it that, you know, now we’re adding behavioral data. Now we’ve got AI to crunch all this stuff and put you into these categories.
And the, the, the big problem is when, especially Google, who wants to own the whole world here, as far as advertising, says that they’re going to create cohorts or groups, but they won’t create groups that are at risk or that could be, and, and that’s what the community is coming back is asking them, “What makes you the authority to determine who’s at risk? To determine what is a controversial category? Why do you get to choose that?” Because now you’re laying that apart on the entire industry, and it’s all based on your judgment. And so, that’s one of the, the big risks that this surveillance is, is coming into, especially in the next few years.
[00:49:44] Nolan Higdon: Yeah. And I think, I think that’s an important frame, too, when we frame it in like economics. You know, there’s this American, like, rugged individualism where everyone thinks they’re going to be rich so when you attack the rich, they, they reject that argument often. But when you, when you talk about the way you just did, which is in terms of power, right? Like, are you comfortable as a citizen of giving Google all this power when you don’t have democratic oversight over Google?
[00:50:00] You know, most people, if you tell them the government was collecting this type of data in America they would say, “Absolutely not. You know, I don’t trust the government with my data.” Well, look, you, you have theoretically more control of your government than you do over Google. You know, so the, the, the thread is, is just as dangerous and perhaps more.
And so, that’s why a lot of the solutions that, that Nick and I had are not, not so much focused on like the kind of rearranging the economic structures around these industries, although I, we’re, I think we’re both advocates for that for sure, but really about, you know, how do you reduce the power of these? And so, Nick, I think you had a couple others that you’re, you’re going to talk about, as well, some of the other solutions we bring up.
[00:50:44] Matt Bailey: Yeah.
[00:50:44] Nicholas Baham: Well, I think, you know, I, I would leave your listeners with this. I think it’s clear that we have to break up big tech. And, you know, it just, we’re, we’re talking about giants who own so many different facets. One of the things that, uh, that I’m deeply scared of right now are these new AI programs that they’re creating that are supposed to sort of be your friend, right? So, if you’re, you’re, you’re lonely, you can have a virtual friend or girlfriend or whatever.
Well, what kinds of things are being said to that? In addition to, I mean, this is an extension, you know, having Google in your home, being able to respond to your every command. They’re listening to everything that you are saying, and that is being stored someplace. This stuff, this notion of having an AI to which you are going to be communicating your most profoundly intimate thoughts is incredibly disturbing to me in terms of, you know, Nolan was talking about not only the, the ability to sort of predict behavior, but to nudge your behavior.
So, if I’m giving up that kind of information, just think about how much more power is there to be able to nudge me in a particular direction. And again, I think people have some sense of this. Most people kind of interface with this by way of saying, “Hey, I was searching for something on eBay and then it showed up in my Facebook feed. Okay? And that kind of freaked me out.” So, they’re feeling it that way.
And people are, are, what’s the term, Nolan, where you’re, you’re being shadow banned or that, I think is the, the term where you’re being, you’re being banned on social media, but you don’t really know that you’re being banned. So, you know, it’s kind of like being followed, but you don’t really know that you’re being followed until somebody maybe tells you that what you’re posting is not there.
I mean, all of these kinds of insidious things that we just, we don’t really know are going on, but are really going on and are generating big, big dollars for big corporations. An effective way to end that in addition to this kind of legislation, we have to blow up big tech.
[00:52:50] Matt Bailey: That I, I think, yeah, like you were saying, there, there’s a lot of power in a few companies. And, and one thing about the AI piece that I don’t think people realize is yes, they’re capturing all this data, but it’s not just sitting in a warehouse. It’s being classified. It’s being organized. It is going towards a profile that they are building actively on you. It’s, it’s not just, I, I think people just have it in their mind it just sits in a warehouse in a box, you know, and someday the government will get to it, but there is an active processing that happens to that data.
Nick, what are some things we can do, you know, to be more active in the legislation, to be aware of what’s going on? And, and, and I’ll say here in the U.S, we probably have the most lax privacy laws around. You know, one of the things I did, I joined the EFF and started tracking a lot of their, their emails, what’s going on, learning about that. What are some things that podcasters can and should be doing to make sure that there is a clear path for podcasting in the future?
[00:53:57] Nicholas Baham: Well, first of all, you know, we, when we were talking about the call to action podcasts, we need more call to action podcasts in this space. We need communities being built up around this space. The thing too, that we, we didn’t really talk about in the book, and we haven’t talked about on this program yet, is that in addition to our data being mined and, and whatever, we still have pockets of this country where the, to know about, actually don’t have full free internet access. And there, there, there are community movements that exist in this country to provide local community access to internet.
