My podcast (listening) journey – how I found 5by5 Studios

Happy CNY people, even though I hate it personally. But then I guess I am one of the few people in Singapore to detest CNY – the two days when Singapore turns into Dead Space.

Now onto something else.

As some of my Twitter peeps know, I am an avid podcast listener, particularly of the podcasts from the TWiT network and the pixelcorps network. I started years ago listening to the Macworld podcast that some guy who worked under Chris Breen produced. Even won a free iPod accessory from listening to it. Then one fine day the guy resigned and moved to Engadget, and then Chris Breen took over. While Mr. Breen is the buffoon of all Mac knowledge, the podcast with him and him only wasn’t really entertaining, and I stopped listening.

And then one day I found MacBreak Weekly. It is hosted by Leo Laporte, with regular guests Alex Lindsay, founder of Pixelcorps, Merlin Mann from, and Scott Bourne, long-time Mac fanatic, accomplished wildlife photographer and business man and of course, Andy Ihnatko, tech journalist of the Chicago Sun-Times.

MacBreak Weekly was really interesting when I first started listening to it a few years ago. Merlin Mann’s neverending list of Mac app recommendations, Scott Bourne’s insight on Apple’s ways of doing business, and Alex Lindsay’s experience in video and audio production just made the show so much more interesting to someone like me, a Mac nerd with a history of video production. And Andy Ihnatko was just totally entertaining, so much more than Leo Laporte ever was, MacBreak Weekly today would have been so boring without him.

Leo Laporte, was really just an entertaining host, but it was quite obvious that he wasn’t that knowledgable on the deeper aspects of most of the technical shows he hosted, but his guests filled in that gap and the shows were enjoyable.

Then one day it started changing. Leo Laporte began blasting out at Scott Bourne over certain differences in opinion of how Apple does business (Scott Bourne’s opinion turned out accurate eventually, as it always had been) during the live show, and as part of the audience you get the feeling (very strongly) that Leo was picking on Scott Bourne. Eventually Scott Bourne starting to turn up lesser and lesser for the show, and one fine day he was just gone. I eventually found his Photofocus podcast and began listening to that regularly. Even in a recent show last year where Scott Bourne turned up as guest, Leo Laporte blasted out at him over some small difference in opinion, on-air, as always.

Merlin Mann, citing his busy work schedule and the fact that he was, and apparently still is, working on a book, left the show as a regular guest as well. That apparently didn’t stopped him from doing other regular podcasts(including a weekly one that he just started), I can only wonder why that is.

These days quite often MacBreak Weekly is just Alex Lindsay, Andy Ihnatko and Leo Laporte. And you do get reminded more often these days whenever Leo makes a comment that shows his lack of insight on the topics being talked about. Leo Laporte’s TWiT network might be expanding at a frantic pace, branching out to new offices, hiring lots of new peeps, starting lots of new shows. But you often get the idea that his core shows are suffering from neglect as a result. His staffing choices are also seemingly debatable, especially with his hiring of Sarah Lane, formerly from Revision3. Sarah Lane was laid off from Revision3, apparently because her shows there haven’t been popular. And TWiT listeners have responded similarly to her shows on the TWiT network. Net@Night was a lot harder to listen to everytime Sarah Lane filled in for Leo Laporte. And iPad Today was just generally boring. Last year I just found myself slowing giving up on listening to most of the TWiT network’s shows. I used to listen regularly to the following shows;

1. MacBreak Weekly
2. This Week in Tech
3. The Tech Guy
4. Net@Night
5. Security Now

Only MacBreak Weekly remained on my list of subscribed podcasts, mainly because of Alex Lindsay’s regular appearance. He probably won’t be leaving MacBreak Weekly anytime soon, because of his involvement in the TWiT network. Most, if not all, of the production aspects of the ever-expanding TWiT network is the result of Alex’s involvement. The shows on his own network,, are generally more appealing to me personally, such as This Week in Photo, which I still listen to.

As the list of TWiT shows I listen to dwindled over the course of 2010, I have been casually looking for replacement entertainment. Then one day I noticed it. Because the Daring Fireball RSS feed is part of a Google Reader folder that has 60 other Mac-related feeds in it, I found myself ignoring John Gruber’s short posts about The Talk Show, until some day in August 2010.

The Talk Show is a two-person show by John Gruber, arguably the most respected Mac blogger in the whole Mac-niverse because of his deep insights and knowledge of about the workings of Apple, Inc, and his close proximity to some of Apple’s important employees, and Dan Benjamin, the founder of 5by5 Studios. While Dan Benjamin was a nobody to me at the start, it become quite apparent that he was a great host that complements his co-hosts very well, making for an extremely entertaining show format where his co-hosts’ knowledge and opinions are communicated very well to the audience, while he adds his own opinions and questions in a very effective, show-entertainment enhancing sort of way. So for the last quarter of 2010, it was The Talk Show for most of my podcast listening on priority over everything else, including MacBreak Weekly.

And then in early 2011 John Gruber mentioned that Dan Benjamin started two new shows with another two extremely respected personalities in the Mac-niverse, John Siracusa of Ars Technica and Merlin Mann. John Siracusa, as many will know, is the extremely technically-proficient writer of Ars Technica well-known for his long and deeply technical articles about Apple and their technologies. And so I visited the 5by5 site and found Hypercritical, with John Siracusa, Back to Work, with Merlin Mann, and as a bonus, even Build and Analyze, with Marco Arment, the developer of the highly popular Instapaper. And not to forget some of the other interesting but slightly less popular shows on the 5by5 studios network such as The Mixdown, which appeals to me because it is about audio and video production.

And only today I realised that 5by5 studios is only in its second year, when Dan mentioned at the starting of Build and Analyze episode 11, that 5by5 studios just celebrated its first anniversary. There are already shows on the website’s list of shows for the network. Granted, some of them were started before 5by5 studios even formed, and some of the shows no longer run, this is still pretty impressive to me, considering that 5by5 studios worked off a much much lower budget than TWiT ever did.

My current list of shows subscribed in iTunes thereby consists of the following;

1. The Talk Show (John Grubber is THE Apple man)
2. Build and Analyze (surprisingly highly entertaining)
3. Hypercritical (technical, entertaining, and highly informative)
4. Back to Work (who can ever get enough of Merlin Mann?)
5. MacBreak Weekly (Alex Lindsay and Andy Ihnatko should run the show)
6. Film Riot (for obvious reasons)
7. This Week in Photo (Ron Brinkmann is entertaining!)
8. Photofocus (Scott Bourne! Sometimes I wish he’ll run a Mac-focused show on his own)
9. …and various other Apple official feeds.

In case you still can’t tell, I am highly passionate about this stuff.


MacRyu is the Mac Blog by Singaporeans and for Singaporeans. It was started in April 2007 as a side project of the then President of the Official Mac User Group of NUS, Ryu, and grew to become possibly one of the most popular Apple-related sites based in Singapore. MacRyu hopes to provide you with more Mac-related info, thoughts and stuff, from the Singaporean perspective.

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