Normal Gossip backlash, the NYT's big problem, and the truth about Nick Offerman (is that he's great)
Plus: A diamond heist, a new walled garden, and a delightful musical experiment.
Welcome to Follow Friday! Eagle-eyed readers might notice the absence of a “help i’m obsessed with” item in this edition, and I do have something that would fit that space… but y’all, it’s so weird and nerdy that I need some more time to think through why I like it. But don’t worry, there’s lots more good stuff in this issue…
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The single best thing I saw online this week: I’ve celebrated the Defector podcast Normal Gossip in this newsletter before, and I’m not alone. It’s a huge success that has gotten big enough to develop a backlash from certain listeners, who have become impatient with their season breaks. I hope everyone reading this knows it’s not OK to send mean emails to creators, but just in case you need some more convincing: On Instagram, Normal Gossip producer Alex Sujong Laughlin posted a detailed explanation of everything that goes into making a season of the show. I think more people in media can learn from this level of transparency.
The best podcasts I’ve heard this week
The latest episode of You’re Wrong About is a must-listen. Tuck Woodstock from Gender Reveal joins Sarah Marshall to explain how the New York Times, arguably the most important news organization in the world, is failing its audience and endangering the lives of trans people. News stories cherry-pick facts, the opinion section has at times embraced hatemongers, and leadership seems intent on covering up legitimate criticism, even when it comes from inside the newsroom. The anti-trans wave in America is seriously scary, and as a subscriber, I hope the Times gets on the right side of history ASAP.
And now for something completely different … My partner has been trying to convince me for weeks to listen to Scam Goddess, and she finally succeeded. I’ve sampled a couple episodes and, to be honest, some of them haven’t worked for me because the guests just weren’t able to keep up with the host, actor/comedian Laci Mosley (always funny). But when Mosley finds a good sparring partner, as she does in the “Dismal Diamond Heist of Antwerp” episode with Matt Shively, the show soars. The titular heist absolutely needs to become a movie.
I am always impressed by how well The Truth can draw me into a story. This week’s episode, “Degenerates,” is a perfect example of that: Within 30 seconds, you have a good read of two of the major characters, and within a couple minutes — by the time Jonathan Mitchell’s intro drops — you have to know what’s going to happen next. I’m being vague on purpose because part of the magic of the show is going along for the ride. Just wear your seatbelts.
One more podcast-y thing
And also another NY Times-y thing… the Grey Lady has launched a dedicated podcast app, with the stated goal of owning “every second” of their subscribers’ time. I’m really curious to see how this plays out as a business story, but as a listener … I don’t get it. There will be a new exclusive companion podcast to The Daily, called The Headlines, as well as content from NYT reporters and This American Life. But as a diehard fan of podcasts, I feel like asking listeners to spend some of their listening hours in a walled garden doesn’t work unless you’re a superfan of the Times, and only the Times.
I don’t know. What am I missing? Are you excited for this? Will this help grow the audience for online audio generally? Reply to this email or leave a comment, I want to know.
The latest from LightningPod
Here’s what I’ve been producing and editing this week. For more, follow LightningPod on LinkedIn.
On Grit, Joubin Mirzadegan and special guest Ilya Fushman talked with Shoaib Makani, the CEO of Motive, about “powering the physical economy.” It sounds like a really interesting company, although as a fan of whimsical names, I prefer their original one: KeepTruckin. Anyway, the three of them discuss the infectiousness of high standards, balancing a personal-professional relationship, having deep empathy for your users, and more.
And on the Brand Publishing Show, Toolkits’ Shareen Pathak was joined by the founder and CEO of AudiencePlus, Anthony Kennada, to discuss the brand publishing “moment,” top trends in the industry, and the headwinds transforming traditional marketing.
The best thing I’ve read this week
I’ve not yet started The Last of Us or the new season of Party Down, but the fact that Nick Offerman guest-starred on both of them makes me even more excited to do so. The Parks and Recreation co-star gave a great interview to the Washington Post about the arc of his career, and the minority of fans who don’t realize he’s a big softie:
Most of my audience [knows] who I am and the ways in which I am different from Ron Swanson, for example. And if they don’t cotton to that, the differences are soon elucidated in my song, “I’m Not Ron Swanson.” There is a small percentage of the uninitiated who think that I’m gonna be a cigar-smoking shotgun enthusiast, so I usually have seven to 11 people leave in a huff muttering about what a snowflake I am.
P.S. If you like this glimpse of his personality, Offerman’s 2016 book Gumption, a tribute to “America’s Gutsiest Troublemakers,” is also worth your time.
Palate cleanser: “Sing a note”
Just last week, I wrote about musician Louie Zong’s clever rearrangements of video game music in unexpected styles. But his latest video is truly next level: He composed several songs using more than 200 notes that were sent to him by fans, and made one of those songs into this video. I can’t wait to hear the rest.
Trust me and click these:
What happened to Disney villains?
A hilarious exchange with ChatGPT
“Nothing to see here, just us frogs”
A great Pedro Pascal meme (NSFW language)
The Onion on why you shouldn’t have kids
Why tones in Mandarin are overrated