One morning I checked my e-mail to find that I had 23 messages. Suspecting that I had won a cruise or was about to learn the perfect weight loss secret, I quickly opened my inbox and discovered that the emails were all on the same topic: tan and white seersucker shorts. The e-mails were in response to an episode of Acorns and Merlot, a weekly podcast that I co-host, on which I had mentioned the stylishness of these shorts.
As background, podcasts are internet radio shows that can be downloaded to iPods or other audio devices. They are similar to talk radio but unlike traditional talk radio are not constrained by the need to please sponsors or stay within a particular time frame. My co-host on Acorns and Merlot is eccentric, creative, and openly aspires to a blue blood lineage. My father says he’s a “small-time thug”; my mother worries that he won’t live up to his potential; and I just enjoy podcasting with him. We make a good online pair because we are both outgoing and have a similar sense of style. Our show consists of an eclectic and often humorous mix of new and vintage soundbites and commentary on topics ranging from politics to fashion to our personal lives. Occasionally we invite guests, such as the radical conservative activist Shirley Phelps Roper or a local band. Under our ground rules, to ensure spontaneity we do not reveal our topics to each other before the show. For authenticity we never pause our recording or edit our shows. In the personal segments, we act as if the listeners are therapists that we can confide in freely, and when we are off the air we do not acknowledge anything that is said on the show. There are Acorns and Merlot fans all over America and a following has even been established on Britain’s Isle of Wight. Listeners like Acorns and Merlot not only because it is humorous but also because it offers a completely candid look into our minds. Many of them find the show addictive, and since we began the show last year our listener numbers have snowballed. Our latest episode was downloaded by over 3500 people, placing us in the top 1% of podcasts ranked by iTunes.
I find podcasting fulfilling for a number of reasons. It is a cathartic experience and it provides me with the satisfaction of entertaining and influencing others. Most important, it provides a forum to validate my beliefs. It forces me to articulate my positions and thus to be able to justify them logically.