Mar 14, 2017

The Riff

Today we have have posted The Riff #1 to Soundcloud (and soon to iTunes, Google Play and other places I suppose).

The Riff is a 24 minute, unedited single conversation about one topic with one person who knows something about that topic (ie, a riff). David Tisch and I are the interviewers. We conceived of this idea and after a few months of planning we have started to put these into the wild. A few times over the past few months I have asked myself why we are doing this, have questioned it really, and I’ve come up with some reasons that make sense to me. So, why does the world need anymore stuff to listen to, and why would we be so arrogant (or narcissistic) to think that such stuff should come from us?

Well, the main reason is that we are doing this for ourselves, not anyone else. By that I mean these riffs are hard to do. Hard in that this does not come natural for either of us. The Riff forces us to beg people to join us, to prepare to interview them, and then be engaged enough to try to keep a conversation going on one subject for 24 minutes. I think we’d both rather be quiet listeners rather than upfront talkers. On top of that, we are committed that these Riffs are recorded live and in person - no phone or skype. So, in short, we are doing this because it feels like unnatural effort. Good skills to get better at. Also, as it is unedited and one take, if we screw up it will all be there, we’ll look foolish. Lots of room for failure = good incentive to prepare.

Secondly - focus. I feel inundated with information. The Riff is more information but it is designed to be 24 minutes about one thing and one thing only. #1 is about tv news. Later ones will include a riff of retail, a riff on NYC, a riff on celebrity and a riff on culinary mashups.

Why 24 min? That feels like the most we could ask of someone’s attention in a single setting. It’s the length of a short walk, a subway ride from Carroll Gardens to Union Square, a slow-sipped cup of coffee. These are not unstructured conversations - they are meant to be tight, fast and on topic. Also, as part of the bargain - of asking for someone's time - these things need to sound great, high fidelity. The Riff sounds great due to the mad talents of Ben the Engineer. Even if the content sucks, The Riff will sound great.

Riff #1 is about what the future prospects might be for television news. Laurie Segall, the senior technology correspondent at CNN, joined us.

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