Two Recent “Seriously” Podcast Episodes

Two Recent “Seriously” Podcast Episodes

The Seriously podcast feed from BBC Radio 4 is always worth subscribing to, and I particularly enjoyed a couple of recent episodes.

Dehumidified starts with a seemingly small-scale scam selling fairly useless dehumidifiers to the unwary. Producer Polly Weston does a quick Google to help inform her about which dehumidifier she should get to help out at home, and buys one based on a review site. The dehumidifier that she receives is basically junk, but returning it seems to be impossible.

The podcast episode mostly explores the fraudulent use of a consumer journalist’s name and likeness to promote the dehumidifier, but also explores how these things are sold and shipped. Because, yes, they’re coming from China. But the drop-shipping that’s happening is actually coming from a UK warehouse. One thing I certainly hadn’t realised before is how many warehouses globally the Chinese government has supported being built. In 2022 they announced that over 2,000 warehouses with more than 16 million square metres of space had been built.

What I didn’t quite get from the documentary was the extent to which this was just a drop-shipping operation run by an “enterprising” UK resident who no doubt had some SEO (search engine optimisation) skills, or something a little more.

And the area this documentary didn’t get into was how Google ranked the dodgy recommendation site so highly in the first place.

The Verge has written an excellent series of stories showing just how easily Google can be gamed.

And there was a fantastic blog written by the review site HouseFresh that showed how much Google has allowed itself to be gamed by sub-par spammy affiliate-link driven sites at the expense of sites like theirs that actually test products and write real recommendations.

Some quite big name brands have moved into this area, and utilise their high ranking Google scores to get their often sub-par recommendation pages to the top of lists.

If things don’t change with search, then we will end up killing proper review sites like HouseFresh, the Wirecutter, Which and other specialist sites that take time and money to actually independently review products and recommend the best to buy.

The exemplar of this, is The Verge’s guide to the “best printer to buy” recently updated to “2024” including some AI generated garbage because they can. (It’s the cheapest Brother laser printer you can buy, incidentally.)

The second episode was a beautifully made episode telling the history of the “pips.” Do We Still Need the Pips? was presented by Paddy O’Connell and basically explored the hundred year history of the six 1kHz sounds that we hear in the five seconds leading up to the hour on Radio 4.

The sound mix and production was fantastic, incidentally, and of course, only Radio 4 would put out a documentary like this.

Yes, in a world of digital distribution, they’re no longer quite as accurate as they once were (although they were never 100% accurate due to the laws of physics even in analogue broadcasting), but that doesn’t mean that they don’t still serve a purpose. I can’t see Radio 4 or the World Service dropping them any time soon.



, ,