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Saturday, 13 April 2013

The Conversation's new Talking Points podcasts are a keeper

The mediaspace is rapidly adapting to changing consumer preferences; well, maybe "rapidly" is the wrong word. I should say, it appears that the media is finally getting the message that people like to listen to human voices and see human faces while consuming news. There has been a mini boom in podcasts - with and without video - and the new 'Talking Points' series that The Conversation has just launched fits into the digital ecosphere neatly. The first episode has been edited by Bill Code working for SBS alongside The Conversation, and it features three interviews and runs to about 30 minutes.

Feminist Eva Cox is well-known in Australia due to her appearances on the ABC's Q and A, and here she talks about Maggie Thatcher's legacy. Then there's Suelette Dreyfus, who is an academic specialising in whistleblowers; she also wrote a book on Julian Assange, Underground, on which the recent movie was based. Finally there's Harry Blutstein, an academic, who talks about a US company that's trying to get paid by people who publish podcasts because it says it owns a patent on the technology. Interesting for me is the fact that Dreyfus is from the US Midwest - you can tell from her accent, which sounds a lot like Kristina Kenneally's accent.

I'm not sure that "talking points" is the right name for this program because here you have something like long-form interviews that go to the background of stories that are topical in the media. Code had obviously done his homework, and this makes for serious journalism. The SBS-backed production is slick and sounds professional, and Code's having a grasp of the basic elements of each issue is part of the package that SBS and The Conversation is able to put together for readers. The podcast clearly cost something to make, and I think that as the medium develops and becomes more popular organisations will be spending more money on their productions. Already, the US Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) is getting ready to pay something toward producing its Mediatwits podcasts, as it has advertised for a paid intern to work on the project.

Non-programmed news and current affairs content on the web has a deliberate appeal as it operates to fit in with the reader's schedule; there's no rushing to the TV to catch a favourite program. Instead, the reader can just tune in with a few clicks when he or she has an hour or so to spend online. This scenario is very congenial and welcome. I look forward to more Talking Points podcasts that can deliver informative, in-depth analysis accompanied by real journalism that is researched and balanced. This is a keeper, and I hope the site continues to produce these shows.

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