Jason Snell

Writer, editor & podcaster

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON February 04, 2016

Discussion

Jason Snell@jsnell · Six Colors
Hi! I’m Jason Snell, writer at Six Colors and podcaster for The Incomparable and Relay FM. I spent a decade as the lead editor of Macworld magazine and have been covering Apple since it was doomed. From Apple to other tech to TV, movies, comics, and books, I’m happy to talk about anything you’d like. Ask me anything!
Blair Hanley Frank@belril · U.S. Correspondent, IDG News Service
Where, ultimately, do you see the journalism ecosystem going in the future? Will large publications continue to thrive as hubs for news and feature writing, or will we see small blogs with lean staffs and low costs like Six Colors, MacStories and The Loop become the dominant home for publishing the same?
Jason Snell@jsnell · Six Colors
@belril Hi Blair, who was our lab intern for many years at Macworld! Journalism's in tough times. I do think we're going to come through it eventually, but I'm not sure what's on the other side. Most likely huge traffic drivers like BuzzFeed are going to have to keep investing in original reporting to replace the stuff that vanishes as newspapers and magazines vanish. Also, I think a lot of the people working in the media right now are just not going to be able to keep doing it - I fear there is going to be a reckoning. I do think there's a place for small sites on the Internet, obviously. My business has almost no overhead and is entirely digital. But at the same time, are people going to pay for sites like mine in the long term? If a few thousand do, I can keep doing what I'm doing. But you can only pay for so many $6/month subscriptions before it has a huge impact on your bank account. Basically, it's a mess and I think it's going to be a while before it's cleared up and there's going to be pain and innovation in the meantime. I'd like to think that in the end, there is a market for good information, and you'll either pay for it or you get advertising to surround it or both, like in the old days. But the players will be very different.
Jason Snell@jsnell · Six Colors
Jason, why do humans cry?
Jason Snell@jsnell · Six Colors
I don't know, Terminator 2 Arnold Schwarzenegger. It's not something a robot could understand.
Alexandre Vallières@vallieres · ½ of RGBA.fm | Web Developer | Blogger
For aspiring podcasters, name three tips you wished you were told when you started podcasting.
Jason Snell@jsnell · Six Colors
@vallieres 1. Expensive equipment isn't required (though it can help). 2. You've got to get over hating to listen to your own voice if you're going to get better. 3. Editing is important but don't over-edit or you'll never finish.
Alexandre Vallières@vallieres · ½ of RGBA.fm | Web Developer | Blogger
@jsnell Thanks for the advice!
Kartik Parija@kartikparija · Cofounder @AdoriLabs, Reimagining Audio
Dear Jason, we are a huge fan of your blog, especially the podcast related posts. Do you believe that podcast creation is till essentially difficult (Ferrite makes it easier, but still a significant learning curve), and there is need to simply the record, submission and discovery (perhaps all on one app) ? Also do you think the average podcast length will fall in the this resurgence of audio shows, and if so will it become closer to 10 to 15 mins, which may encourage both creation and consumption?
Alexandre Vallières@vallieres · ½ of RGBA.fm | Web Developer | Blogger
@kartikparija if the subject discussed is interesting to you, I don't think the lenght matters. I enjoyed Clockwise as much as 3+ hours Hello Internet episodes! :)
Jason Snell@jsnell · Six Colors
@kartikparija Hi! I do think that audio production general is still really hard. We all have devices with microphones and editing software built in or available for free, but there's still a big learning curve. Services like Cast (tryca.st) and Zencastr make this much easier by doing it all in the browser, but they currently only work on Macs and PCs. I think it's all getting much easier much faster, though! But it's still pretty technical and that needs to become even easier. On the "glut of podcasts" side, I do feel like everyone has too many podcasts to listen to these days. It makes it much easier to set a podcast on a every-other-week schedule, rather than weekly. And long podcasts are fine, but it's fun to make short podcasts too! Clockwise is always 30 minutes, Robot or Not is very small, and the new podcast we're doing about "Hamilton" is trying to be no longer than about 35 minutes per episode.
Jason Snell@jsnell · Six Colors
@vallieres @kartikparija Variety can be good, though! I hear from a lot of people who like to intersperse shorter shows rather than just have the big 2-hour marathons.
Taylor Olmstead@tcolmstead · Marketing Coordinator, Atlanta Area BSA
Jason, how did you build The Incomparable once you were comfortable with it? I have a podcast that's getting pretty comfortable format-wise, but we're plateauing. What would you suggest we do as we enter our second year?
