I’ve noticed an annoying trend in the podcast marketing of new books. The marketing itself works quite well – I’ve purchased a number of books based on authors who appear on podcasts I listen to and discuss the main ideas of the book with the host.
The problem I have is when it seems like a significant amount of the content discussed in the podcast accounts for large chunks of the book’s main ideas. For instance, I picked up a book recently and all of the key ideas (the theoretical framework and main argument for why the topic is important) laid out in the first 70 pages were discussed on a podcast. I’m curious whether the rest of the book will be similarly spoiled, but I’m holding out to be surprised. From what I’ve seen so far, though, the next 150 pages are presented as tactics and strategies to apply the main ideas, so I’m not overly optimistic.
I understand that this is part and parcel of the marketing format for these books. An author is invited onto a show with a certain audience reach, the two discuss the book as a common framing device for the conversation, and everyone is happy – the author gets promoted, the publisher gets advertising, and the podcast generates revenues on sales kickbacks and sponsored content. The only person that loses is the reader who pays for a book that was effectively summarized an hour-long conversation for free. This is doubly bad when the book is an animated bibliography, and you’ve read enough books in the genre to get the punchline from the stories cited.
I can’t put all the blame on the author. After all, they are just trying to sell their book and there is going to be a lot of repetition of the talking points if you do a lot of interviews. A lot of the blame, instead, falls on the quality of the podcasts. I find that podcast hosts tend to stick to a common format of teeing up questions based on key points from the chapters. Sometimes this is handled smoothly, as in cases where the host poses an interesting question that the author uses to circle back to something discussed in the book. But I have listened to podcast episodes where the host states a thesis from the book without a question, and the author then just elaborates on that point.
In an ideal world, I would want an interview the way it used to be when I watched Jon Stewart’s run of the Daily Show, where the author would be invited as a guest to the show on the pretense of discussing the book, however the conversation would be about whatever Stewart wanted. Often the conversation was an excuse to catch up, swap stories, and bore little direct connection with what the book was about; the book was usually mentioned as an afterthought as the interview wrapped up. Maybe this wouldn’t sell as many books, but at least I wouldn’t feel cheated reading through a book I already had the conclusions for.
Or maybe I have too high of expectations of free content, which runs counter to the content farming that needs to occur to regularly post stuff for consumers.
Rant over (for now).
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