The Talk Show With John Gruber

May 25th, 2012

For the past few years, John Gruber and Dan Benjamin recorded an informal, off-the-cuff-seeming podcast called The Talk Show. I didn’t listen to every episode, but I listened from the very beginning, before Dan had even founded the 5by5 network that later became its home.

I see The Talk Show’s format as the prototype for many other successful 5by5 podcasts: Dan plays the cool, somewhat disinterested straight-man to a “star,” whose own temperament, philosophies and interests ultimately define the show. After the initial success of The Talk Show, Dan threw the net wide, inviting folks such as Marco Arment, Andy Ihnatko, Merlin Mann, John Siracusa, Horace Dediu, and Jim Dalrymple to indulge audiences with their own personalities and areas of expertise. I even had the pleasure of playing the star myself on one episode of Build & Analyze.

Last week, John announced matter-of-factly that The Talk Show would no longer air on the 5by5 network, and would be joining the lineup at the fledgling Mule Radio Syndicate. Dan does a great job at 5by5 of emphasizing that the star of each show is who makes the show what it is. Nonetheless, Dan’s personality is unavoidably material to the mood and progression of these shows, so it’s safe to say that The Talk Show’s departure from 5by5 marks the end of an era.

The good news for fans of John Gruber, is it doesn’t mark the end of The Talk Show. John’s obsessive, meandering, sometimes distracted personality lives on at Mule, and I think this promises to be another great era in The Talk Show’s history. Episode 1 featured John Moltz of Crazy Apple Rumors fame, and the two delved into all the kinds of topics I’d expect. I thoroughly enjoyed the show.

I enjoyed it so much, I decided to co-sponsor this week’s episode, along with my good friends from Bare Bones Software

The Talk Show Episode #2: Dare I Say, Kubrick? 

Much to my delight, the episode turned out to feature one of my favorite “internet stars,” Mr. Adam Lisagor of Sandwich Video fame. John literally can’t go wrong if these folks are representative of the stature of future guests. So, give the new Talk Show a try, won’t you?

76 Responses to “The Talk Show With John Gruber”

  1. Tony Says:

    I was disappointed by the show being “cancelled”, and I was confused in a child-like way. “Where’s Dan, mommy?”

    But I was also disappointed when Merlin Mann dropped his book deal because he could not bring himself to finish the book he had, as a professional, agreed to write. I looked up to him, and he turned out to have a different set of priorities than I do.

    I think this is the case with Gruber. People look up to him, idolize him, and when he takes actions we don’t agree with, our feelings are hurt. This is, ultimately about us, folks.

    All that being said, I think it was a dick move against someone who showed Gruber the way in podcasting.

  2. Jason Clarke Says:

    I think Gruber has made a serious (and common) mistake by underestimating just how important a solid, professional show host really is. Dan wasn’t the reason I initially tuned in to the Talk Show (iterations 1 and 2) but he’s definitely the reason I KEPT tuning in. John’s “hosting” skills are non-existent, and it shows. The Mule version of the Talk Show feels slapdash and sounds terrible, audio quality-wise. I’m sure they can fix the audio issues, but Gruber needs a straight man like Dan Benjamin or Leo Laporte to keep things organized and interesting.

    I hope Mule figures out how to fix this, but I’m not sure it’s fixable without Gruber consenting to let someone else who knows what they’re doing be the actual host.

  3. plentynuff Says:

    I don’t care why John left 5by5, or whether John and Dan are friends, or what the history was. These men are strangers to me and their business between them is theirs. However, as someone who long enjoyed the show, I do care that John, his wife, and his new podcasting partner took to the internet to shower contempt on fans that were upset about the change. These are people who *liked his creative output so much* that they were upset/anxious at the prospect of losing it, and when they expressed this feeling, they were mocked. That’s just being a shitty person. I don’t give my time, attention, or money to shitty people when I can help it. As John said: Adios.

  4. Chuck Says:

    @bobsageek: Who cares? Obviously everyone does, have you not been reading any of these posts?

  5. Chuck Says:

    Just listened to Gruber’s ‘explanation’. They started, got of track so often that it took them half an hour to basically say it was a business disagreement. I can understand that. That’s not at all what Dan insinuated with his vague explanation, frankly he makes it seem like he doesn’t even know what’s going on, which I doubt, but could believe taking Gruber into account.

