We are setting up a new series of interviews for Freakonomics Radio in which we’ll identify interesting/accomplished/prominent people and ask them a series of Freakonomics-ish questions, ranging from their professional accomplishments to personal quirks. I am eager to hear your suggestions on both:
1) The people you’d want to hear from; and
2) What kind of questions you’d like to hear them asked.
No idea is too big/small, outlandish/traditional, etc.
I think that our engineer/mixmaster David Herman does a fantastic job of making Freakonomics Radio podcasts sound great (no matter what you may think of all the talking that interrupts the music and other audio effects).
But there is of course a lot of heterogeneity in personal preferences. Here’s an e-mail we just received from a listener:
Heard your show for the first time yesterday on Tipping. Loved all the speaking clips and analysis. HATED the musical interludes so much that we (my husband, kids and I) cannot fathom ever listening again unless they are removed. They gave us a bad headache and were so distracting from the content that we had to turn the show off before the end. Please consider removing them. Thanks.
Afraid we just lost a family of listeners, as we won’t be removing all music from our episodes. Happy to say this is an uncommon complaint; much more common is an e-mail asking where to get hold of the music that appears. FWIW, every time we put out a podcast, the accompanying blog post includes a transcript of the episode which lists the music.
Last week we posted a survey for Freakonomics Radio listeners. Your response was fantastic — nearly 2,000 listeners — and very helpful. In return, we thought it’d be nice to share some of the data with you. As a big believer in negative feedback, I have just one regret: that we didn’t ask you to tell us what you don’t like about the podcast. Maybe next time.
WHO YOU ARE:
Our listeners are, in a nutshell: rather male (77%); relatively young (45% are 25-35 years old, another 24% are 35-44); well-educated (38% have a graduate degree; another 43% have a bachelor’s degree); and — according to the survey data at least — pretty well-off (17% earn more than $150,000 and another 23% earn between $100,000 and $150,000; then there are the 14% who earn between $0 and $30,000, most of whom are likely students).
We have a good sense of the number of listeners (we do roughly 3 million downloads a month) but when it comes to who those listeners are, we don’t know very much. So we’ve put together a listener survey, below. If you have five spare minutes, please fill it in. What can we give you in return? If all goes well, more free podcasts!
Want to be part of an episode of Freakonomics Radio? We’re working on a podcast about names and we want to hear from readers and listeners about their own names — common ones, unusual ones, everything in between. So we’ve set up a voicemail line at 646-829-4478. Give us a call and tell us your full name, and then tell us a little bit about your first name – how you got it and what it means. Thanks!
Addendum: Thank you for all your emails and messages! Our line is now closed. Our names podcast will be out on 4/8/2013.
In a recent podcast called “Save Me From Myself,” which is about the use of commitment devices, we discussed one such measure that’s intended to protect victims of domestic violence. It featured an interview with Brown economist Anna Aizer, co-author of this paper on the topic. A listener named Jay Turley wrote in:
This episode was very interesting, as usual. But the whole “domestic violence” section really irritated me.
As a male victim of domestic violence from a woman, I found it surprising that people such as yourselves completely bought into and promoted the now-disproved tenet that domestic violence equals male-on-female violence.
Our latest full-length podcast, “How Biased Is Your Media?,” is about how academic researchers have been trying to measure the slant of your news.
The most common meme in this realm says that the mainstream media leans to the left. Frank Rich, a former op-ed columnist at the New York Times, who is now a writer-at-large for New York Magazine, says recent history proves this just isn’t true. Take, for instance, how his former employer handled the lead-up to the war in Iraq:
RICH: I think it flies very much in the face of the assumption that the so-called liberal media are out to doom Republicans or conservative causes. The New York Times promoted dubious evidence of Saddam’s weapons programs on its front page. The New York Times is thought by many on the right to be a so-called liberal slanting paper. The Washington Post, also, less elaborately, failed to really vet the evidence. The networks, CBS, NBC, and ABC are often considered by the right to be liberal news organizations. None of them questioned at all the rationale for going to war in Iraq.
It includes an interview with University of Chicago economist Matthew Gentzkow, who discusses a study he coauthored with Jesse Shapiro about newspaper bias. They used a sample of 433 newspapers and sorted the phrases favored by Congressional Democrats and Republicans.
