Why All Podcasts Sound the Same

One of the things Thomas and I try to do with Thinking Religion, as well as Elisabeth and Merianna on Thinking Out Loud (and all of our Thinking.FM podcasts) is sound different by sounding like ourselves.

“My Wife Quit Her Job podcaster Steve Chou is, like Nick Loper, another savvy online marketer who realizes the algorithm might be his most important audience member. Subscribers are another key piece of landing in the iTunes New & Noteworthy section, and without it, a podcast might fall off the radar.”

Source: Why podcasts have such terrible ads – Vox

I never want to do a podcast where we have to beg for ratings or use the same 5 generic ads that every other podcast uses.

However, I’ll be the first to tell you that’s not a very lucrative way to do podcasting. It’s definitely a losing proposition when you consider time, hosting costs, bandwidth etc. But, I think we’ll stick to our donation model for now (despite its poor performance in terms of actual revenue). As the hosts of No Agenda frequently remind us, “Value for Value” is a much more authentic and enjoyable stream of revenue for a medium such as podcasting.



Joe Maddon doesn’t care and neither should your business, church, or organization.

“Maddon doesn’t care what you think of his lineup. He doesn’t care what you think of where or when he plays his veterans and rookies. He doesn’t care that your uncle was buried having never witnessed a Cubs World Series championship.

It’s a trait we rarely see in Cubs managers.”

Source: Cure for Cubs? Joe Maddon doesn’t care

Stop caring what you think others will think and take your team to the post-season.

The United States’ Poor Record on LTE

“Conversely some of the earliest adopters of LTE — like the U.S., Japan, Sweden and Germany — are starting to fall behind in terms of data performance. In part, these older networks are suffering from their own success. In the U.S., for instance, LTE’s introduction in 2010 resulted in a huge base of LTE subscribers in the country today. Those subscribers are all competing for the same network resources, slowing down average speeds. In comparison, newer networks in South America and Europe are more lightly loaded. But the U.S. has also failed to keep up with the rest world in both spectrum and technology. All of the four major U.S. operators have been expanding into more frequency bands, but none have been able to match the capacity countries like South Korea and Singapore have plowed into their networks. The U.S. has also been much slower in moving to LTE-Advanced.”

Source: The State of LTE September 2015 – OpenSignal

During my first few weeks at Wofford College in the Fall of 1996, I stumped the campus IT team by asking for the TCP / IP details or a way to get an internet connection in my dorm room. “Why do you want to have the internet in your dorm room?” one of the IT team asked me. Two years later, the whole campus had a high speed fiber connection.

We’re undergoing a transition from laptops to mobile devices as a primary mode of computing for many people, young and old. However, as Thomas Whitley and I talked about on Thinking Religion yesterday, the transition is happening quickly on university campuses.

I’ve talked to young people who said that mobile service was a factor in where they wanted or decided to go to college. It wasn’t a primary factor, but it did make into the equation. I hear the same from businesses and clients I work with today when deciding on where to have meetings (“We can’t meet in that part of town…the Verizon coverage is terrible.”).

I wonder when / if we’ll, as a country, insist on investing in more development of LTE and mobile in both urban and rural parts of our country as the mobile revolution continues? Or has our political mood changed so much in twenty years that the government stepping in and working with an industry to improve what is potentially seen as a necessary service an impossibility?

“We’re here to tell you we believe that in rural North Carolina and in rural America, Internet access ought to be just as likely as telephone access…You ought to be able to use it in the fastest possible way…And if you can, it’ll mean more jobs, more businesses, higher incomes and more opportunity.”

President Bill Clinton
Wednesday, April 26, 2000


Sam’s Public Feedly Collections

“Feedly connects you to the information and knowledge you care about. We help you get more out of you work, education, hobbies and interests. The feedly platform lets you discover sources of quality content, follow and read everything those sources publish with ease and organize everything in one place.”

Source: Sam’s public feedly collections

I use Feedly as my RSS reader and go through a good many blog and website stories everyday on topics ranging from art to religion to marketing to tech to science.

Over the years, I’ve had people ask for a way to see what blogs and sites I’m reading… Feedly has made it possible now to share those (along with the standard but nerdier OPML files that did the trick 10 years ago).

