Twenty One Questions for Gimlet Media CEO Alex Blumberg for His “Audio AMA”

Gimlet Media

On the April 21, 2017 episode of the Gimlet Media podcast “Startup“, the company’s founder Alex Blumberg announced a phone number where he will be accepting questions from the audience.

While I’m sure that 99% of the questions will be asked about the elephant in the room, I decided to come up with a list of questions not about that certain mystery that I’d like to see Alex Blumberg answer.

Gimlet’s since retired “Circle G” logo
1. Why did Gimlet drop the “Circle G” logo when it changed the artwork for all of their shows? It seemed like if AT&T dropped the globe or if NBC got rid of the peacock.
2. Why did Adam Davidson leave “Surprisingly Awesome“?
3. Is it safe to say that Adam McKay left “Surprisingly Awesome” because he’s generally too busy in his day job as a major Hollywood film director?
4. Are the doors open for Adam and Adam to return for (an) eventual “Surprisingly Awesome” reunion show(s)?
5. Is “Homecoming“, which features name actors like Catherine Keener, David Schwimmer and Oscar Isaac more expensive to produce than shows that involve travel like “Heavyweight”?
6. Why did Gimlet choose not to interrupt the episodes of “Homecoming” with commercials, instead opting for a cable TV-like “aftershow” with a sponsor?
7. Why do you mention the musicians that perform your shows’ theme music (particularly songs from established bands like Vulfpeck and The Weakerthans on “Heavyweight” and “Open For Business“) but not the titles of the songs?
8. Why was Nazanin Rafsanjani‘s marriage to Alex Blumberg not mentioned in her episode of “Twice Removed“?  She was introduced as an employee of Gimlet but not as the wife of the CEO.
9. How come “Startup” has not, up to this point, addressed any criticism that Gimlet and its shows have received during its shows?
10. Has Gimlet considered releasing its show pilots Amazon-style, to get listener feedback before committing to making them into series?
11. Why don’t any of your shows have a sponsor synonymous to it like how “Serial” has MailChimp and “Talk is Jericho” has DDP Yoga?
12. Why did Gimlet, who discussed why they turned down a branded podcast from the Department of Defense decide to allow Goldman Sachs, another very controversial organization, as a sponsor?
13. What lessons have Alex Blumberg and Gimlet learned from viewing the launch of “Serial”, particularly it’s second season which was not as successful as the first?
14. Why does Gimlet feel more comfortable with cancelling shows, after the short runs of “Sampler” and “Undone”?
15. Is “Startup” essentially three different shows now, with the styles of seasons 1 (focus on Gimlet), 2 (focus on one company other than Gimlet) and 3 (focus on multiple companies) showing up during various times of the year?
16. Is Gimlet open to being acquired by a larger company or merging with other companies?
17. How does someone with no experience in podcasting/producing/audio production get a job at Gimlet?  Should they intern, make their own podcasts or other things?
18. What production equipment and editing programs does Gimlet use?
19. Has Gimlet, who uses gimletmedia.com for their domain, attempted to buy gimlet.com, owned by a cybersquatter?  How much are they asking for?
20. Did Alex Blumberg know Zack Braff before he made “Startup” into a sitcom pilot for ABC?
21. How did hotmoms.gov get their name?

Jason Feifer – Isanberg Season 01 Episode 03

On this episode of Your Favorite Podcast, Ian Isanberg talks to Jason Feifer, Editor In Chief of Entrepreneur Magazine and host of the “Pessimists Archive” podcast.  He talks about his career and the constant embrace of new technology to improve his storytelling.

Jason Feifer can be found at @heyfeifer on Twitter and at jasonfeifer.com.
Pessimists Archive can be found at pessimists.co and wherever you listen to podcasts, while wearing headphones when you cross the street.

Isanberg can be found at www.yourfavoritepodcast.com

Also:
iTunes – https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/id1221453066
Google Play – https://play.google.com/music/podcasts/portal/…
Stitcher – http://www.stitcher.com/podcast/isanberg
TuneIn – http://tunein.com/radio/Isanberg-p982188/

Follow us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/isanbergpodcast/

Rob Schmidt AKA Cookie Monster Podcast

On this episode of Your Favorite Podcast “Isanberg”, Ian speaks with Capitol Theatre super fan Rob Schmidt.  He talks about how Cookie Monster became part of his identity, the story of how he took home Marco Benevento’s keyboard from a Joe Russo’s Almost Dead show, and advice on how to make the Beacon Theater a better venue.

Rob Schmidt can be found on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/rohbehrs/

Mini Cookie Monster can be followed at https://www.instagram.com/minicookiem/.

