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Work in Progress: The NSFW-ish Podcast

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It’s no wonder it’s caught on. I mean, the technology itself is pretty mind blowing: It uses radio waves to carry information by systematically modulating properties of electromagnetic energy waves transmitted through space, such as their amplitude, frequency, phase or pulse width. You’d almost think this is the Wikipedia definition of radio, the venerable technology that’s brought us fireside chats, fake Martian landings and lunatics raving deep into the static-y dark night. In fact, it is the Wikipedia definition of radio, but it’s also the foundation of this here newfangled thing called podcasts.

I’ve always loved radio and have fond memories listening to late-night Mets and Knicks games and to the surrealistic dreamscapes of the great radio monologist Joe Frank. Years ago, I developed a radio series based on a Philip Marlowe/James Bond-like hero who battles an assortment of arch-villains, including the Game Show Host, the Abstract Expressionist and the French Chef (who threatens to turn the Hudson River into bouillabaisse). So it’s no surprise I’d be drawn to podcasts and listen to a bunch of them: Marc Maron’s WTF, several political ones, Bill Simmons and Kurt Andersen’s great Studio 360, to name a few.

But why others are drawn to podcasts is more of a mystery (44% of the U.S. population has listened to a podcast, with 17% listening weekly). I mean, the technology is older than newsreels! But then I’m reminded of my initial reaction to texting: Why text when you can email or make a quick call, which in many ways is quicker and allows you to convey more detail, leaving less room for error or misinterpretation? That is, until I started texting and realized why it’s often the superior option. I’m not saying that podcasting  —  or audio  —  is a superior option to video, but it is vastly more consumable (and because it’s less distracting, safer). You can listen anywhere and at anytime, you can chew gum and listen to a podcast, you can listen when you’re playing sous chef in the kitchen — without slicing your ring finger with a fluting knife.

If you’re reading this, there’s a decent chance you’re attending WorldatWork’s annual Total Rewards conference where my podcast partner, Tom Alexander, and I will be recording an episode of “Work in Progress,” which we launched a little over a month ago with the (highly conditional) blessing of our WorldatWork colleagues. On the weekly WIP pod, we’ll be interviewing people from the industry (senior human resources and benefits folk) and outside the industry — writers, actors, athletes and artists who will share relatable stories about their work and life. While there is no shortage of podcasts covering HR and business, we’re trying something different: We’re attempting to be funny, while also being informative and interesting. This should be a familiar premise to readers of this column, though the standard caveat applies to the pod as it does to this column: “No promises.” But I have a good feeling you’ll like what you hear. We’d even be happy to provide recommendations on noise-cancelling headphones or ear buds for just about every situation and environment to ensure an optimal listening experience … so long as it’s ambient noise you’re looking to cancel.

Charles Epstein Bio Image

Charles Epstein is president and founder of BackBone Inc. Follow him on Twitter. 


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