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Peter Barron | 13:43 UK time, Friday, 23 June 2006

It's fashionable these days in media columns to lobby for things that would assist your own media organisation and restrain the excesses of others.

The estimable Emily Bell of the Guardian is always at it, complaining recently about the BBC's digital plans and asking "is it really necessary, useful or at all enhancing to have a Newsnight podcast?". The viewers of course have answered resoundingly by propelling our weekly offering to number three in the news podcast chart.

Newsnight logoAnd this is where my own bit of lobbying comes in. We would, pace Emily, love to be number one. But while the current way of classifying news podcasts persists, that would appear to be beyond us. I've no complaints about number two. That's Radio 4's From Our Own Correspondent and it is classic stuff - I subscribe myself. But what is number one? Sky's excellent offering, including - and Jeremy would approve of this - pictures? Or one of the Guardian's own range of podcasts? No, it's something called Kitcast.

Kitcast is, according to the blurb, "a ten-minute weekly videoblog covering the world of sex. " Each episode, it goes on, is "hosted by a lingerie clad (non-nude) hostess Ms Kitka" - a little red box warns of explicit content.

Does that matter? Well, consider two developments in the digital revolution this week. First, that traditional showcase of musical popularity Top of the Pops was summarily swept away. Then, the BBC's website launched an ingenious new device which tells you at any moment of the day or night what the most popular and most emailed stories are. With every passing day, what viewers watch is being decided less by editors and more by algorithms which place one thing or another at the top of the pile. And in that world, how content is categorised is everything.

Imagine Jeremy Paxman sitting beside a lingerie clad (non-nude) Ms Kitka at a future TV news awards dinner. If that thought disturbs you, you know what you must do - click here to download Newsnight, or another reputable news podcast.

A more altruistic lobbyist altogether is our latest recruit on Newsnight, Eric Dickens. Eric - who makes an improbable and possibly not pressingly busy living as a translator from Estonian - has been writing to the programme for years, pointing out its inadequacies and praising its strong points, always with wit and sometimes with savagery. Of late, he's been complaining about what he sees as the modernising tendency on Newsnight, so in a stroke of modernism we decided to give him his own column on the website. A little oddly though, since he's gone on public display he's become a whole lot more polite.

Also complaining in print this week was the Telegraph's Arts correspondent Rupert Christiansen. In an article railing against the BBC's arts coverage, he didn't savage Newsnight Review, but he did wonder - rather loftily - "Couldn't Newsnight's Friday arts review be expanded into something more like Bernard Pivot's famous French television programme Apostrophes?"

Sadly, Apostrophes has long since gone the way of Top of the Pops, but I hope Rupert - and you - will appreciate tonight's Review special with Harold Pinter. Part performance, part masterclass, part intellectual discourse. Kitcast it ain't.


It's actually still a mystery how iTunes classifies and ranks podcasts, and it would be very helpful if they would tell us, as there appears to be no rhyme or reason to the movements on their charts, or the sudden appearance of previously unheard of podcasts high up the charts - more so in the other categories perhaps, than in News.

Not sure how Kitcast fits into any category but Sex, the creation of which would be helpful to all non- "Explicit" podcasters.

Richard Trillo
Director of Communications
Rough Guides

The new 'most popular story' part of the bbc website is a great innovation.

  • 3.
  • At 09:56 PM on 26 Jun 2006,
  • Jeremy wrote:

Ah, but why are the "most popular email links" on BBC News invariably involving kittens?

I think we should be told.

I'm intrigued as to the reason you didn't include a link to Miss Kitka's podcast, while pointing us to various other sites. Scared of the competition, Batman? ;)

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