Isanberg can be found at www.yourfavoritepodcast.com

Also:
iTunes – https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/id1221453066
Google Play – https://play.google.com/music/podcasts/portal/…
Stitcher – http://www.stitcher.com/podcast/isanberg
TuneIn – http://tunein.com/radio/Isanberg-p982188/

Follow us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/isanbergpodcast/

Rob Schmidt AKA Cookie Monster – Isanberg Season 01 Episode 02

On this episode of Your Favorite Podcast “Isanberg”, Ian speaks with Capitol Theatre super fan Rob Schmidt.  He talks about how Cookie Monster became part of his identity, the story of how he took home Marco Benevento’s keyboard from a Joe Russo’s Almost Dead show, and advice on how to make the Beacon Theater a better venue.

Rob Schmidt can be found on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/rohbehrs/

Mini Cookie Monster can be followed at https://www.instagram.com/minicookiem/.

Isanberg can be found at www.yourfavoritepodcast.com

Also:
iTunes – https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/id1221453066
Google Play – https://play.google.com/music/podcasts/portal/…
Stitcher – http://www.stitcher.com/podcast/isanberg
TuneIn – http://tunein.com/radio/Isanberg-p982188/

Follow us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/isanbergpodcast/

Comedian Vincent James – Isanberg Season 01 Episode 01

On this episode of “Isanberg”, Ian Isanberg interviews Comedian Vincent James.  He talks about his upbringing in Port Chester, NY, his comedy career and his upcoming gig as a first time father.

You can check out his website at vincentjamescomedy.com and his Facebook at facebook.com/ComedianVincentJames.

Isanberg can be found at www.yourfavoritepodcast.com

Also:
iTunes – https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/id1221453066
Google Play – https://play.google.com/music/podcasts/portal/…
Stitcher – http://www.stitcher.com/podcast/isanberg
TuneIn – http://tunein.com/radio/Isanberg-p982188/

Follow us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/isanbergpodcast/

Angela Vitiello and Chana Mason – Isanberg Season 00 Episode 01

This is the first episode of “Isanberg”, a podcast hosted by me, Ian Isanberg.  It was originally released on Soundcloud in 2016

The first guest on this episode is Angela Vitiello, a woman from Ian’s hometown of Port Chester, NY.  Angela left the US first for South Korea, and then moved to The Netherlands.

The second guest is Chana Mason.  Born in Colombia and raised in South Florida, Mason spent time living in Austrailia before settling in Israel.

Isanberg can be found at www.yourfavoritepodcast.com

Also:
iTunes – https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/id1221453066
Google Play – https://play.google.com/music/podcasts/portal/…
Stitcher – http://www.stitcher.com/podcast/isanberg
TuneIn – http://tunein.com/radio/Isanberg-p982188/

Follow us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/isanbergpodcast/

Four Questions for Taylor Clark to answer as she attempts Gary Vaynerchuk’s challenge to start a business in 30 Days

Taylor Clark is attempting to start a business in 30 days, on a challenge from Gary Vaynerchuk

As a fan of attempting challenges over a set period of time (like my current ambition to not only produce a second round of 90 videos in 90 days, but to also produce a podcast of at least 10 episodes), I have been drawn to 22 year old college graduate Taylor Clark’s attempt to start a business in 30 days.

Clark, and her project The Fabulous Journey came to fame when she was a call in guest on entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk‘s Ask Gary Vee Show in March 2017.  The phone call, which Vaynerchuk has repurposed into a podcast and article on his website, included powerful coaching from him about getting to work, ignoring the social media success of friends (and Kardashians) and building for the long term.

Here’s that episode (Her segment begins at 17:15 into the video):

The call ended with Taylor Clark agreeing to email Gary Vaynerchuk 30 days later. She has been producing daily content promoting her challenge with the hashtag #30DayGaryVeeChallenge. Daily content has been produced on her YouTube channel, Facebook, Instagram and her website at thefabulousjourney.com.

Here are some questions for her (and anyone else attempting a similar project) to ponder, as Taylor Clark works to make her fabulous journey a successful one.

1. What are the specific goals that she needs to achieve by Day 30 to “start a business”? Does she need a specific business structure (Like LLC or sole proprietorship) established? Does she need her first paying customer?

2. What is the business that she plans to start? How does she want to make money through this businesses? How does she plan to have this business make money right now?

3. How transparent should she be with her content? Up to this point, she has not mentioned much about her personal life, outside of her travels, not that she needs to. There is video she took from the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Buffalo, NY, where none of her friends she attended with were identified by name.   There is no mention of a significant other, whether there is one or not.  Do these things need to be included?  There is no clear yes or no answer as that is up for her to decide.

4. What does she need help with? Should she ask her audience for specific needs? Does she need mentorship in different aspects of starting a business?

