Open Notes

Welcome to The Waveform Issue 18 — Big or Small

The Waveform is a newsletter from Red Cup agency about the next edge in podcasting. In each issue, I’ll stay on top of things for you. When we launch a new show or post an episode that stands out, I’ll drop that into the newsletter.

I’m Lee Schneider, founder and lead producer at Red Cup Agency. Did someone forward this to you, or are you reading it on the web? You can subscribe for free.


What we experience in life is a controlled hallucination. Why? The brain is wired for prediction. Moment to moment, it is taking in sensory data from your eyes, ears, your sense of touch and smell, and making predictive models about what might happen. That stick at your feet may be a snake, or maybe it’s just a stick. Your brain makes a stick-or-snake prediction about that scenario faster than you have thoughts about it.

This means that the brain predicts our actions before we think about them. It predicts tastes on the tongue before we actually taste them. Because of the brain’s continual prediction activities, we live in a world of our creation. A controlled hallucination.

Put another way, consider the “tree in a forest” problem. If a tree falls in the forest, and there is no one around to hear it, does it make a sound? Dr. Lisa Barrett, a neuroscientist, says no. If the tree makes a sound, it is only because there is someone around to hear it fall.

Dr. Lisa Barrett is the author of How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain, and Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain. Listen to her discuss her mind-blowing research at, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or in your favorite podcast app.

Also, this week on The Glo Podcast, Heather White is an environmentalist who wants to help with your eco-anxiety because these are “code red” environmental times. The more we learn about the crisis, the easier it is to become paralyzed with fear. In this week’s episode of The Glo Podcast, Heather White shares her optimism about the future and the positive action you can take. Listen on, Apple, Spotify, or in your favorite podcast app.

The Lookahead — Large, Single Points of Failure

The makers of the internet designed it as a decentralized system. It was a loosely linked network of blogs, chat rooms, and ugly websites. But that changed. In time, as Adam Tinworth writes in his blog,

Well-funded businesses eschewed open protocols, and locked up great chunks of human communication for their own financial benefit. And nobody has been better at that than Mark Zuckerberg. He’s slowly rebuilt the internet within his own walled garden, and many of us have followed him into there.

Tinworth goes on to say that we’ve allowed ourselves to become dependent on these centralized services. When Google’s servers go down (it happened today) the services we depend upon fail. My task manager platform and my podcast recording app just quit for a while. I had no more control over this than I do the weather, and I had to change everything this morning until the clouds cleared up.

When we depend on big services, we reap the benefit of their scale. You post to Facebook, you have a potential audience of billions of people. You sign on with a podcast subscription service like Fireside (Mark Cuban’s new service), or Luminary, or Spotify, you reap the benefit of their scale. You are also under their control. They might want to charge you more money to be a subscriber to their service, or take a bigger cut. They might choose to display your podcast to more people or fewer people. It’s all up to them.

RSS, the basic podcast feed distribution service that all podcasts use, is open and free. Always has been. You can give your podcast away for free or charge for it. You can create an RSS feed through a hosting service or build your own feed and answer to no one.

I like this idea because it means I can influence how my creative output is shared. If I make a podcast, or a newsletter, or a blog, or a video channel on Vimeo, I can send it to a select group. A small group can discover it. I can influence how it looks when they see or hear it. What I sacrifice in scale, I gain in creative control. Sure, small services fail every so often. Most of the time, they fail because of their dependencies on big services, like Amazon AWS or Google.

Most of the online world is out of your control. Not just technically, but financially as well. Smaller companies get gobbled up by bigger ones. Podcast host Anchor is part of audio behemoth Spotify. Simplecast, another podcast host, is part of the audio giant SiriusXM. SiriusXM also owns Pandora and AdsWizz. One day, if SiriusXM gets tired of owning a podcast distribution platform, it will sell Simplecast to another company. Anchor may change its terms of service to serve a need of Spotify’s larger mission, not a podcaster mission.

I still use Simplecast as a host for one of my shows and many of my clients. They are dependable and provide good listener stats. But I like hosting podcasts on because it is small and independent. When I want to talk to somebody there, I’m probably going to be talking to one of the founders.

When you host your podcast with a smaller or even medium-sized provider, like Podbean, Libsyn, Buzzsprout, or Blubrry, you are signing on with a company whose business is podcasting. They were built to serve what we create, while Simplecast and Anchor will always serve their corporate masters first. That’s just the way things are.

It’s always a balance. Go big, maybe get big exposure, be a small part of someone’s larger plan. Go small, get less exposure, and be part of a plan with human scale that has a better chance of aligning with your own. The original, decentralized internet was a good idea. It’s smart to consider it now, as a few large companies control more of the internet than ever before.

Red Cup Agency. Podcast Production and Marketing.

Working with teams large and small, I take podcasts from the glimmer of an idea into production and distribution. We make trailers, ad spots and promos for your podcast, and we find new audiences for your work with cross promotion.


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