Plannedscape Postings


BS BS Podcast BS
Riding Bill Simmons Podcast Coattails

Posted by Charlie Recksieck on 2021-10-21
I frequently play podcast audio in my house via my smart home devices. Sometimes I search for rarer podcasts in the Sonos app (where my Sonos speakers are connected to in-home Alexa). But as long as it's a common enough podcast, I'm usually about to just say out loud, "Alexa, play the latest episode of the WTF podcast".

The Bill Simmons Glitch

Another regular podcast I listen to is the "Bill Simmons Podcast" which most of you will know as the home of Sports Guy turned media mogul (and still sports guy) Bill Simmons.

But if you ask "Alexa, play the latest episode of the Bill Simmons podcast" you're gonna end up with something called the "BS Podcast Podcast - A Podcast About The Bill Simmons Podcast".

WTF?! Yes, in the grand scheme of things, me not being able to have my smart home launch a particular podcast is not the biggest internet tragedy. But it's an interesting topic to look at.

Before I go on, I should say that I tried listening to the "irreverent skewering" stylings of the BS BS Pod Pod. Not my cup of tea. Somewhere between the age of 15 and 30 I stopped thinking it made me look clever to point out how good things people like actually suck. Although that’s irrelevant to this rabbit hole we are about to go down.

How Did This Happen?

The BS Podcast Podcast started in 2019 and basically was a couple of guys reviewing and micro-analyzing episodes of the real Bill Simmons Podcast. Who knows how big their audience was, but something kept them going for 13 months. Although their currently low number of Twitter followers being under 100 indicates that it was probably not big enough for them to monetize the podcast. It had to be a labor of love.

How did the imitator "BS Podcast Podcast" get first in line on Alexa? Did they somehow become part of the Amazon library earlier than the real one (which is complex because Bill Simmons company was bought by Spotify, so was there a reindexing of Bill Simmons podcasting)?

Or is "BS Podcast ..." just alphabetically before "The Bill Simmons Podcast" (in some sorting systems, "BS" is before "Bill" because it gives priority to capitalized letters.

I'm not sure but the long name itself of the meta podcast being "BS Podcast Podcast - A Podcast About The Bill Simmons Podcast" seems like a naming trick, like calling your house-painting company "AAAAA Painting" back in the day to get to the beginning of the phone book.

How Is This Still Happening

Anyway, the upstart podcast currently is not producing new episodes, the last available one posted January 26, 2021. I don't see anything still on their Twitter feed addressing the issue, although previous posts mention Spotify (again, owner of the real Bill Simmons podcast) claiming copyright violation towards Anchor (the host of the renegade pod).

And if you're really interested, there's a good Reddit post recently that summarized the legal situation.

But the cessation of the podcast was also probably just as much of a COVID casualty, perhaps inevitable due to it clearly taking time to produce yet not getting meaningful monetization (or much of an audience).

If you look back on their Twitter feed, you can see that the nature of this satellite show was somewhere triangulated among gentle ribbing, mean snark, and typical internet-era punching up at a successful phenomenon. I mention this just to keep in mind why Spotify and Bill Simmons personally wouldn't want to just look the other way.

Anyway, my question is: When does this stop being the first result when I ask Alexa to play "Bill Simmons". I still can't ask Alexa to play it, for now. (Again, boo hoo - not a huge deal. Just interesting to me.)

Is Piggy-Backing OK?

The idea of creating content that solely focuses on (or parodies) other more successful content is interesting. Is it legal? It pretty much is, at least the idea of talking or poking fun at a show, you can do that all day long. The clearly illegal part is actually using copyrighted content in the secondary content. I could make fun of the Super Bowl all I wanted to here on this website or anywhere else. But I can't show broadcasts of the games without the famous "express-written consent of the National Football League."

Personally, the real issue I have here is Amazon's service. They are famously in the business of giving people what they want, before they even know what they want. I would think it's in their interest for a "Bill Simmons podcast" request to their service to deliver what's expected, before frustrated listeners start turning more to Spotify or other podcast apps.

Podcasts are still the wild west, both in terms of production, monetizing, conglomerates but also in terms of specific laws and lawmakers catching up with reality. Yes, the patent troll scares and legal tie-ups from the late 2000s were eventually scuttled. Nonetheless, it seems like legal issues around podcasts are still going to be evolving.

Alexa Implications

Voice-controlled internet searches are an interesting case. We covered this in a 2020 blog post talking about the importance of non-Google SEO.

In voice search, to quote Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights, "if you're not first, you're last" - meaning that the only item returned is the first one. So if you can somehow be the result that gets returned for "Bill Simmons" when talking to Alexa, you've kind of won the audio SEO game.

Remember that going forward. With 30% of searches being done "without a screen", that means you very frequently are only getting one result. Keep that in mind as Siri, Cortana, Alexa, Google Assistant, et al become more and more a part of our lives, that the previous gold standard SEO goal of "getting on the first page" of Google isn't even good enough anymore.