UPDATE 12/9: The change has been made, and as of our latest release all episodes will be marked as explicit. They literally have a scarlet letter next to them, which I find hilarious. I’ve update our About page to reflect the change.

I hear a lot that we are lucky to be writers and content creators in the 21st century. Unlike our predecessors, we have direct access to our audience. There are no gatekeepers. You don’t have to please a publishing company. You can just self-publish and ta-da! Audience.

It’s not actually true. I’m a podcaster, so for better or for worse I have to deal with the standards of iTunes. There are a LOT of ways for people to listen to podcasts, but about 85% of people actually listen in iTunes, so what iTunes says goes. For those of you out there who aren’t podcasters, I would ask you: who is in charge of delivering your content to your readers? I’m guessing it’s not you.

I wrote a post awhile back about how explicit podcast episodes are censored in India and other international markets. Well, now iTunes has decided that they no longer care about individual episodes. Shows will be either explicit or clean on the show level. Got one explicit episode out of 20? 50? 300? ITunes does not care. You’re explicit.

My show is a quiet little short story podcast. This month we are running a serial about Santa Claus. Were I to publish it, it would likely be a children’s book. And now we are an explicit show. Because in 7 out of our first 25 shows a contributor chose to use a naughty word. Know what? Sometimes naughty words are called for. But now you won’t be able to get the show via iTunes in India. Not even on a per-episode basis.

I have options, of course. I can just declare that I will take down those “naughty” shows, bleep out the “offensive” words, or let future contributors know, hey, from now on if it can’t be rated G it can’t be on the show. But my goal here is to pick the BEST short story content to bring to you, not the cleanest.

Maybe it won’t matter. Maybe listeners won’t care if suddenly the big red “Explicit” label is on our show. Maybe they will still tune in to hear about Santa Claus. I don’t know. I can tell you its frustrating. It feels like I have to put a scarlet letter on the show.

If you’re reading this in India, and I know we have some contributors there, know that you can still get us through the website. WordPress, for the moment, isn’t asking us to label content. But they could be next. It all depends on who’s running things.

In the meantime, let me know what you think,