Jason Snell@jsnell · Six Colors
@tcolmstead If you mean plateauing in terms of listenership, that is a very hard question. What I tried to do was get in front of more people. Dan Benjamin invited us on to 5by5 and that really expanded our audience. Inviting on new people and exposing our show to their followings has also been helpful. And sticking with it and being consistent is way underrated--the bigger your catalog, the more consistent your release schedule, the better you will do over time. I really believe that. That said, after five years I feel like The Incomparable has found another plateau. I'm not sure how we get over it. But the podcast itself is a quirky thing, it's really designed to be nothing but whatever amuses me. It definitely wasn't a targeted product that I built. If I wanted a bigger, more successful podcast with lots of room to grow I probably would have focused the subject matter more. But that's not the thing I wanted to make. So I'd say be true to yourself, be consistent, and as you're doing that, also open yourself up to exploration. The Incomparable Network exists because we did things like game show episodes and Dungeons and Dragons episodes. It gave everyone who is involved a broader canvas, and more room to explore, and that's been great. You don't need to start a network, but exploring where you can take and break your format can be really fulfilling creatively and energize your podcast.
Taylor Olmstead@tcolmstead · Marketing Coordinator, Atlanta Area BSA
@jsnell Thanks so much. Your work on The Incomparable Network has been a huge inspiration to us and I'm always excited to see what y'all will do next. Hopefully we'll both find our butter zone soon.
Jason Snell@jsnell · Six Colors
@tcolmstead Thank you!
Alexandre Vallières@vallieres · ½ of RGBA.fm | Web Developer | Blogger
How do you sync up double-ender audio tracks? The clapping method or something else?
Jason Snell@jsnell · Six Colors
@vallieres I've got to be honest, I've never used the clapping method. I used to do it by syncing the end of the tracks -- most people finish their recording at the same time, even though they start them at different times. I always record both my end and the group conversation on Skype, and use the Skype track as a reference. (It's also a great backup in case someone's recording fails, which often happens.) These days I actually use an unreleased command-line tool that tries to automatically line up tracks based on the Skype reference track, and it works surprisingly well. Unfortunately, I can't give it to you because it's unreleased. Someday!
Jeff Needles@jsneedles · Data @ Houseparty & Maker of Things
Hey Jason! Big fan of your work over the years. How do you compare podcasting and writing? Is one easier, more fun, etc... than the other?
Jason Snell@jsnell · Six Colors
@jsneedles Hi! Thanks! They are both very different. That's one of the things I love about podcasting is that it's not writing, and it uses a different part of my brain. John Siracusa has talked about how podcasting is often the audible working through of thoughts that ends up taking you to the place where you write about the subject, and there's something to that. I started The Incomparable because back in the 90s we did a blog called TeeVee where we wrote articles about television and it was really fun and then as we got older and had more work (many of us are writers) the posts just stopped. I used up my writing brain on work, I couldn't use it for pop culture stuff too. But I could talk about it! I still had energy in that area, just not in the writing part of my brain. Both of them are fun. Writing is much harder because you do have to be careful and considered at a level that you don't for podcasting. Podcasting is that rough draft, oftentimes. If you've heard me podcast you know I can talk a mile a minute. I can type fast, but let me tell you, it's a whole lot harder to squeeze the words out that way.
Matthew Shettler@shettler · Designer
I feel like I spend more time hanging out with you and your friends on The Incomparable than I do with my real life friends. How do you deal with the dissonance when you meet fans in person who know you so well, but you don't know them from Adam?
Jason Snell@jsnell · Six Colors
@shettler That's sort of part of the life of being in the media. Podcasting does totally magnify it, though. Hearing someone's voice does a whole lot more to make you feel you know someone than reading their words on a page does. It's a little weird, but I appreciate that people like the stuff that we make and care enough to remember what we said. There is occasionally that moment when someone knows something totally random about your life that you didn't recall talking about in public, and you have to just accept that you did say that sometime on a podcast, and you forgot it but the person you're talking to remembers it well! That's weird, but not in a bad way. Basically the short version of this answer is having an audience for anything I create is an incredible privilege and I am honored that people spend their time reading and listening, and even moreso that they remember and even sometimes make charts about us involving Skeletor.
Aaron Isaacs@aaronisaacs · Aaron Isaacs
You can only have one movie to keep on your iPad at all times, what is it?
Jason Snell@jsnell · Six Colors
@aaronisaacs Real Genius is my comfort food. I have an HD iTunes copy now--I don't think it's out on Blu-Ray yet--and I generally keep that synced. Raiders of the Lost Ark is another good one that is often loaded, and the J.J. Abrams Star Trek, actually.
