1.06: Origin Story

In most episodes of Soonish, I latch on to a specific area of technology, and I find experts who can explain what’s changing and help us explore how those changes will affect everyone’s lives.

That’s what I usually do, anyway. This week's episode is a little bit different.

I’ve been joking to people that the first five episodes of the show were brought to you by the letter M. The first one was about Movies. And then I did shows about Monorails, Museums, Manufacturing, and Meat. Well, today I’ve got one more M-word for you, and it’s Meta.

Today's episode is about the podcast itself, where it came from, and why I’m doing it. In other words, it's the Soonish origin story.

Check out the episode to hear how Carl Sagan blinded me with science—and gave me my first newspaper story. And how that eventually led to a career as a print writer covering science, technology, and their social and cultural impacts.

As the episode hints, I've long had a bad case of audio envy. I first contracted it around 2007, when I discovered RadioLab. The symptoms worsened considerably when Roman Mars started putting out the awesome 99% Invisible in 2010. And they became intolerable in recent years, with the emergence of compelling personal shows like Rose Eveleth's Flash Forward and Eric Molinsky's Imaginary Worlds. (H/t to Eric for the "origin story" concept, by the way.)

The only cure for this illness, it turns out, was to start making audio myself. 

When I tell people I've started a podcast, their first question is always: What's it about? And the second question is always: How do you monetize a podcast? Which is really a polite way of saying: are you nuts? Aren't you throwing away your livelihood?

Well, I always reply, the business models needed to support independent audio producers are still evolving. To support my new audio habit, I'm still doing some freelance and consulting work on the side. And I'm working to build Soonish's audience to the point where advertisers might be interested.

But starting this week, I have a better answer. Now Soonish is on Patreon, which means regular listeners can become regular supporters!

For indie creators, content subscription platforms like Patreon are a godsend. Here's how New York Times technology columnist Farhad Manjoo put it recently

It’s difficult to overstate how big a deal this is….If subscriptions keep taking off, it won’t just mean that some of your favorite creators will survive the internet. It could also make for a profound shift in the way we find and support new cultural talent.

That's certainly what I'm hoping for. I've long been using Patreon and similar platforms to send donations to shows and organizations I care about, like Gastropod and The Story Collider and Radiotopia. Now I'm inviting Soonish fans to send some love my way.

Join our list for regular  news and updates about Soonish, including episode reminders, cool features, and links to bonus content. 

And here's a little video I made to explain the Patreon campaign. I hope you'll head over to patreon.com/soonish to check out the great rewards available at each pledge level, and consider donating yourself. Thanks so much for being part of the Soonish community—and for caring about the future.

 

Playlist

Soonish theme by Graham Gordon Ramsay

Ad music: Why from the album Music on Fire by Tony Infuriato

Golden Hour from the album Springtime by Podington Bear

Curious Process from the album Reflective by Podington Bear

Fives from the album Building by Podington Bear

Chimera from the album Reflective by Podington Bear

K2 from the album by Inspiring by Podington Bear

 

Special Thanks

Graham Ramsay listened to an early version of this episode and also reviewed the draft materials for my Patreon page.  Mark Pelofsky commented on an early version of this episode.

 

Our Sponsor

Soonish is supported by Kent Rasmussen Winery. Since 1986, Rasmussen has been famous for their purely poetic Pinot Noir, grown in the cool mists of the Carneros region of Napa Valley. And under the companion Ramsay label they offer superior-quality North Coast Pinot Noir, Merlot, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay at a wonderful price. Ask for Rasmussen and Ramsay wines at fine restaurants and stores in 29 states. For more information, visit kentrasmussenwinery.com