Saturday, February 09, 2008

Casting off

I've unsubscribed to the Cast On podcast.

I really used to enjoy the podcast. Fun, witty, and well produced. Lately it has been a lot less fun, and a few things started to rub me the wrong way.

The podcast has turned more and more political. I don't have to agree with everything someone says to have a good time. However, I don't enjoy listening to other's opinions if they start to creep into extremism and illogic ( like when people start talking about the government putting dope in the water.)

This last podcast (episode 60) was my broken straw. As a quick summary, it starts with an excellent interview with Ann Modesitt and how knitting designers should be reasonably compensated. Then, Brenda goes into an explanation on why she will only be putting out a podcast every month. That's where she lost me.

She has been trying to make a living off the show for a while now by seeking cooperate sponsorship. While courting larger companies, she was shocked to hear that they actually market their products with:

* Tips for LYS to sell GASP yarn, using evil techniques like placing magazines near the checkout.

* Promoting and pricing 'green' yarn as luxury fibers.
Isn't all yarn really an unnecessary luxury item? Don't organic products usually cost more to produce, so doesn't that make them more of a luxury? (I bet poor families are not 'buying organic').

It's okay to be against uncontrolled consumerism and sleazy marketing strategies. But is it really an "elaborate con" and "immoral" for a company to want a yarn store to showcase the season's new yarns? How are designers like Annie going to make a living wage if no one promotes or sells her new designs?

Finally, doesn't Brenda's own advertisements for Briar Rose and Dane Candle encourage consumerism just the same? Isn't "supporing the people that support Cast On" just like a LYS putting mags near the checkout line? Or is it just OK to encourage others to buy more stuff if it's not from a Big Company? It's okay for Cast On to make a profit and promote what she feels are 'good' products, but no one else dare do so?

Then, to just drive home my WTF, Brenda admits to almost dropping the podcast because it would not equal income. Instead of quiting, she was encouraged to continue to a limited extent by a touching story from anonymous children. I guess at the end these children must have made her feel more important then her longtime listeners and supporters (like me). Now she can do less of these free podcasts and focus on writing a book. I guess she thinks publishing will be a less seedy business with no coy marketing involved? (cha)

I can understand the many personal reasons people podfade, and starting a business is a fine reason. Podcasting is a time consuming hobby, and hobbies sometime have to give way to life. I can also understand standing up to the big companies to keep your journalistic integrity.

However, I have so many mixed messages in this podcast I'm not quite sure what Cast On stands for anymore. As far as I can tell, it's really ALL about trying to get paid for a hobby if she can. In the meantime she's trying to stay green and not promote consumerism (unless it's Cast On sponsors or Knitting Scout books). The Little Guys should get money dumped on them freely, but the Big Guys can't dare to show interested knitters the new products that season.

Well, I'm done with the head scratching. As a long time supporter and listener, I do feel like I can comment on how I think this podcast has taken a nosedive, and why I will stop spending my time listening. I've also tried to make this all as constructive as possible without attacking Brenda's person. It's very possible she expressed herself very badly that episode and I have it 'all wrong'. I really hope that's the case.

So for now I've substituted David Reidy's Sticks and String for Cast On. It's well produced and he has a great voice. He has thought provoking essays that don't make knitting out to be bigger then it is. It's important to us, but not something that will somehow save humanity. He has good reviews and a great way of sounding smart without trying too hard to sound smart. So far he's podcasting to share with us and not planning on using my subscription stat as a means to make a buck. I highly recommend him.


At 11:23 PM, Blogger Crazy Colorado Knitter said...

wow. I'm rather glad I gave Cast-On a pass when I started looking at podcasts. The only knitting one I was able to stick with was the Knitpicks Podcast. And yes, she does talk about their yarn and their books, etc. I don't have anything against the company. (Some people do, and that's their own thing.)

The shame of 'big yarn' marketing their product! The horror of product placement! Ugh.

I just can't imagine someone being shocked at the 'predatory' practices of YARN companies. What planet does she live on?

At 4:03 PM, Blogger Jen W said...

Thanks for the reco of the other podcast. I've listened to Brenda only a bit (didn't like her style I guess)and never made a habit of it. You have given a thorough well-thought opinion.


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