Our recent podcast about commitment devices, called “Save Me From Myself,” continues to elicit responses from readers sharing their own experience. The other day, Amber told us about joining the Air Force as a commitment device.
Here’s another pair of stories. The first is from Philip Veysey, who lives in Madrid. He is looking for some advice:
I listened with interest to your podcast about commitment devices and I thought I would share my own which I devised as a way to curb my unnecessary clothes shopping. I found that I was buying simply more clothing that I needed and although this wasn’t causing me any major problems, I realized that it was really wasteful and I decided to think of incentives to make me stop.
A commitment device is a sort of mind trick to help you accomplish a goal that you don’t quite have the willpower to achieve on your own. Sometimes we need a contract with ourselves, or a little financial stake for motivation. This goal can be exercising, studying, quitting smoking, or anything really.
So we want to ask: have you tried one? What was it? And, most important, how did it turn out?
We’re working on a new podcast episode about morale in the workplace, and need your help. The episode was inspired a recent blog post in which a reader posited an interesting theory: morale is higher at companies where a lot of employees park nose-in (indicating they’re eager to get to work) rather than nose-out (indicating they can’t wait to get home).
My request here is two-fold:
1. We’ve started poking into the academic literature on company morale but haven’t gotten very far, so please let us know any good leads.
2. We’re also interested in hearing stories about morale at your workplace, be it high or low, and especially any clever/strange indicators of morale and unusual methods that have been used to measure morale.
A while back, a reader sent us this photo, with a warning you rarely see in the U.S.
In light of our recent podcast “The Perils of Drunk Walking,” we got in touch with Kon Scholtz, head of marketing and sales at United National Breweries, the South African company that makes the beer in question, Chibuku Shake Shake. Scholtz told us that Shake Shake is a nickname for traditional African beer made from maize and malt; it has a short shelf life (about five days), a relatively low alcohol content (3.5%) and, is meant to be shaken before consumption. It is also, according to Scholtz, very nutritional.
As for the warning on the carton, Scholtz explained.
One big historical factor: Prohibition. Restaurants that relied on alcohol sales closed their doors, often replaced by diners, soda fountains, and candy shops. This new breed of restaurant served hot dogs, hamburgers, chop suey, and what we now know as classic American fast food. We traded quality for speed and convenience. Here are some photos of that transformation, when cheap food outlets popped up to meet the demands of our growing consumer society.
Q. How would you suggest one prioritize beliefs to examine? -Cor Aquilonis
A. All of our beliefs are influenced by our own priorities, but obviously some are more important than others. My rule of thumb is figuring out to what extent something affects your life. It doesn’t really matter if you read your astrology column in the newspaper for amusement. The important thing is: does it affect your job; your marriage; your close relationships, your family? That’s the criteria we use for our personal lives, as well as for society.
Our latest podcast, “Weird Recycling,” featured Carlos Ayala, the Vice President of International at Perdue Farms. Stephen Dubner‘s interview with him centered on chicken feet — or chicken paws, as they’re called in the industry. Until about 20 years ago, paws were close to value-less for a U.S. chicken company. But thanks to huge demand in China, paws have become big profit centers. The U.S. now exports about 300,000 metric tons of chicken paws every year. Perdue alone produces more than a billion chicken feet a year, which according to Ayala brings in more than $40 million of revenue. In fact, Ayala says that without the paw, chicken companies would be hard-pressed to stay in business:
Our latest Freakonomics Radio podcast, “Weird Recycling,” included a field trip to Golden Unicorn in New York’s Chinatown to eat some chicken feet. Our guest was Carlos Ayala of Perdue Farms. Ayala told us that the export of chicken feet, primarily to China and Hong Kong, is such a big part of Perdue’s business that the firm might be in trouble if that export market didn’t exist. Here are some snaps from Ayala and Stephen Dubner‘s chicken-feet lunch at Golden Unicorn.
