Spangle: Podcasts Are More Trusted than Mainstream Media

Podcasting is seen as more trustworthy than traditional media coverage of the current pandemic.” So said a survey recently done by Media Monitor.

I say this as someone that does shows with show notes usually running 20 pages… There is a difference between what I do as a podcaster that does preparation and a traditional media outlet. They have an editorial process of one or two layers where editors challenge facts used in journalistic pieces. The chances of the New York Times reporting on COVID-19 is more thorough than mine are pretty damn good.

The mainstream media has glaring flaws, especially when reporting on politics. Any person with a brain can see they are tilted left. It just means seeking out as many angles as possible to find the truth. One should be just as careful with podcasts.

Political podcasts have the same slant towards their team, and MORE incentive to tell you what you’d like to hear to keep you coming back. The quickest way to build an audience is with tribalist impulses: us vs. Them thinking, identifying enemies and scapegoating them for problems, cleverly mock the opposition. Hating someone or something gives people meaning in a time when people desperately need community.

It’s a great growth strategy to position oneself as a contrarian on most issues. A host that rejects conventional wisdom and reveals secret truths will pigeonhole themselves to having to oppose the reality shared by most humans on Earth. Breaking with the strategy before reaching ridiculous conclusions will alienate their audience. If income is tied to catering to conspiratorial crowds, then the host is likely to keep heading down that road. The silent majority of their audience will just walk away.

I used to do this type of stuff, and then I grew up. It is soul killing for both the broadcaster and their audience. For instance, my mood significantly improved when I stopped listening to Ben Shapiro on a daily basis. Constantly being outraged at the left was exhausting.

I love podcasting because the barrier of entry is so easy and it has given people like myself a platform. I’ve worked hard to build WAL. It’s been 9 years of 20 hour workweeks for no pay, and that effort has brought an audience of tens of thousands a week because of trust.

Around 2018, I realized what a huge responsibility that is, which is why there has been a marked shift in our show. I decided I needed to serve the audience instead of asking them to serve me. We now get called boring by critics because we aren’t looking to tickle ears. Presenting truthful information from dozens of sources is labeled as boring by some.

Which illustrates the real problem. It’s YOU. Individuals set the incentives for media based on what they download and what they click. Tweets at a podcaster influences their content choices (another difference between traditional and new media: audience influence). YOU LOVE to be lied to, manipulated, propagandized, and when a broadcaster stops, you stop paying attention.

Everyone in the media equation is held accountable except for the group that sets the incentives. Alex Jones and the New York Times are held accountable by public opinion, but never the audiences that encourage the behaviors walk away unscathed… Because it isn’t good broadcasting to chastise an audience.

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