Remember the heady days of Summer 2005, when Apple released iTunes 4.9 with podcast support, and everyone was all excited that a mainstream company was facilitating free distribution of user-generated content?
I wanted to buy into the populist Pod dream as much as anyone, but almost two years on, I’m disappointed. With all the talk about how online media are pulling the rug out from under the old guard, you’d think there’d be tons of indie newscasts rocketing up the iTunes charts. But if you take a look at the shows filed under “News and Politics” on iTunes, you’ll find a sea of old media brand names: ABC, BBC, NPR. It really doesn’t look a whole lot different than it did in June 2005, when Om Malik dissed the store for offering little beyond “time shifted radio.”
In my search for a DIY news podcast that isn’t Rocketboom, I came across the aptly titled Kinda Like News. KLN, hosted by a character named Blitzer Van Sustran, is a jokey 2-minute recap of the week’s top politics and pop culture stories. It’s like an super lo-fi Weekend Update, but with a lot of human-generated sound effects, and a prop budget consisting primarily of a sharpie and a pack of construction paper.
Kinda Like News isn’t incredibly valuable as, like, news, but its humor is surprisingly layered. Blitzer is assisted in his recitation of each news story/joke by a presentation of hand-drawn graphics, and by a disembodied voice proving commentary by way of sound effects. The sound effects and the drawings send the joke into multiple directions while Blitzer is still talking — sometimes, five or six separate laughs will have been packed in before Blitzer can get to the “official” punchline.
The fact that each strain of the joke passes by too quickly to be fully comprehended often makes the whole package even funnier; in some cases, all of the strains kind of bomb, but as the whole joke has only taken up ten seconds, the show easily bounces back.
There are no credits associated with KLN on SuperDeluxe.com (where a new episode debuts every Thursday), so, for all I know, Blitzer Van Sustran is the presenter’s real name. But there is a link to the personal site of Dave Drabik, a comedy writer who has worked with David Letterman. If an industry professional is behind an indie podcast, does that make it any less indie? Probably, but Kinda Like News is a long way from the iTunes store’s definition of news, and that’s a good thing.