Now, when that’s provided, that also has to be protected, too, right? So, there are a lot of different layers to this. And I would say that there has to be with our call to action podcasts, there has to be a sophisticated class, racial, and gendered analysis about the way that this kind of impacts different communities different ways because it’s not uniform.
So, I think some of the same things that we saw in podcasts that offer critiquing, interrogation, or counter-narrative, those things can, on this space, as well as the call, the call to action area. But just has to be as incredibly sophisticated as the rest of this, this. Profoundly intersectional, as well, with real community voices talking about the, the real impact that they’re experiencing.
[00:55:34] Nolan Higdon: And if, yeah, if, you know, podcasters out there are looking for, um, resources on that, I, I would mention some books. In terms of race there’s a great book called “Black Software.” Ruha Benjamin has this, writes about “The New Jim Code.” Um, and then on gender there’s like “Brotopia” by Emily Chang and “Invisible Women” is another. And “Data Feminism” actually is a really, that’s actually my number one recommendation.
But if you’re trying to get into this space and connect, kind of what’s going on in this decolonized space with the digital space, there’s a lot of great works on it. Oh, oh, and the gig, for class like “Hustle and Gig,” just to get some book plugs out there for other folks who are doing great work in this space.
[00:56:09] Matt Bailey: Alright, cool. Good, good. Well, and especially with the, the loss of local news, I, you know, podcasters are kind of filling the, the, you know, as journalism, professional journalism kind of falls away and, uh, and gets, you know, really sucked up into the monopoly. Like you said, Nick, that the community voices, they’re filling that void and, and hopefully I, you know, we could do a whole show on internet access. And again, like you said, that’s, that’s a level of power there that’s being administrated and, you know, people don’t have access to the information they need.
[00:56:42] Nicholas Baham: Yeah, man. I mean, somebody has to, at the end of the day, somebody has to watch the watchers, and that, it’s, at the end of the day, it’s up to the community to do that.
[00:56:53] Matt Bailey: Very good. Very good. Nick, Nolan, thank you so much for your time and being on the show today. This has been such a fascinating conversation. I almost hate to, to block it off here because I feel like there’s so much more we could talk about with the book and really dig in, but you know what? Dear listener, if you want to know the history of the Karen, if you want to know the history of the census, I, go get “The Podcaster’s Dilemma.”
You will, I, I tell you what, if you’re not challenged when reading this book, if, if you’re not laughing, and, and also if you’re not sitting there thinking deeply about some topics, then, you know what? I, I don’t know what to tell you because this book will bring that to you. I, I really enjoyed my read through. I’m going to go dig into a couple parts of it, as well, but hopefully you’ll be adding some podcasts to your lists. Guys, any final words, uh, before we end here?
[00:57:49] Nolan Higdon: I, I just want to say, uh, thank you again, Matt. Um, you’re, you’re always so good in the program promoting our work and your, your listeners are always been very supportive of our work, so hello to all of them. And then thanks again, man. Really appreciate it.
[00:58:01] Matt Bailey: Thank you.
[00:58:01] Nicholas Baham: Ditto. Yeah. Thanks for asking the right questions and for doing the, and for doing the work that needs to be done. Appreciate you.
[00:58:09] Matt Bailey: Well, I appreciate that. That’s part of the podcasting, you know? We’ve got to…
[00:58:12] Nicholas Baham: That’s right.
[00:58:13] Matt Bailey: We got to put out a product and, you know, it, it, it’s, it’s always fascinating to me when, uh, I hear someone tell me, I have through LinkedIn, or once in a while I’ll get an email that, “I’m listening to your podcast, and I enjoy it.” And I, and I got to, I tell them, I’m like, “That just makes my month that someone other than my mother is listening to this podcast,” and, and I’m loving it. That is so cool. So, hey guys, thank you so much. It, it’s stuff like this that makes the podcast great. And, uh, I really appreciate the work you put into the book and wow. Thank you again for the time you spent.
[00:58:45] Nolan Higdon: Thanks, Matt.
[00:58:46] Nicholas Baham: Thank you.
[00:58:47] Matt Bailey: Alright, dear listener, I hope you enjoyed this episode. Again, that is “The Podcaster’s Dilemma.” I’m going to have a bunch of stuff in the show notes here, so be sure to visit the page, hit the links, go check out Nolan and Nicholas, go see what they’re doing and some of the other works they’ve published that you won’t regret it. And we’ll see you next time on the Endless Coffee Cup podcast.
[00:59:11] Bumper Intro-Outro: This podcast is heard along the Marketing Podcast Network. For more great marketing podcasts, visit marketingpodcasts.net.