Mau Orozco@mau_orozco
Hi Jason, in your opinion how's The Incomparable's approach to geek culture different than for example the Nerdist network? I am in the same age group as you (and more than a few of the panelists on the Incomparable) which makes it way more appealing to me, and it seems Nerdist is geared towards a younger, demographic. Thanks for the great work you do.
Jason Snell@jsnell · Six Colors
@mau_orozco I just realized the other week that Nerdist and Incomparable both started in 2010. And look where we are now! No, wait, DON'T LOOK. Chris Hardwick's part of the entertainment community and he has access to some amazing people, and it's always shown on his podcast and in his network. I'm a tech writer and a computer nerd and my podcast is full of people I went to college with or people I know from being in the tech world. So that's the biggest difference. I suspect that Chris, being in the entertainment industry, always was considering how Nerdist could be an ongoing entertainment product and a business. I have never considered a business plan for The Incomparable, not even now that we are a network. It's basically a place for people I know to put podcasts that are cool and a good fit with what we're doing. I do make some money from the main show, but it's never been more than a tiny fraction of my income, and I haven't really made any business decisions to try to become more corporate. I don't mean that negatively, either. I just think Nerdist has been run for a long time as a business, and I don't really run the Incomparable Network with that in mind. That also means I'm not really gearing stuff for any demographic group--we just do stuff we like and hope other people like it too. The sensibility of someone born in 1970 does factor into it, though we have panelists from their early 20s to their early 50s. It may be that Nerdist is working to reach a very particular audience, or it may just be that Chris's sensibility and the people he know tend to gravitate toward that kind of subject matter! Also I am totally jealous that they're doing sports podcasts over there and that they got Jonah Keri to do his podcast there.
Mau Orozco@mau_orozco
@jsnell Those of us who follow what you do are there exactly because of what you said. We like what you do and maybe get a bit tuned off by what the other guys are doing. Don't change.
Jason Snell@jsnell · Six Colors
@mau_orozco Definitely no plan to change! We are who we are.
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
What are your favorite podcasts right now and how did you discover them?
Jason Snell@jsnell · Six Colors
@tomstocklein The Flop House - John Siracusa told me about it forever until I listened. John Siracusa is always right. TeeVee/The Flash Flashcast - This is one of mine but I'm not on it. I love the weekly recaps of The Flash that they do. Serial - THE ENTIRE WORLD Accidental Tech Podcast - The entire tech world The Poscast with Joe Posnanski and Michael Schur - I was a huge fan of the Fire Joe Morgan sports-media-criticism blog back in the day, and Michael Schur (who did Parks and Rec and does Brooklyn Nine Nine) was one of the lead writers on that site. I am a fan of drafts and they do silly drafts like intangible emotions and movie franchises. So it's a double win.
Caryn Rybczynski@carynrybs · Ob/Gyn, like tech
If you were new to audio editing, wanted to do some podcasts and interviews just for fun with friends and familiar with both Os and iOS, would you spend your time and money learning Logic or Ferrite?
Jason Snell@jsnell · Six Colors
@carynrybs I'd start with GarageBand! It's free and is sort of like the training-wheel version of Logic. I'd spend money on a microphone before I'd spend it on software. Ferrite is way cheaper than Logic and I recommend it if you are a very comfortable iOS user, because you can edit anywhere. Unfortunately, iOS is not far enough along yet for you to record podcasts with other, remote people yet. So I still have to bring a Mac with me when I'm recording. But I do love Ferrite for editing, and it's $20! Logic is... a lot more than $20.
Caryn Rybczynski@carynrybs · Ob/Gyn, like tech
@jsnell Thx!
Jerry Sarpong@jerryluti · Tech Enthusiasts
What motivates you to be one of the top tech journalist.
Jason Snell@jsnell · Six Colors
@jerryluti It's my job and I want to be good at my job! At the same time, I'm also motivated by doing stuff that I consider fun and interesting. This is one reason why I write about Apple stuff and haven't really tried to make a job move to place with prestige, but covering a topic I don't care about. I could probably be more prestigious if I wrote about less interesting stuff for a big outlet, but... I'd rather not. I'd like to be very good at what I do, and this is what I choose to do.
Jerry Sarpong@jerryluti · Tech Enthusiasts
@jsnell Great keep it up...
Aaron Isaacs@aaronisaacs · Aaron Isaacs
Who's your favorite Muppett?