So, here’s my public “collection” or groups of sites that I read throughout the day on the topics of Arts & Science, Marketing, and Religion / History / Archaeology.

Americans Don’t Understand What it Means to Be Pastoral

We too easily understand the differences between “conservative” and “progressive” but our churches have taught us very little about what being “pastoral” actually means…

“Americans are often tempted to read Francis as a “progressive” pope who has tossed out the conservative playbook of Church leaders past. After all, he’s thrown down scathing critiques of global capitalism, pushed for radical reform on climate change, and shifted the Church’s tone on issues like homosexuality, divorce, and abortion. So as pundits map his views, many conclude that he’s pushing the church into uncharted territory. But as a 15th-century Vatican cartographer might have put it: hic sunt dracones.”

Source: When Does Pope Francis Arrive in the United States, Washington, D.C., New York, and Philadelphia? – The Atlantic

Essential reading as Pope Francis lands in the United States today to begin his tour of the country.

On Invoking Galileo and Columbus in Your Arguments

“If you are arguing against climate change, vaccines, evolution, etc. you do not get to invoke Galileo because in any accurate analogy, you are the religious fanatics (or the astronomers who blindly clung to Aristotle).”

Source: No one thought that Galileo was crazy, and everyone in Columbus’s day knew that the earth was round | The Logic of Science

If only I had a dime for every time I’ve encountered the “Yeah? Well, everyone thought Columbus was nuts too!” or “Yeah? Well, Galileo was right despite what all the scientists of his day said!” in a conversation.

An Individual Can Be Wiser Than the Crowd

“Another benefit of the SEP’s not being crowdsourced is that minority views get more exposure.  Wikipedia’s overview of feminist philosophy is hopelessly short. The SEP has dozens of meticulously researched entries. A 2012 survey by Wikimedia, Wikipedia’s parent organization, found that about 90% of its volunteers were men. “Its entries on Pokemon and female porn stars are comprehensive, but its pages on female novelists or places in sub-Saharan Africa are sketchy,” said the MIT Technology Review in its article The Decline of Wikipedia, which criticizes its byzantine editing hierarchy. The same goes for an important idea in philosophy: feminism.”

Source: This free online encyclopedia has achieved what Wikipedia can only dream of – Quartz

Not just a better Wikipedia, but a better model for the internet? Perhaps in some ways, but decentralized federation has its own beauty as well.

Small Business and Church Unwillingness to Be Personal

‘”We believe the new bars will inspire people to not only quickly identify their own symptoms and satisfy their hunger, but give them a new, fun way to call-out friends and family on who they become when they’re hungry, too,” says Snickers brand director Allison Miazga-Bedrick.”

Source: Snickers Swaps Out Its Brand Name for Hunger Symptoms on Painfully Honest Packaging | Adweek

Brand apathy” is a very real and serious issue for both large and small businesses, nonprofits, and churches looking to make a connection with varieties of demographics, community, consumers, and people.

It has been interesting to see Coca-Cola roll out their “Share a Coke with…” campaign and the various amounts of reception it has generated. I’d love to see those internal metrics on which names, which zip codes, and which demographics perform the best.

Motorola, Nutella, M&M’s, and Kleenex are among the larger companies that have jumped on the idea of using personalized packaging to increase brand engagement. Smaller companies, such as those in the wedding and service industry, have long used personalization as a marekting tool.

However, beyond using a first name and last name scheme on an email newsletter or a “personalized” letter in an offline mailing, many small businesses have yet to use the tools available to do more personalization despite the potential benefits.

I’m always surprised by clients or potential clients who are so strongly insistent on their brand identity (whether it be a logo or a particular style of packaging) that they are simply unwilling to even consider a form of personalization despite the metrics and data.

“Consumers” in 2015 and beyond are accustomed to the idea of personalization, partly because of large brands such as Coca-Cola, but mainly because of the web. If you’ve spent any time at all browsing, surfing, or buying online (and who hasn’t), you’ve certainly noticed personalized ads that follow you from Amazon to Facebook to Google to Huffington Post and back again. While we’re currently debating ad blocking and tracking in the nerdy sectors of the internet, there’s no doubt that the web has become full of trackers because they work. Granted, adtech hasn’t been the best steward of these tools, but there’s real benefit to using them ethically.

