Well, *that* was the worst flu I’ve had since I was a child. A few interesting tips: AlkaSeltzer Plus Nightime followed by a beer will make you hallucinate. Robitussen expectorant, later followed by Campari and soda (lemon twist), is not to be trivialized. Needless to say, despite my ill-advised experiments with cold medicine and nightcaps, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking.
And I’ve been getting a *lot* of email about iTunes and sex podcasting, from journalists, podcasters (sex and not), people in the iTunes top 20, and lots of new listeners. A good number of the emails I’ve gotten are asking me what I think about the fact that my podcast, Open Source Sex, virtually disappeared from iTunes’ #3 spot literally overnight. The emails are very supportive, and many suggest that it wasn’t an accident.
Last friday night when I was in New York, I left the apartment smiling after a BBC podcast interview and seeing my podcast still in the #3 spot. By the time I got to my friend’s party at about midnight EST, I was told upon arrival that my podcast was not to be found in the top 100. I chalked it up to user error, but mused that I wouldn’t be surprised — after all, my podcast had been removed for no reason (and with no explanation) once before, along with a number of other sex podcasts, and only mine had been replaced. When I got back to the apartment at around 4am EST, I checked and saw my podcast had dropped to #20. By the morning, it was off the chart. (Now it sits at #82.) This coincided with two extremely divisive and inflammitory articles about sex podcasting and Apple/iTunes (one in which I was misquoted, and done so quite out of context; lesson: be carfeul who you talk to).
Looking at my download stats tells a story. On wednesday the 27th, the day I hit #3, my downloads show a gradual increase, peaking at a little over 10,000 for Open Source Sex #15 (the most recent one; the one you get when you hit “subscribe” in iTunes) on thursday, still peaking nicely on friday. Then, an abrupt drop. Could 7000-8000 people have suddenly lost interest in a podcast that has the word “sex” in it, and occupied a little spot in the top ten? Sure, it’s possible. My show isn’t *that* frequent, or even practical.
I don’t have a corporate podcast, advertisers or sponsors, so my livelihood or job isn’t at stake here; it’s just all very interesting. I actually wouldn’t be surprised if it was an intentional ejection from the front page of iTunes, not because I think there’s anything sinister at work, but because it only makes sense that the word “porn” associated with iTunes is the huge pile of dog poo on the sidewalk that Apple would rather not step in. Mind you, few sex podcasters associate the word “porn” with their podcasts — but the journalists who wanted to press the “kneejerk” buttons in their readers came up with “porncasts” and headlines like “Podcast Porn Proves Popular”. And I’ll bet that the good folks at Apple know that iTunes is fine with sexual/explicit content within the context of artistic merit. They also know that the word “porn” used in articles with what’s seen as a (burp) “family” brand could only unleash the wrath of reaction from America’s monstrous sexual shadow self. In shallow America, where things like Fox News teach dubious facts and values, porn and sex are things to be afraid of. America titillates itself regularly with its fear of sex, where sex is alienating, dehumanizing, immature, materialistic, shameful. And, if it were true that they just wanted to get the word “sex” off the front page, iTunes has the power to make me and my kind go away, and they have the right within their medium to do so. iTunes is a business, not a democracy.
