Oh, blessed day! The excellent public radio program “This American Life” — out of Chicago’s WBEZ and carried nationwide through Public Radio International (not National Public Radio, thank you!) — will now be available as a free podcast.
Previously, “This American Life” was sold commercially through Audible.com, first for almost $4 an episode, then for 95 cents an episode. But because the audio files were DRM-free and served from unsecured servers, “unofficial,” free podcast feeds quickly surfaced. WBEZ asked the provider of one such feed to stop, and since they asked nicely, the guy agreed to take it down. Of course, it sparked a bit of a row among bloggers and podcasters, who argued that there was nothing wrong with deep-linking to the audio files if WBEZ wasn’t doing anything to restrict access to them.
Now you don’t have to pay to get “This American Life,” nor subscribe to an unofficial feed. The station is apparently also refunding people who previously subscribed through Audible.com. I am absolutely certain that the loss of subscription fee income will be more than compensated for via the exponentially larger audience that the show will now reach (allowing its underwriters, like Volkswagen, more bang for the buck).
I can’t wait to listen to “This American Life” on my iPod, on my schedule. (Right now, there’s only a brief greeting from Ira Glass available.) It’s one of my favorite radio shows. “Journalism of the personal and ecclectic,” it’s been called, and it’s the show that introduced most of the world to David Sedaris. “This American Life” is the king of “driveway moments,” and makes the writer and storyteller in me restless.
Or at least makes me wish I could start a local version called “This Island Life.”