In the first few days of her project Taylor Clark has been showing through her content that she is working toward her goal.  If she answers these questions, whether publicly or privately, it may make achieving that goal, and realizing what that goal actually is, a greater possibility.

What I learned from making one video per day for 90 consecutive days

Now that it has been a few months since I completed my #90videosin90days project, I have had time to reflect on it, what I learned, and what lessons I have taken from it moving forward.

As you may know, back in the Fall of 2016, I produced and published one video per day for 90 straight days.  The videos were uploaded to both Instagram and YouTube (with some videos posted to Facebook on a 90days.site page I started.  This was a very fun project where I learned a lot.  By the end of the 90 days, my intention was to increase my experience in communicating via Internet video, and I believe I accomplished that.

To me, this was about way more than making videos, and more than becoming a better video creator.  This is a way to finally start consistently producing content.

The videos were daily.  If I missed a day, I had failed.  I could not take a day off and make two of them one day. (For those of you who have been using Facebook to watch my videos, I did not posted them there every day since uploading them from mobile is a pain).

One thing that was wonderful about my project is that it was a great experiment.  I continually added new things to it, to ultimately find out what worked and what did not.  My biggest surprise was that the videos got the most traction on Instagram over other formats!  I had barely used Instagram before this, but had been experimenting with it (along with Snapchat) in the months prior before jumping into this series.

This was honestly not something which was well thought out.  One day, on the way to work at Costco, listening to the audiobook version of Gary Vaynerchuk’s 2009 business book “Crush It”.  I was listening to it on repeat as I borrowed it from the library (I since purchased the audiobook to go along with my Kindle version).  I pulled up into the parking lot, and decided to record my first video.  Five minutes later, it was on YouTube.  Then, on a whim, I decided to put it on Instagram.  It was up, and I now had made the entire Internet (or at least people that I was connected to online) accountable.

I was more interested in making the videos then getting a huge reaction to it.  I did not promote it on my regular social media feeds (particularly Facebook) for at least a month.  I was learning how to make great one minute videos on a daily basis.  Each day, I asked a question of the day.  I found the ones which resonated the best were ones where I would react the next day.  There were videos where I asked the audience to ask me questions to answer the following day:

There were setbacks too, like the fact that I failed to read the book that my viewers suggested I read for an impromptu book club.  One day I may get to “The Professor and the Mad Man” by Simon Winchester, but it did not happen within the initial 30 day time frame, and ultimately the 90 days.  I’m human, and the videos went on despite one of my initiatives not coming to fruition.  It was a lesson of what my strengths are and aren’t, within this framework.

Another thing that happened through the course of the videos was to strive for creativity.  I liked finding different locations to shoot and different clothing combinations.  I had “special guests” like both of my nieces and both of my cats.  There was a point where my question of the day was a constant stream of “What is your favorite (something)?” that became monotonous at times.  But I wouldn’t have it any way.  The three dollars I paid to Times Square costumed characters made great online video!

Since I completed my videos, I have been asked what I will do next.  I have let it marinate.  Do I make 90 more videos in 90 consecutive days?  Should I focus on finally launching my podcast?  Do I make something else?

What I am doing next actually will combine the 90 videos with making a podcast.  My #90videosin90days has begun #season2.  In the next 90 days, I will make one video every day, as inspiration to finally make this podcast a real consistent thing.  By Day 90, my goal is to have ten episodes of my podcast live on iTunes and all other major places where podcasts are available.  My video audience will be there to keep me accountable.  Let’s go!

It is Day 1 of 90.  Again.

Chasing Season 2 of my favorite podcasts (and Episode 2 of my own)

Mystery Show was dropped by Gimlet, announced 14 months after Season 1 ended.
Mystery Show was dropped by Gimlet, announced 14 months after Season 1 ended.

Do you have a favorite show?
Are you excited when it has its season premiere?
Are you upset when that season premiere is delayed?
Are you angry when that season premiere date has not even been announced yet, despite the previous season ending months before?

This seems to be the story of the world of podcasting.  Unlike the hard release dates for television shows, podcasts tend to make their own schedules.  Sometimes, these shows have long waits between seasons, with new episodes sometimes being released with no prior announcement that they will!

I was inspired to write this post after the announcement that one of my favorite podcasts, “Mystery Show”, will not continue to be produced by podcast production company Gimlet Media.  On October 6, 2016, the show’s host Starlee Kine wrote a post on the show’s Facebook page that Gimlet ended her employment with the company in April 2016, about six months before the announcement.  Gimlet themselves wrote their own response that they are in negotiations with Kine to allow her to continue the series without them.

This is a story of how “Serial” led me to “Startup“, which in turn led me to “Mystery Show“.  This is also about testing my own patience in between seasons of shows that don’t have a traditional release schedule.