    Gruber took the name because he says that he came up with it and that he rather takes it with him than have sit idle. Can understand that. He left because they had a business disagreement, fine, I can understand that. However, the way this was handles I can’t. There must be something else besides a business disagreement that would prompt this type and handeling of change.

  6. Chris Yoda Says:

    Lets Crucify John Gruber. RIGHT?

    Maybe NO. Here’s why I think we should’nt.

    1. John Gruber took the pains of supporting Dan to Build 5by5. Once 5by5 had traffic Dan extended it to other star writers. 5by5 is doing well, but who owns 5by5 ? John?No. Dan? Yes. So John practically got employed in a diversified radio network , which he practically helped build from the scratch.
    Ask any entrepreneur how it is to work as an employee again.

    2. John Gruber does daringfireball. From the days when Apple was pretty much a funny obscure little company making music gadgets.And a few macs. Hes put his blood and sweat into it and do the math,it makes money.
    John DOES NOT need money from 5by5.
    Otherwise John Gruber would be writing for Techcrunch. And maybe now a partner at Crunchfund.(Sorry Mike,MG, I love you guys)
    So this John Guy is a kind of a fella who really does things well and has a vision for doing it well.
    Imagine Steve Jobs at Sequoia Capital after getting fired from Apple- Nah.

    3. John Gruber is honest. He’s not the kind of guy who will entertain you to gather your sympathies. He’s honest. Brutally Honest. And that’s why I read DF and will read DF as long as I can.

    4. Farewell: Farewell for whom?
    A. John thank Dan or Dan Thank John?- Question is does it matter? Some things are better left like that.
    B. Thank the Fans?- Are you kidding me? We want these guys like Horace and Gruber to start thinking about fans,before they write something??
    What Next?Thank Sponsors? Thank Corporates?
    Sorry these people are not on our rolls.We should let them be.

    5. Fuck with emotions-
    A lot of people here think John Gruber is simply being Arrogant by not delving deep into the topic.
    But Look at this
    John just wanted to get out of the whole mess- He did not want to disturb how the rest of 5by5 network was functioning.
    Remember the Mike Arrington/Arrianna/TC episodes? We don’t want that shit again right?
    I feel Dan took an emotional high ground making that plea for the farewell- It s just not professional enough.

    John kept the whole matter as low profile as possible, so that both Dan and John could go on with their lives- Do the things they love.
    Its us( the readers) who have created such a mess out of this- And honestly if you ask me, its grossly Unfair.

    You should follow me on twitter @yoda_2little


  7. bobsageek Says:

    Well said Chris Yoda.

    And seriously guys, can we stop acting like John and Dan didn’t ramble and get off topic, some of the Talk Show’s best moments were ‘off in the weeds’ moments.

    As some others have said, when we spend a lot of time listening to podcast with hosts we love, we tend to feel we have gotten to know them. But they don’t know us, and frankly, I don’t want them to succumb to ‘fan outcry’. We have a simple social contract with these guys, we keep listening as long as they are compelling, and that’s that.

    And Chris Yoda nails it by the way, do we need another TechCrunch meltdown? Or gimmicks like the guys at the Verge pull on occasion? I’ll take a quiet, drama free exit any day.

  8. Chuck Says:

    @bobsageek: A quiet, drama free exit could have perfectly happened, if they didn’t take the we-won’t-say-anything-maybe-no-one-will-notice approach. I know I wouldn’t be commenting here if either party just been honest and explained what happened, or even just told that it happened, one day their was just a new show, Dan wasn’t on it, it wasn’t on 5by5, no-one was even acknowledging that something happened. That you can’t comment on DB and that comments are heavily moderated at 5by5 sure did not help the matter. That we’re having this discussion on a sponsors site is proof enough that it wasn’t handled properly.

    You can blame the listeners all you want for making a fuss about it, but that’s because of the actions and lack of actions from both Dan and Gruber.

  9. Charles Says:

    I was a fan of the Talk Show on 5by5 almost from the beginning. I have tried the first two shows with Dan and you can tell that the formula is not quite right. I will be moving on to other shows.

  10. DDA Says:

    I’m biased since I think Monteiro is a serious dick; the way this was all handled that has (re)confirmed that belief. The best explanation I’ve heard is one on DFWC; the business disagreement was that Gruber wanted a piece of the network itself. Dan said no but Mike said yes. Of course, this is speculation but it sure fits the facts. :-) I do believe that Gruber alone won’t be able to build Mule Radio that fast.

