This American Life Reflection

I listened to “The Land of Make Believe” episode of This American Life. In the episode they tell a story about a father who creates a fantasy world for his children and the story is told through the eyes of his daughter. The story isn’t a common book reading though, the show is broken up into acts, like a play. There is no “stock” transition. And as the story progresses there is a different voice for every character in the story. The story is very entertaining because there is a change in voice or noise frequently so the story doesn’t become monotonous.

Most notable about This American Life is the lack of advertisements, there was one brief “This show is brought to you by….” segment at the beginning and then the entire hour was ad free. In the reading Gomery stated, “Radio’s revenues came not from listeners but from advertisers.”(38). The show has managed to go against the trend of most radio stations and that is unique. This American Life has transitioned against what Gomery predicted is another way as well, “[Radio] was driven into a different role broadcasting formatted music (and sometimes all talk) to help suburban commuters pass the time” (Gomery 143). This American Life doesn’t attract audiences by its music and it isn’t just a talk radio station, it survives by its entertainment value as shows in the early 1930’s did (Gomery38). The show’s unique method of presenting a show with the formula of a play about everyday life helps it survive with few advertisements. The consumers can feel as if they’re participating in the show because the stories are about them, Americans.

Ease of access to the show and its niche content is important to its listeners. Listeners can enjoy the freedom to see the show whenever they want. This American Life benefits from podcasts because they “permit more flexible content delivery” (Pavlik &McIntosh 117). Anyone can subscribe to get the weekly podcast for free. The unique method of storytelling compared to regular talk radio is one of the most attractive aspects of the show. The show “has adapted to the changing media landscape by specialization.”(Pavlik & McIntosh 115) through its method of telling stories uniquely and well. The station doesn’t cover music, news, and politics. Executives for the station have found what works and they are utilizing it. The business method of surviving with little advertising is valuable because it allows the show to create the content the hosts wants. With a unique format and a unique business model This American Life is great for the audience but bad for advertising companies because they can’t use it to make revenue.


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