So why aren’t small businesses, churches, or nonprofits making more use of personalization online and offline?

I’d say it mostly has to do with the psychology of their leaders and an unwillingness to do better marketing through exploration.

“Talk, don’t listen … decide, don’t engage” sums up that mindset. That’s a mindset that will lead to organizational death. The Cluetrain Manifesto is old in web years, but still very applicable.


Forget Millennials, Here Comes Generation Z

“Generational study being more art than science, there is considerable dispute about the definition of Generation Z. Demographers place its beginning anywhere from the early ’90s to the mid-2000s. Marketers and trend forecasters, however, who tend to slice generations into bite-size units, often characterize this group as a roughly 15-year bloc starting around 1996, making them 5 to 19 years old now. (By that definition, millennials were born between about 1980 and 1995, and are roughly 20 to 35 now.)”

Source: Move Over, Millennials, Here Comes Generation Z – The New York Times

If you’re wondering why the NFL is signing deals with Snapchat or why messaging apps are the new webs (and why we marketers are still trying to get our head around all of those issues), look no further than the identification of Gen Z.

They will change the web and how we use it (and how we market through it) in ways that make my Gen X / Y / Millennial (1978 here… born on the cusp) head explode.

18th Century Contextual Advertising

Does this advertisement from the May 10, 1764 issue of Benjamin Franklin’s Pennsylvania Gazette make you want to pick up some Benjamin Jackson Mustard and Chocolate?

Source: 18th Century Advertising, When Brevity Wasn’t Key | Rag Linen | Online Museum of Historic Newspapers

We complain about ads on the web (or Facebook) today, but the convention is nothing new. Our ability to contextualize ads, and ignore them, are interesting developments in our own own structural literacies.

What is new is the ability of advertisers to “track” our digital selves on and off the web and our ability to actually block ads on the web with ad blockers.

How will the web “disrupt” humanity’s second oldest profession?

BTW, this ad totally makes me want to go to Philadelphia and buy some of this mustard.

Margaret Atwood: Double-Plus Unfree

Though our digital technologies have made life super-convenient for us – just tap and it’s yours, whatever it is – maybe it’s time for us to recapture some of the territory we’ve ceded. Time to pull the blinds, exclude the snoops, recapture the notion of privacy. Go offline.

Any volunteers? Right. I thought not. It won’t be easy.

Source: Margaret Atwood: we are double-plus unfree | Books | The Guardian

Part of my daily tension as someone who loves my whirring gadgets and gizmos and on demand lifestyle-thru-technology.

“…let him declare what he seeth…” or Apple vs the Web


“And with iOS 9 and content blockers, what you’re seeing is Apple’s attempt to fully drive the knife into Google’s revenue platform. iOS 9 includes a refined search that auto-suggests content and that can search inside apps, pulling content away from Google and users away from the web, it allows users to block ads, and it offers publishers salvation in the form of Apple News, inside of which Apple will happily display (unblockable!) ads, and even sell them on publishers’ behalf for just a 30 percent cut.

Oh, and if you’re not happy with Apple News, you can always turn to Facebook’s Instant Articles, which will also track the shit out of you and serve unblockable ads inside of the Facebook app, but from Apple’s perspective it’s a win as long as the money’s not going to Google.”

Source: Welcome to hell: Apple vs. Google vs. Facebook and the slow death of the web | The Verge

As I get older, I keep reminding myself that, after all, you can’t go home again. When I got to college, I was exposed to Plato in the Greek and remember reading πάντα χωρεῖ καὶ οὐδὲν μένει” καὶ “δὶς ἐς τὸν αὐτὸν ποταμὸν οὐκ ἂν ἐμβαίης for the first time. My Greek isn’t what it used to be, but the translation is:

“Everything changes and nothing remains still and you cannot step twice into the same stream.”

When I think about the evolution of the web from when I started using it (1994) through all of my experience with Mosaic and Netscape and CompuServe and Prodigy and AOL to the glory days of a web without a center (post AOL crash), I look back with fondness. The web has been a constant source of challenge, fulfillment, joy, sadness, and especially income for me over these last twenty years.