Jason Snell@jsnell · Six Colors
@aaronisaacs Assuming you mean "muppet" and not "mu-pett," which I think is some sort of Tamagotchi, I'd say Sam the Eagle. He just takes everything so seriously, which to me is incredibly funny. Also, saying Kermit or Gonzo would be boring and obvious.
Mark Holland@partialmark · Developer
In relation to podcast hosting, how many is too many? Or are you going to attempt to outdo iMyke?
Jason Snell@jsnell · Six Colors
@partialmark It's all about balancing time and budget. I've got a limited amount of time and as an independent/funemployed person now I have to calculate out where I'm making money versus things that are entirely or largely passion projects. If I could do more podcasts and have them be good and help pay the bills or scratch an itch, I'd do it. That said, I am trying to modulate things. The new Pod4Ham podcast is something I'm producing but I'm letting the panelists schedule themselves and I'm not on every episode. Total Party Kill is fortnightly. Liftoff is fortnightly. The Incomparable Game show is fortnightly and I'm only hosting a portion of those. So I'm trying to use my time judiciously to work on projects that make sense. Also, if someone would like to pay me a lot of money to make a podcast for them, get in touch! I'm available. :-)
Alexandre Vallières@vallieres · ½ of RGBA.fm | Web Developer | Blogger
Kirk or Picard?
Jason Snell@jsnell · Six Colors
@vallieres I grew up watching Captain Kirk every night at 5 p.m. on Channel 2 from Oakland. Every single night. I was Captain Kirk for halloween as a kid. And as an adult. So I'm on team Jim Kirk. That said, Captain Picard is a much better manager and responsible human being and I would rather work for Jean-Luc Picard than James T. Kirk.
Adam Cecil@fakeadamcecil · Marketing, PolicyGenius
What do you think of the new Star Wars comics that Marvel is producing?
Jason Snell@jsnell · Six Colors
@fakeadamcecil What I've read has been really good. The Princess Leia comic by Mark Waid was excellent and I'm loving Kieron Gillen's Darth Vader comic, too. It goes to show you that if you put top-notch creators on licensed properties they can do excellent work. You can also feel the absolute love that those creators have for Star Wars. It comes through. I'm way behind because I'm largely reading it on Marvel Unlimited. Also, go check out that early issue of the original Star Wars comic where Darth Vader gets a cup of coffee. HOW DOES HE DRINK IT?
Matthew Shettler@shettler · Designer
@jsnell @fakeadamcecil He forces it down somehow.
Jason Snell@jsnell · Six Colors
@shettler @fakeadamcecil Maybe there's a straw in that helmet somewhere.
Jeff V@jvargas92 · Director of Technology, Syfy
Is there any Apple (or related) event that you wish you were present to have covered in the last 20+ years?
Jason Snell@jsnell · Six Colors
@jvargas92 I regret missing the iMac launch. It came after a chain of Apple "events" that basically had nothing of value in them, and we were all feeling like Apple was just crying wolf. So we sent one person from Macworld to the iMac launch, and the moment it ended I got a phone call--I was working at home that day--to rush into the office because this was big and everything changed. I wish I had been there. That's the last major Apple product announcement event I've missed. I guess I regret not going to the Macworld Expo Boston event in 1997 when they put Bill Gates's head up on the projector screen and stuff, but I was not in a great place for that event. They rounded us up in San Francisco and told us we were all probably losing our jobs and that MacUser was merging with Macworld, and oh, you're still going to Boston to cover Macworld Expo, get to work. That show was a disaster on many levels for those of us working at the Mac magazines then. And I didn't go to that keynote.
Cristiano Lopes@cristiano2lopes
Do you think that corporate journalism will be replaced by individual/independent voices on the web ? And if that's the case do this voices have sufficient capacity (being skills/money/time) to fulfil the role of journalism in the society?
Jason Snell@jsnell · Six Colors
@cristiano2lopes I think there is room for both. I think independent voices, and small groups of independent voices banding together, is one future of the news media. No offices, entirely virtual, low overhead, banding together to cover stuff. I also think there's room for larger organizations that can pay larger staffs to create stuff. So my guess is that it will be a mix, but the corporations will be smaller than the old-school newspapers were and the independent groups may be surprisingly small (1-5 people). Also, just throwing out a wacky idea, I keep waiting to hear about some community that has floated a tax or a bond that's designed entirely to fund journalism in their area. Not money from a government (that won't work) but a special journalism district that gets a budget in return for providing independent journalism for that area. It probably wouldn't work, but wouldn't that be worth trying? We've got to find a solution to the problem that nobody seems to want to pay for news. Because people want news, there's demand, but it's very difficult to make money from that demand at a scale that can pay the salaries of journalists.