From podcast to broadcast

Unless you’re a bunch of mates having a laugh or foolish enough to think there’s serious money to be made from the world of podcasting (and maybe there will be in the future, but this seems unlikely for at least another decade), you’re probably making podcasts strategically. I.e. you’re “talent” trying to get a paid gig by proving your worth through a podcast, or you’re a broadcaster trying to build an audience for a team or concept through a podcast. The latter strategy appears to have paid off for the ABC with the podcast Is It Just Me?

Is It Just Me? (which I reviewed in March as part of this blog’s first look at online comedy) was made by ABC Local in 2008-2009 and featured Wendy Harmer and Angela Catterns having a bit of a light-hearted natter about life. The show was aimed squarely at middle-aged women, an audience largely uncatered for by online media, and seems to have achieved a certain popularity. Now Harmer and Catterns are back with It’s News To Me, a similar but more news-focused show, broadcast on ABC NewsRadio every Friday from 6pm and also available as a podcast.

ABC NewsRadio has a demographic which I’m guessing has historically been middle-aged and male but, with Q&A attracting a larger, wider and younger audience than the ABC’s traditional news and current affairs coverage, you can see why trying something a bit different looks like a good idea. There’s also the wider global trend of younger people rejecting traditional news sources for comedic alternatives, and broadcasters trying to respond to that.

But will bringing two middle-aged, semi-amusing woman who’ve done quite well with a podcast aimed at middle-aged women work well in the hard news environment of NewsRadio? Maybe. There’s a long tradition in news and current affairs of the “Friday Night Funny Man” (although I’m struggling to think of any Friday Night Funny Women), and ABC Sydney’s Friday evening panel show Thank God It’s Friday has been on air for almost five years – so clearly it’s doing something right.

Except Thank God It’s Friday (on which Harmer turns up every so often) suggests that if your brief is to be funny about current affairs on early evening ABC radio, it’s best to pitch things light, bland and only nominally satirical. It’s News To Me does all of those things – meaning that it’s not particularly funny and largely a waste of your time.

A better bet for vaguely current affairs chat, but with much more of a pop culture and personal anecdotes focus, is The Sweetest Plum podcast with Declan Fay and Nick Maxwell. You may remember Fay from Triple R’s The Pinch, but he and Maxwell are probably best known for writing the Kevin Rudd PM sketches for Rove Live. Fay contacted us recently about The Sweetest Plum and invited us to have a listen. So I did.

After a bit of a shakey start with episode 1 (in which whoever did the edit figured it would be best to cut most of the anecdote build-ups and just leave in the punchlines – it wasn’t, it was just confusing) this podcast is getting into a more relaxed stride. It’s not amazingly funny, but it’s funnier than a lot of chat-based podcasts out there. There’s also the odd sketch (a real rarity in the world of comedy podcasts, sadly), one of which is a special appearance from Kevin Rudd PM, in which he responds to the Leadership Spill.

While The Sweetest Plum is far from perfect, Fay and Maxwell show some promise. The sort of promise that could get them a radio gig – which I imagine is what they’re hoping for. Better people with promise than some of the others out there.

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