Serial started my real love of listening to podcasts.
Serial started my real love of listening to podcasts.

It began with “Serial”.  For me, a big part of the Fall of 2014 was listening to the “Serial” podcast.  It was a gigantic hit, beloved by many people besides myself, and popular enough to be parodied on “Saturday Night Live”.

A big part of 2015 for me was wondering “Where is the second season of “Serial”?  The show’s producers, including host Sarah Koenig continued to claim that it would start in 2015.  It finally launched on December 10, 2015, almost at the last minute to be “on time”.

In the meantime, beyond very much liking “Serial”, I decided to give other podcasts a try.  I even ordered a microphone and recorded some interviews to make a podcast of my own! (Check out my podcast “Isanberg” at http://www.yourfavoritepodcast.com.  As I publish this, only one episode has been produced.  Tell me what you think!)

Startup was my next favorite podcast after Serial.
Startup was my next favorite podcast after Serial.

The podcast that excited me most, post-listening to”Serial” was one called Startup.  This series followed a man named Alex Blumberg, as he told the story, in real time, about him quitting his job as a producer on the very successful radio show “This American Life” (which itself produces “Serial”) to start his own podcast production company.  That company is Gimlet Media  They also produce a bunch of different series, like “Reply All“, “Surprisingly Awesome“, “Science Vs.” and “Heavyweight“.

Oh, and in the Summer of 2015, they debuted “Mystery Show”.  In each episode, host Starlee Kine would solve a mystery by a listener or friend that could not be solved on the Internet.  Some of these mysteries included the height of actor Jake Gyllenhaal and the weird picture on a “Welcome Back Kotter” lunch box.  The final episode was released in August, 2015.

Just like my pursuit of a premiere date for a second season of “Serial”, I was clamoring for a new season of “Mystery Show”.  In both of these cases, the second season had not started (or had an announced release date) on the one year anniversary of the final episode of their first seasons.  (“Startup”, on the other hand, has constantly produced new seasons, with a few months between them.)

As I mentioned earlier with “Serial”, its second season was released without warning.  There was no transparency about why it took so long to come out, and why they did not announce a release date, or the season’s subject, in advance.  While Sarah Koenig and crew had no obligation to share those details about how the new season came to be, it would have been nice.

Now that the announcement of “Mystery Show” leaving Gimlet has been out, I feel a kind of relief.  It does not have to be in the back of my mind.  Yes, I’m super disappointed that there is no Season 2 (yet), but I know that it is not coming any time soon.  Yet, unlike “Serial”, Kine and Gimlet each shared a bit (although not everything) about how this came to be.  And that’s OK.

In the meantime, you can check in with this question about the release date for Mystery Show’s second season on Quora.

No, I did not invent the Game Boy (but I thought that I did for a moment)

The original Nintendo Game Boy, which I did not invent.
The original Nintendo Game Boy, which I did not invent.

When I was a child, I had an idea that I thought was so revolutionary that it had to happen.

As a Nintendo addict, I wanted to play my video games all day, even when I was at school.  Or at least during recess.  Until then, my issues of Nintendo Power (and later Electronic Gaming Monthly) just had to do.

The idea was, you guessed it, a portable video game console, kinda like the little arcade machine replicas, where you can play Pac-Man or Donkey Kong or something.  Except, this machine was a Nintendo Entertainment System, and can play NES cartidges.

My inspiration for a portable video game console.  The actual Game Boy was nothing like this.
My inspiration for a portable video game console. The actual Game Boy was nothing like this.

With my “brilliant” idea, I wrote a letter to Nintendo asking that they can make it.  To my surprise, I got a letter back stating thanking me for my suggestions and that they are considering making a portable system.

I thought that I invented the Game Boy!  I bragged all about it through my elementary school, with all of the details of my idea.  I thought that this major company listened to this little 7 or 8 or 9 year old kid!

Of course, it wasn’t meant to be.  When Nintendo announced the Game Boy, with a very different design that played its own, smaller cartridges, I was disappointment, but still thought that I, Ian Michael Isanberg was the inventor of the Game Boy.  I thought that I deserved compensation, if not money then a Game Boy for myself!

That lead to my second letter to Nintendo.  Once again, they responded saying that many people sent them letters and requests to make a portable system and that it was not just my idea for it.  Back then I was upset but as time went on, I accepted it as the funny story that it was.

In the end, I never owned a Game Boy, but I had a Game Gear, my only Sega product, with a color screen!

Raspberry Pi Mini Arcade Cabinet
Raspberry Pi Mini Arcade Cabinet

Fast forward to today, and anyone can build a mini-arcade system like the one I wanted as a kid using a Raspberry Pi.  I’m not itching to do it myself but it would be a nice birthday present.