Thursday, November 19, 2009

Book World Podcast Axed

After announcing that it's Book World podcast would need to attract more subscribers if it were to continue production, the Washington Post announced its cancelation on the November 13th podcast. During the opening section where the hosts discuss the literary news of the week, fiction editor, Ron Charles announced that this would be Book World's last podcast. No reason was given for the cancelation. Although Charles had been quoted, previously, as indicating that there had been a mandate for the paper to focus its efforts on those "projects that are actually attracting an audience.” According to one account, the managing editor, Raju Narisetti had earlier issued a memo discussing the need to rid the paper's web site of blogs that failed to attract a significant audience in order to make best use of the paper's resources. The announcement of the need to attract more subscribers followed by the podcast's cancelation would seem to echo that philosophy, although the cancelation was somewhat abrupt.

The podcast, which usually ran close to thirty minutes, usually consisted of two author interviews, a general literary news introduction, and an announcement of the week's literary events in the Washington, DC area. There had been a closing poetry section for a long time, but this had been dropped earlier. The last show contained interviews with Barbara Ehrenreich on her book about the dangers of positive thinking and Bruce Feller on Moses as the American prophet.

The cancelation of the podcast forces one to ask if this is just another sign of the decline of print journalism, with revenues no longer able to support less profitable cost centers, even those in opportunities in the new media. The fact that it is the books and authors podcast that gets the axe may well be an indication of similar problems haunting the publishing industry. After all it was not long ago that the Post decided to stop publishing Book World as a separate section.

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