For as long as I can remember, I’ve been called an optimist. I think the people who called me that didn’t mean it as a compliment.

Throughout human history, the cynics, stoics and mystics had more respect than the optimists – but it turns out that history is on the side of those who have a generally positive view of their existence and the overall trend for humanity.

2019 has been the year of Greta Thunberg, Hong Kong, Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, Jussie Smollett, Venezuela, Christchurch, Notre Dame and Jeffrey Epstein – so you’d be forgiven for thinking things aren’t great. But you’d be wrong… completely wrong.

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Siya Sangweni (CliffCentral Brand Manager), Rina Broomberg (CliffCentral co-founder) and I were in New York last week for a series of meetings, a conference and some interesting experiences in the world of podcasting. It’s always reassuring to hear other people’s stories of pioneering their businesses and ideas in new media and to compare them to your own. You quickly realise that the distance between Johannesburg and New York is shorter than it has ever been – and that we’re having similar experiences, challenges and discovering clever solutions to the flux that all media businesses find themselves in…

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People abuse the term ‘community’. A community is defined as “a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.” It doesn’t mean the million things politicians want it to. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram talk about their community – but we’re certainly not in the same neighbourhood and we don’t have much in common (especially if you look at your feed on Twitter)…

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Turns out we’re not just vapid and superficial.
Turns out we want more than 280 characters.
Turns out we like complex stories with lots of characters and plot lines.
Turns out we like interviews where people talk about philosophy, life and meaning.
Turns out we’re smarter than the media people thought.

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I remember the school run fondly. My mom would load me, my brother, and sister into the car and take us on the 30-minute drive to school. The journey had a familiar routine – passing by the same places, chatting and laughing. Someone else was always in the car though – the radio. There was a DJ cracking corny jokes at the same time every morning, making a predictable prank call, playing the number one song on the charts for that day (in 1992, it was Whitney Houston’s ‘I Will Always Love You’, which meant that we all had to hear that song every day for months, so that it was tattooed on the inside of our skulls and infected our dreams), and someone reading the news headlines. Those morning drives were the context for my teenage years…

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Young people in South Africa are given lip service by government, big business and even educators. Everyone talks about the youth, a few talk to them, but not enough people listen. We’re proud to be pioneering a series of intelligent, thoughtful debates with some of the smartest young South Africans – along with Tshimong and Absa. Every day we’re exposed to meaningless drivel and rhetoric on social media, but most of us crave substance… the meat in conversations about the things that really matter and that are most relevant. That’s what The Interchange will deliver, and I can’t wait.

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Online media was in its infancy in South Africa when we made the giant leap from terrestrial radio to start CliffCentral.com. Podcasting was almost unknown in South Africa and the naysayers predicted failure. Now, five years later, podcasting is the fastest growing medium in America (70% growth year-on-year for the last three years according to Edison Research) and gathering momentum in South Africa. We’ve been collaborating with Brain and Brand expert Timothy Maurice and actuary Ernest North to assess the qualitative and quantitative effect of podcast audiences…

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There aren’t a lot of ways we can still exercise our imaginations. So much of it is done for us now… great TV series like Game Of Thrones or movies like Lord Of The Rings do most of the imagining for us. People don’t read fiction like they used to (or they just don’t have the time to). Instagram makes it unnecessary to imagine what the person you met last Thursday looks like naked – just scroll down and there will be some kind of revealing selfie…

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CliffCentral.com turned five on May 1st, a milestone for a small start-up that is now the leading podcaster in Africa. It’s amazing how quickly we incorporate new habits into our lives…

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How do you measure podcast audiences? The existing metrics don’t make sense. Soon we’ll be sharing some powerful thoughts and insights on why podcasting is different, and it won’t just be me talking – it will involve both actuarial and behavioural science. Before we go down another new road, and just ahead of CliffCentral.com’s fifth birthday, I thought it might be interesting to talk about podcasting by numbers…

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