In my mind’s eye, the “glory days” of the web were sometime around 2004 or so with the advent of Firefox as a capable replacement for Internet Explorer and just shortly before Facebook at the digital world. Things were exciting. GMail was new and in high demand. We all wondered what other wizard toys Google would unveil to us in their wonky way of doing such things. Web design was flush with new energy having been set free of IE, and web protocols were blooming (well, before the dark times of Flash). It felt as if the world would be transformed by this open information system. There were ads, for sure, but the ads were there to pay for the content and the experience (even the “punch the monkey” ads). We used MySpace, but no one spent all day there. It was a tool, not a roach motel. Then came Twitter in 2006 and we web nerds just knew it was the information backbone protocol we had been hoping for. Surely, Twitter would be handed over to the open source community. They had a very open API, after all.

Then came Facebook. But it wasn’t so bad at first. It was a prettier MySpace, that’s all.

Ze Frank had his shows and we all were excited about web2.0 and the promises of what new web tech like AJAX would mean for interfaces and capabilities. I was using Writely in 2004 and loved the idea of being able to use a fairly capable word processor in a browser. Then, Google bought Writely and it became Google Docs.

That’s ok, we still had our RSS feeds and the Mac fan-people had Net News Wire. FeedDemon wasn’t so bad on the desktop and we always had Bloglines and Feedgator on the web. RSS was going to transform the way we consumed content. I just knew it.

Then came Google Reader.

I’m being too nostalgic. The web was never that rosey and free and vibrant and promising as I remember. After all, I was in the web marketing business from 2003 onward. In reality, it didn’t change all that much throughout the web2.0 boom from 2006-2008 or the social media boom from 2009-2013.

However, the web marketing business is changing rapidly now in the Age of the Platform (or App). I would call it The Mobile Age, but “mobiles” is becoming a silly name for the pocket devices we carry with us at all times and perform more and more of our daily business and life through. They’re not “mobile phones” now. They are our computers.

The Age of the Platform was ushered in quickly by Steve Jobs and Apple. Pushing cell tower and mobile device technology with ever increasingly progressive iPhones and then iPads caused a fundamental shift in how we do computing (and marketing). I sometimes wonder if Jobs knew that he was going to go directly after the jugular of Google’s revenue business when he was on stage doing the first iPhone demo? Remember, the first iPhone did not have an app store and only included the native apps. Jobs was insistent that developers could use the Safari Mobile Browser to give users access to “app environments” through HTML 5. That didn’t last long.

Apps have changed everything on the web. They’ll continue to redefine conventions we’ve long held to be self-evident about everything from marketing to banking to security to communication. With its clever play to encourage ad blocking on Mobile Safari (still the only browser environment allowed on their omnipresent iDevices) and ultimately push users into their new News app (this blog is included in their collection… yay?), Apple is moving Safari off the main page and into one of the folders where you put the Compass, Tips, and Game Center apps (at least I do). Apple is breaking up with the web.

There’s no functionality for a browser or webkit on the new Apple TV. Can you imagine the possibilities? However, it’s not needed. We have apps.

Look Homeward, Angel.

Is this a bad thing? I don’t think we can segregate movements like this into “good” or “bad” categories. Tech is agnostic morally, and we decide to do with it what we will. For those of us who reminisce on the ideals of an open and federated web where the market decides what ad formats or sites get exposure… well, we can have our idealism and try to keep blogging (though without ads).

Twitter … Facebook … Google, Apple, or Microsoft ecosystems … I look at all of these things as negatives (personally). Lock in is never good. Reach, engagement, user bases … all those metrics I deal with daily in my job working in web marketing are important variables to consider. However, we are too eager to throw ourselves into a binary decision of being an Apple fanboy or Android fangirl without pondering what we’re exchanging in this transaction.

When I think about how the web has evolved and how it might evolve further in the future, I think of Atticus Finch teaching Scout how to read.

“What was even the point of websites, certain people will find themselves wondering. Were they just weird slow apps with nobody in them?? Why? A bunch of publications will go out of business and a bunch of others will survive the transition and a few will become app content GIANTS with news teams filing to Facebook and their very own Vine stars and thriving Snapchat channels and a Viber bureau and embedded Yakkers and hundreds of people uploading videos in every direction and brands and brands and brands and brands and brands, the end. Welcome to 201…..7?”

