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I think I‘m the only podcaster without a Frapper map. It’s not that I can’t put one on my site, and it’s not that I have anything against podcasters who do. But there’s something about the rise of Frapper Maps that just rubs me the wrong way. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but after mulling it over for a few weeks, I finally understood why. The revelation came from two interesting sources: Podcaster Survey Results and Julia Roberts.

Yes, I said Julia Roberts.

While ruminating over my aversion to Frapper maps, podcasters started releasing the results of their listener surveys. Most of these surveys are coming from PodTrack, a company that is trying to develop a business model around advertising through podcasts. It’s not that I’m against advertising in podcasts, I think that if done correctly, it’s good for everybody: listener, podcaster, and advertiser – but, I do have an issue when it comes to filling out surveys. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather share a dessert with a bird-flu-carrier than fill out a generic survey. (Unless I need to convey a bad experience. Then, I become a combination of Mark Twain and Ralph Nader.)

Now here is where Julia comes in. No, I didn’t talk with her about this stuff – I had just seen her in the movie Erin Brockovich. There’s a scene in the movie where this big shot attorney comes in to take over the class-action lawsuit. They tell the main character, Erin, that although she has given them a good start gathering information from the estimated 600 plaintiffs, that there is still information missing – like addresses and phone numbers.

Erin confronts the lawyer by asking which telephone number is required. The stuffy lawyer replies with something like, “You can’t have 600 telephone numbers memorized.”

“Try me,” Erin says, defiantly.

The next few minutes of dialog illustrate how much Erin has memorized. When asked for the telephone number of one randomly chosen plaintiff, Erin rattles off not only the number, but the ailments that each family member has and how those ailments are similar to those of the next door neighbor’s and extended family members – making sure to point out their respective telephone numbers and addresses too. The point is that Erin knew more about her clients than anyone else because she had a very personal connection with them. It wasn’t just a job to her.

And that’s what made it all come together for me. Frapper Maps, Surveys, and a scene from Erin Brockovich conspired to help me understand that some indie podcasters who believe in the commercialization of podcasts are falling into a trap.

Talk with any indie podcster and they’ll tell you that that their relationship with a podcast listener is much more intimate than one made over the radio dial. I see this first hand with the emails that listeners send me. They tell me how they are to have found Griddlecakes Radio, how much they look forward to new Griddlesodes, and how they’ve fit the show into their lives.

So, let me ask you a question. If we (indie podcasters) are so different than mainstream programming, if we are truely new-media innovators, then why are we relying on the old ways of doing things? Why are we jumping straight to page 87 of the Advertising Handbook and issuing bland surveys with standard questions to an audience that we are supposed to be so intimate with?

Simply, a survey is a lazy way to gather information from a large, nameless, faceless audience.& It is a shotgun method of tricking a small percentage of people to give up their time answering trivial little questions that bean-counters will use to create reports that nobody will believe.

If it is true, that indie podcasters have a much more intimate relationship with their listeners, then why are we sending them non-personal forms to complete in an attempt to learn more about them? Why are we asking listeners to take time out of their busy schedules to either place a picture on a Frapper map or complete a survey that asks the same questions that marketeers have been asking since the beginning of time?

Be careful, indie podcasters. We are entering a very dangerous space here. Frapper maps and generic surveys are the first step in turning the focus away from our listeners and onto ourselves, and anyone who has ever been in a personal relationship knows how far that’ll go!

Let’s not alienate those who we have this intimate relationship with. Instead of sending them a McForm to fill out, why don’t we actually speak with them? Imagine that. Actually have a conversation with someone that we care about. What a novel concept? Hmmm…I wonder if I can patent that?