Saturday, 30 March 2013

SMaC Talk podcast website breaks new ground

From left: Khoo, Tait and Sackville.
Not sure if anyone's seen this website before. It's three smart writing women who are internet natives talking about stuff. Smart and irreverent. The website is a new kind of Thing so it might give some enterprising people a good idea or two; how to quickly put up compelling content that costs nothing to make. In other words, it's all in the talent and their interactions. Laughter and wry humour warnings apply.

While the talk is fairly unstructured the role of anchor seems to be held by Valerie Khoo, who runs the Australian Writers' Centre and also writes feature stories for Fairfax Media mastheads and other publications. Although each woman has a different voice and you get used to learning who is speaking it takes a bit of concentration to be sure. So handovers might be a bit better handled. Khoo's associates in the podcasts (I listened to episode 3) are Allison Tait, who is also a journalist and also writes books, and Kerri Sackville, who teaches social media at the Australian Writers' Centre and calls herself a social media addict. Sackville has also written two memoirs.

I don't know how the women decided on the topic runsheet but there was a fair amount of talk about how to get published, agents, publishers and the like. These are topics of vital interest to the SMaC Talk crew and can certainly be of use to listeners. The show really picked up for me when they started talking about Jessica Gomes, the model who has just been chosen to represent David Jones, the embattled Australian retailer. This is something I have written about - a week ago in fact - but listening to these women talk about Gomes I felt I had missed the point. Body shape? It never occurred to me. So here I learned something useful. Other topics include a chocolate cake and a piece of writing by Helen Razer, who is popular with some people and has a reputation for an unconventional style and an outspoken mind.

Video and audio are avidly consumed online, and the mainstream media is starting to adopt these modes of communication. The Australian has dabbled in them, and Crikey has an interesting regular show where their journalists talk among each other about different things. Freelance journalist Stilgherrian has been doing podcasts for years, and has a loyal following. And just a week or so ago I wrote about the Guardian's Budget round-up, which features eight regular journalists talking about the government's submission to Parliament. As in that case, with SMaC Talk it's all about affect - that ephemeral aspect of communication that facilitates take-up for the audience. Here affect is contained in the tones of the three women's voices, their expressions of taste, their wry comments, their laughter, and their sense of the ridiculous. It's fun and engaging.

And slightly disturbing. These women's voices can potentially be useful to critique things other than writing, fashion models and chocolate cake. Imagine these voices applied to politics, for example, or any one of a number of issues that are broadly important to Australians. The first episode appeared about two weeks ago and the website says it's a trial to run for three months, so interested netizens can look forward to quite a few new podcasts over the coming weeks on SMaC Talk.

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