    I’m unlikely to listen to the New Talk Show beyond the first episode (I’m curious what Moltz has to say) and I doubt the fact that Red Sweater is sponsoring it will make any difference to me in how I view you, Daniel, or MarsEdit. I’ll still listen to Core Intuition, too.

    But @bobageek misses an important point; it was Gruber and his Mule buddies that made this a problem. If Gruber had done the right thing and done a farewell episode and called it something other than “The Talk Show,” it would (probably) have been fine. But that isn’t Monteiro’s style.

  11. Jack Says:

    “But @bobageek misses an important point; it was Gruber and his Mule buddies that made this a problem. If Gruber had done the right thing and done a farewell episode and called it something other than “The Talk Show,” it would (probably) have been fine. But that isn’t Monteiro’s style.”


    The move was done in the worst possible way—I almost wish I could say it was done in a ham-fisted way, but I can’t; it just seems like such a blatant and incredibly underhanded move. The only thing Gruber/Mule could’ve done worse was to TP Dan’s house on the way out of town.

    Honestly, the way the whole business was conducted just makes Mule look really, REALLY low rent.

    For those interested, there’s a great discussion of the sleazy breakup over on MetaFilter – http://www.metafilter.com/116143/How-to-dispel-gossip

  12. Jason Painter Says:

    My faith in Gruber is shaken but I have listened to the first episode and it was generally enjoyable. His live reads of ads were stiff and don’t compare to Dan or Merlin “talking about something he really likes”. Other than that, the show was pretty much the same, although it was better when Dan ran it, freeing John up to simple ramble.

    I’m a little upset over the break-up and am a little wary of John now, but I see no reason not to continue to listen.

  13. emgee Says:

    Gruber is incredibly insightful and well connected, and for those reasons I read his blog and listen to The Talk Show. However, he’s also an asshat and doesn’t seem to care enough to make a professional podcast. Half of what Dan did was elicit some sort of response out of Gruber, who seemed like he’d rather be drinking that recording a podcast.

    That said, personality-wise, I don’t think Dan was a good match for Gruber, so I’m not sad to see the show go elsewhere. Gruber doesn’t need Dan so much as he needs a nanny — or at least someone who cares enough to get him to put in some time.

    Regarding the sense of entitlement, I feel that an explanation and a wrap-up show isn’t too much to ask for. Both John and Dan are supported by sponsors, and they sponsor because we listen to their ads and pay them. They make their living because of their listeners and I don’t feel it inappropriate to ask to have some idea of what happened. Kudos to Dan for giving an abbreviated version of his side and not slinging any mud. I’m about to listen to see what Gruber had to say. I’m going to keep on listening regardless of the whole mess, because for all his faults, Gruber really is a smart guy and worth listening to.

    Throughout all this, the cynic in me is wondering if Gruber didn’t intentionally be quiet to drum up a bit of controversy to promote his new show on Mule.

  14. Mickey Says:

    John did something very cold and callous to a friend. If I were a sponsor, I would not want to be associated with something like that. Not only will I not be listening to The Talk Show anymore, I will not be reading Daring Fireball anymore either.

  15. bobsageek Says:

    It’s only a problem if you are desperate to involve yourself in other people’s private affairs, I’ll keep listening to 5by5’s assorted hosts and Gruber where ever they go. I didn’t miss any point, but you guys are missing the fact that you are acting like a bunch of jilted girlfriends. It’s a podcast and it cost you nothing, get over it. You don’t really know if they were friends, if it was really ‘cold and callous’ or any of the other emotional arguments you guys keep throwing up.

  16. Russell Says:

    Daniel: did you pay full price for the ad, or was there a special discount involved?

  17. Darlaj Says:

    The salient business question is does John Gruber still have credibility? Does anyone now believe John personally uses and endorses sponsors’products? I don’t. Now I look back and realize just how many apps I have purchased immediately after reading about them in DF because I trusted Gruber’s opinion, and his judgement, only to find they sucked. I will continue to read DF for news, but his disdain for his advertisers is clear now that he’s in the position of having to vocalize the ads himself.