So, I totally get it. And I know it’s totally my job (and the job of Open Source Sex, and others) to exist and be light to the shadow. Thousands (actually, hundreds of thousands) of people are finding value, healthy titillation and healing by what I’m doing with Open Source Sex. But what gives iTunes and sex podcasting a sinister glow in all of this is the fact that the top 20 has gone from indies to corporations within a few weeks. Example of the trend: “Apple Podcasting Goes Mainstream”. There were some grumbles in my Podcast Tribe when I posted the Wall Street Journal article; not about the sex, but about the democratic nature of podcasting being turned into a commodity for CNN, ESPN, ABC News… The point of view I’m coming from is that of Bob Cauthorn’s great article, “Memo to mainstream media: You don’t get to blog”. In it, he begins with:
“It is, I’m horrified to report, a direct quote: ‘We gotta get into that blogging thing if we want to get snaps from younger readers…’
Now, if you happen to hear these words coming from a very senior, 50-something editor at a well-known American newspaper I’m sure your reaction will be exactly like mine, namely: ‘uh-oh, I’m going to have a grand mal seizure now…’”
So, following this logic, by all rights CNN and ABC News shouldn’t be *allowed* to podcast. Corporate radio stations shouldn’t have featured podcasts on the front page of iTunes. They *already have huge media outlets* that reach millions of listeneres/viewers. But of course, the converse argument is that like Fox News and blogging, they’re likely to utterly miss the whole point of blogging (and podcasting by extension), and will churn out the same old shit everyone’s running away from — why they’re going to blogs and podcasts for in the first place. My answers to journalists about my indy sex podcast vs. what might happen when mainstream companies like Maxim and porn companies like Vivid start podcasting, is that I feel the market would ultimately sort itself out. People are a lot more sexually sophisticated than anyone out there in media thinks, and they’re tired of being insulted and shamed. I feel that people will choose the form of entertainment (sexual and otherwise) that appeals to them. But what hinders the free market access to information is when corporate and moneyed interests are placed ahead of indies in a free, formerly democratic medium.
Curious, that. Now, podcasting seems all a lot less cool and very yesterday, when you take all the danger (sex) out of it. But definitely expect “podcasting” to be the “word of the year”, like blogging was last year — several years after we’d all been blogging, of course.
But hey, I’m not the only one in the world with a sex podcast! At #34, we have “Sex Talk“, which iTunes lists as being from “unknown”, though they publish Sex Talk’s personal email address in the “artist” column. That’s the kind of respect us sex people deserve, right? Actually it’s a show about gender and feminism, which I featured in my first Sexy Podcasts roundup. (Check out my second one at the very cool Odeo.com)
Some sex podcasts were dropped from iTunes and never replaced, as I’ve mentioned before. Take Rubber Canada for instance. RC wrote me,
“This whole iTunes thing really pisses me off. I totally went to all kinds of trouble to decipher Apple’s podcast XML specs and put a whole shitpile of proprietary code in my RSS feed, only to not have the show appear. Apparently it was up for a very short time, and then removed. I only found this out from sources such as yourself.
The iTunes thing doesn’t surprise me, though. Apple is becoming more and more of a content provider than an edgy computer and software developer. As such, they are probably telling each other in their board meetings that taking the easy path (the lowest common denominator) is the best way to go. They have left a few podcasts in the Sexuality category, but it is about half of what it used to be. I am a fanatic when it comes to Apple hardware and software, but think the Disneyfication of iTunes totally blows. Once again, trusting people to think for themselves and perhaps exposing them to something different is trumped by the censors and the executives who are too chickenshit to take a little risk. Sex is part of humanity. Ignoring that fact is counter-productive.
I wrote Apple a stinging email yesterday scolding them on their sex/podcast policy. I hope they listened. I don’t think the subject matter in my podcast is more “offensive” or explicit than, say, Fetish Flame, and they have been in the directory since the very beginning.
Or, how about Whorecast, who writes me:
“I’ve been following your sex podcasting saga with the iTunes Music Store with great interest. Last January, I started a podcast called whorecast, which has been in the iTunes Music Store without drama until today. When I uploaded an archive of podcasts from rizzen this weekend, it seems this triggered a review of my podcast by the iTunes staff —
1. They added my artwork (finally)
2. They changed my author field to my name, not my private email
address (only on the most recent podcasts, of course)
but what the fuck, number 3: they starred-out the word ‘whore’ in the titles of two of my podcasts (as well as the word ‘pussy’).
So far, I still have a title: ‘whorecast’ without it being starred out, but I wonder for how long.
My podcasts are more political than pornographic, though I did podcast an orgasm and read naked from my bubblebath — oh, for shame! As a sex worker, the term ‘whore’ is hardly offensive to me — but to Apple, well —
Do you have any advice for contacting Apple and getting my “whore” back?”
Indeed. Well, it looks like after the flu, I’m pretty much back from the dead. And I’m feeling fiesty.
The post iTunes, Sex, Podcasting and America’s Sexual Shadow appeared first on Violet Blue ® | Open Source Sex.