Michael Shermer is perhaps the world’s only professional skeptic. As the founding publisher of Skeptic magazine and executive director of the Skeptics Society, Shermer has turned his innate skepticism into a full-time job. In our recent podcast “The Truth Is Out There…Isn’t It?” Stephen Dubner talks to Shermer about the evolutionary basis for our tendency toward “magical thinking” and why humans are conditioned to see threats often where none exist. Here’s an excerpt:
Sandman breaks his work into three areas: scaring people who are ignoring something that is legitimately dangerous and risky; calming down people who are freaking out over something that’s not risky; and guiding people who are freaking out over something that is legitimately risky. To accomplish all this, Sandman came up with a useful equation: Risk = Hazard + Outrage. Here are some excerpts from Stephen Dubner’s interview with Sandman, which ranges from the perceived risk of WMD’s in Iraq to the debate over climate change.
Our latest Freakonomics Radio on Marketplace podcast, “Unnatural Turkeys,” reveals the surprising origins of the 40 million turkeys that Americans are going to eat this Thanksgiving. You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or read the transcript here.
So, 100 percent of commercially raised turkeys in the U.S. (save for heritage turkeys) are born from artificial insemination. But what about other animals? We talked to reproductive experts Dale Coleman at Auburn University, Wayne Singleton from Purdue, and Keith Bramwell at University of Arkansas. The graphic below shows what percentage of each animal is born from artificial insemination:
Our latest Freakonomics Radio on Marketplace podcast, “Unnatural Turkeys,” looks at the origins of all those 40 million turkeys that Americans are going to eat this Thanksgiving. We’ve talked about why this happens; now we bring you the details of how it happens. USDA researcher Julie Long walks us through the process of what a day inseminating turkeys looks like. It’s an act that is almost unchanged since turkey insemination became the industry standard in the 1960s.
When you get down to it, artificially inseminating a turkey is a pretty labor-intensive, hands-on process. First, you have to get the “contribution” (semen) from the male. That means that each breeder male, which will weigh between 50 and 70 pounds, gets picked up and placed on the handler’s lap.Then another person helps get him ready to make his contribution to the artificial insemination process.
In our podcast “Boo…Who?” , the Freakonomics Radio team went to the Apollo Theater, where booing is openly encouraged, in Harlem to check out its Amateur Night. The Apollo is credited with launching the careers of Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin, and The Jackson 5, and is famous for having a very tough crowd. You can hear all the booing from the Apollo on the podcast (download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or read the transcript here) and check out the photos here.
We’re working on a Freakonomics Radio episode that will probably be called “Weird Recycling” (or, possibly, “What Do Chicken Paws and Tongue Depressors Have in Common?”). It’s about people who find or create value from things that are typically thought to be worthless (or worse!).
I’d love to gather a few more examples and I can think of no population in the world better suited for this task than the Freakonomics readership.
+ Economists have found that family firms that pass the company down to the next generation perform worse than if they had brought in professional management.
+ Family firms are particularly dominant in less-developed countries, which tend to have weaker markets and rule of law. Here’s Vikas Mehrotra on that point:
In the developed world, you have good contracting environments, a good system of law enforcement, and so on. So, in the developed world, you can hire professional managers and expect a certain, you know, sticking to the contract law, and so on. It’s rather more difficult to have the same kind of adherence to the rule of law in emerging economies. So, in emerging economies, family firms sort of provide a second-best solution to this poorly developed institutional problem.
Our latest Freakonomics Radio podcast, “Boo…Who?“, tackles the phenomenon of booing. Why do we do it? When and where (if ever) is it appropriate? While we focus mostly on modern examples, audiences have been voicing their displeasure for millennia. Tracing the boo back to its origins takes you to ancient Greece, and the Festival of Dionysia, when playwrights competed to determine whose tragedy was the best. Audience participation was considered a civic duty. At the Colosseum in Rome, booing, or the lack thereof, often determined whether a gladiator lived or died.
Hard to say exactly what a boo sounded like back then. Maybe more of a shout, a jeer, or a whistle, rather than the extended, cow-like booooooo we issue today. According to linguist Ben Zimmer, the first time the word “boo” appeared as an expression of dissatisfaction was in the diary of a British schoolboy in 1833. Zimmer wrote about it here. Below, we’ve compiled a list of some noteworthy boos. It is not remotely encyclopedic, and leans very heavily on very recent events. So feel free to supplement with more examples in the comments section.