    He has demonstrated repeatedly that he can speak off the cuff with great enthusiasm about things he really likes –Kubrick, Bond, Yankees, seltzer, Apple, etc. so it’s not as if endorsing a product he really believes in is beyond his abilities. It’s obvious to me he will take anyone’s money but he’s a very poor liar. I suppose that’s a mark in his favor.

  18. Puiz Says:

    I don’t get those who go on about how we don’t “deserve” an explanation. Of course we don’t. However, we can still have opinions, right?

    There is no way John would come out of this looking good, I agree with what seems to be the consensus.

    Finally, the show was flawed then (with the rambling, the incompatible personalities, John’s apparent annoyance or lack of enthusiasm), and it’s flawed now (lack of structure, weird handling of guests who are more like guest hosts with Gruber remaining the star). But come on: the Talk Show was never a professionally done show. It’s a podcast, an amateur thing. I don’t see a major drop in quality (just yet). It’s fun.

    Though, again, John didn’t come out of this looking like a good person. (Which, incidentally, Dan did.)

  19. Arnoldo Says:

    Love the new show, especially episode 2. Definitely going to check out MarsEdit.


  20. Noliv Says:

    A few observations from a listener of The Talk Show. I don’t think anyone owes us any explanation and certainly not a farewell show. But announcing a new episode without a word about the change seemed to show a misunderstanding of what the show was to a large part of the audience and why the listeners enjoyed the show. It’s no surprise that a very large part of 5by5’s listeners like Dan very much, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that the new show would disappoint a part of the listeners…
    In the end it, only the quality really matters… I disliked the first episode on Mule but I’ll surely give the show a new chance in a few weeks if I hear good things about it.

  21. Jasper Says:

    When you leave a job, you give two weeks’ notice. Not doing so fails Wheaton’s first law: Don’t be a dick.

    That is even more important when it’s about media stopping or moving networks.

    Aside from all that unpleasantness, which was *not* kept private, the new show is pretty clearly not up to the standards of the old one yet. There’s an improving line, so who knows, at some point it may become listenable again… but that day is not this day.

  22. MKP in DC Says:

    The Handling:
    Dan and John are people, free to run their businesses as they see fit. However, Daring Fireball and 5by5 are brands with many loyal supporters that make their business model possible. The abrubt ending, with no explanation was a public relations failure and people deserve better than to be left in the dark.

    The Show:
    Dan was a crucial element to the show’s quality and success. I may check in every now and then, but definitely won’t be listening as often.

  23. DM Andy Says:

    Daniel, maybe this is just a nick-picky point, but hell, I’m a nerd and when something doesn’t sit right, I need to try and find out why. You say above “I thoroughly enjoyed the show… I enjoyed it so much, I decided to co-sponsor this week’s episode…” However John Gruber’s just posted on DF “I can’t thanks the show’s debut sponsors enough — Rogue Amoeba and 37signals the first week, Bare Bones Software and Red Sweater Software this past week. It means a lot to me that all four got on board before hearing an episode.”

    So you’re saying you sponsored after hearing Episode 1, John’s saying that you signed up before Episode 1. Don’t suppose it matters but why the discrepancy?

  24. Daniel Jalkut Says:

    DM Andy: When I agreed to sponsor episode #2, I think Bare Bones was already on board. Maybe they had been on board for that episode since before #1 shipped? But I had a chance to listen to the first episode before agreeing to sponsor #2.

  25. Matt B Says:

    Wow, I wonder if this is the most ever comments on a post for you Daniel?

    bobsageek misses the whole point. Why do we care? Because we loved the podcast, and when you love something, you get emotionally invested in them. When that something stops, you get upset. Its called human nature. So yes, it does cost something- our time, our money, and our emotions.

    And yes, we, as listeners-who support the shows by listening to ads, and possibly purchasing their products- do deserve some sort of explanation. Even a simple thing as John and Dan saying on the blogs/twitters “The Talk Show is moving/ending”. I think keeping the name also wasn’t smart.

    And finally, I think what really got people up in arms is Gruber’s wife and Mike mocking people who had feelings (like bobsageek). We are fans of the show. The more fans, the more advertisers and the more money from them. How does mocking the people who support your show make sense?

    I don’t fault Daniel for sponsoring this- I’d imagine he did not quite expect this outcry. But its a lesson for everybody to see.

  26. vlad Says:

    If you listen to the beginning of episode no. 3, you will see gruber is an a**. Unsubscribed. Did like the 5by5 ones tho.

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