An Open Letter to APM

I am a regular listener to Garrison Keillor’s Writers Almanac and have been since before they had a podcast. However, they screw up some simple things that makes listening to their show kind of a pain. I thought I’d actually email my issues to them, and blog it as well while I’m at it. I’ve had a general post brewing for months about public radio, how it doesn’t serve me as well as it seems to think it does and how they integrate uneasily into the new media sphere. This is a tiny spoke in that wheel.

Hello. I am a listener to the Writer’s Almanac and have been for many years. Although my local station doesn’t carry it, in the days before you had a podcast version available I used to record the MP3 streams of public radio stations and save them to listen later. When you began podcasting it made my life easier.

I thought I would bring a few technical issues to your attention. One is the implications of the way you use your ID3 metadata tags in the MP3 itself. Every file has the same tags, which are to have an artist of “APM”, an album of “The Writer’s Almanac for …” and a song title of “The Writer’s Almanac for …” . The ellipses are not my convention, those are the literal text in every one of your files. Y’all might not be aware of this, but that causes problems with a number of MP3 players. I have both a Creative Zen and a Microsoft Zune and both of them have some “smart syncing” capabilities. That is, they will only sync a given song once and what defines a distinctive song is that it has a unique set of artist, album and song title. Since your song title never changes, I get one and only one copy of the song on my device, regardless of how many were downloaded. It would not only make that syncing issue work but make your show more usable if the song title also included the date.

Your show appears to be assembled from several different audio files; the main program and several pre and post roll underwriting announcements. All of these files are at somewhat different levels. The announcement in the female voice for the Poetry Foundation is significantly lower than everything else, such that if I’m listening in my car setting the volume for the main program makes that portion all but inaudible. If you set your volume to be able to hear that section, the main show would deafen you. It would really help out the podcast listening experience if these were brought together. It would only need to be done a single time for all the component files and then the show would get better for everyone. There is even a free tool to do this for just this situation:

Hope you are all well. I’m trying to do good work here, and by definition I have kept in touch.

Dave Slusher

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Dave Slusher is a blogger, podcaster, computer programmer, author, science fiction fan and father. Member of the Podcast Hall of Fame class of 2022.

2 thoughts on “An Open Letter to APM”

  1. mike dunn says:

    here, here dave – every podcaster should utilize this simple utility from michael and doug…

    for that matter, every podcaster should “listen” to their podcasts before distributing, simply to determine if they’re offering up something w/ tolerable sound quality in the first place…

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