Source: The Next Internet is TV | The Awl

I think of how Scout comes home after the first day of First Grade and is completely disillusioned. Her teacher was surprised at Scout’s reading ability and told Scout that her father mustn’t read to her anymore because he “didn’t know how to teach.” Atticus, being the archetype and lawyer that he is, calms Scout and makes a deal with her (and keeps reading to her).

We rely so much on our own perceptions of the past experiences we have to make assumptions about the future. We project based on (presumed) lived out reality. Our brains deceive us, though. When we come home, sometimes things have changed and our memories don’t hold up to the exposure to daylight. We need Atticus to tell us that it’s going to be ok, and we do know how to read properly, and he will continue reading to us at bedtime.

In the marketing business, I walk a fine line between intuition and metrics on an hourly basis. My clients trust me, but they have their own perceptions of taste, design, and ethics that I must navigate and counsel as well. My background in religion and teaching suits me well, but I’m constantly aware of the notion of Πάντα ρει (“everything flows”) that Plato channeled through Heraclitus. Everything flows. Perceptions, marketing techniques, web technologies, app platforms.

The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

Rather than believing the teacher that tells me that I don’t know how to read properly because my father is not a real teacher, I should realize the utterly unfathomable trajectory that issues such as ad blockers, advertising, and definitions of the web present for humanity. Since the advent of hyperlinks in the early 90’s, we’ve seen the development of a technology that has changed or shifted how we do most everything from reading to producing to consuming to being treated for our over-consumption.

The web’s not dead.

Everything flows.

Now back to my marketing spreadsheets.

Wofford College to host presidential forum in October

The school will host the Commander-in-Chief Presidential Forum, featuring Republican presidential candidates, from 7 to 9 p.m. on Oct. 15 in Leonard Auditorium. All major Republican candidates have been invited to participate in the event, part of the Hipp Lecture Series on International Affairs and National Security. The event is co-sponsored by the S.C. Republican Party, and will be moderated by former S.C. Gov. David Beasley. It will be free and open to the public.

Source: Wofford College to host presidential forum in October | GoUpstate.com

Go Wofford!

I’m tired of apologizing because I’m a baptist.

“I am tired of apologizing!  As much as I know I should just listen to the Frozen soundtrack and just Let It Go!, there comes a time when letting it go is consent!  No more!  Mike Huckabee, if you want to claim to be a Baptist, a minister, even a Christian, please take some time to read the Bible!”

Source: I’m Tired of Saying “I’m Sorry!” | Didn’t Make the Sermon

Amen. It’s time for us to stand up and (re)claim what it means to be a baptist.

Facebook’s “dislike” button and my sympathy for future digital archaeologists

“By contrast, Facebook won’t treat a “dislike” as a vote to stop showing the post to other users. Rather, it provides a better option in cases where friends and family paste bad news, like a death in the family or a natural disaster. “What they really want is the ability to express empathy,” wrote Business Insider. “Not every moment is a good moment.”‘

Source: Facebook is working on a “dislike” button. But it won’t do what you think. – Vox

I really do have sympathy for the poor digital archaeologists that will try to piece together our culture(s) two thousand years from now…

“They equivocated death in their families or natural disasters that they caused by their uncontrolled use of fossil fuels with a “dislike” button on a social network?”


“People were strange back then.”


Now you can donate to a political candidate through a tweet. Why aren’t churches using this?

We’ve teamed up with Square to enable anyone in the US to make a donation directly to a US candidate through a Tweet, starting today. This is the fastest, easiest way to make an online donation, and the most effective way for campaigns to execute tailored digital fundraising, in real time, on the platform where Americans are already talking about the 2016 election and the issues they are passionate about.

Source: Political donations, now through a Tweet | Twitter Blogs

I wonder if this will get any coverage during tomorrow night’s Republican Presidential Debate?

Regardless, you can also send me money at my “cashtag” if you’d like to test the system: $samharrelson.

But seriously… why don’t more churches and non-profits use this??