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I'm Against Podcasts (washingtonpost.com)
150 points by quickfox 25 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 289 comments



> Podcasts are bad because podcasts sound bad — and podcasts sound bad because podcasters aren’t thinking hard enough about what their talk sounds like.

But this is exactly why we should cherish podcasts! They're one of the last vestiges of the old, weird, free Internet that we have left.

Podcasts (mostly) sound bad because the people making them are (mostly) amateurs, which means they don't know the ins and outs of audio recording. They just hooked up a crappy USB mic to their laptop and started podcasting. And once they did that, there was no central corporate gatekeeper who could turn them off and tell them to come back when they knew what they were doing.

All of which, yes, results in a lot of crappy podcasts. But consider the alternative. Do we really want to see one more wide open indie publishing channel turn into bland, pre-digested corporate mush? Is the problem with podcasting that it's not enough like Facebook? Because that's the alternative: one more medium where all the weirdness has been wrung out, except for those random bits of weirdness that happen to tickle an algorithm that makes some corporate overseer another nickel.

Maybe that is what you want, I dunno. If so, don't worry! Now that people with money have taken notice of podcasts, there are plenty of would-be corporate overseers lining up to give it to you as we speak.


I don't know why you're talking about "the ins and outs of audio recording". The author makes clear that's not what he's talking about. In the very next sentence after your quote he writes:

>Forget the lousy microphones and the dinky interstitial stock music — the thing that derails most podcasts is the blab.

And later on he explains again.

>By “sound good,” I meant that I wanted podcasts to sound considered.

Anyway, I think this is just a matter of taste. I imagine the author also hates talk radio/sports radio. You know those 2-hour shows about the Philadelphia sports or whatever?

Much of podcasting is essentially the modern take on that. Of course, it isn't "considered". Of course it has "blab". That's kind of the whole point -- it is filling in a connection/emotional gap that people aren't getting in their day to day lives.


I, too, dislike the "eavesdropping on other people's tipsy pub conversation" genre of podcasts. I generally don't love the professionalized "least common denominator of an NPR listening audience's tastes, delivered in carefully rehearsed NPR voice" podcasts, either.

My solution is to not bother with those podcasts. There are so many others that I find to be more worthy of my time. Admittedly, it's probably a small fraction of all podcasts, but it still amounts to more than I could possibly find the time to listen to.


When do people take in their podcasts? I’m thinking it’s during he work commute or at work?


For my part, I wonder something similar about how most other people seem to entertain themselves.

Podcasts and audiobooks are easy to consume alongside activities that occupy my hands or my hands and eyes. TV isn't compatible with other activities that need to occupy my eyes, and video games aren't compatible with anything that needs my eyes or my hands.


I did a bit of a study of this as I was involved with a podcasting related startup at one point.

It's really varied:

- Most podcast consumption is via smartphone

- A big chunk of that is on iOS (because default Podcast app placement is inconsistent across Android flavors)

- Heaviest consumption during commutes

- Significant consumption during the workday: white collar people listening in the background - often from their desktop/web while or blue collar in place of radio and music

- You also have people doing things like playing video games and listening to podcasts regularly.


I guess I've never really understood the background sound thing. It's not like I need silence; I have no trouble working in a coffeeshop for example. But I mostly don't even turn on music as background much less something like a podcast. And, when traveling with people, one thing that always drove me crazy was the person whose initial reflex on walking into a room was to turn on the TV as background.


> I guess I've never really understood the background sound thing.

I sometimes find complete or near complete silence off-puttingly artificial. It puts me in mind of an exam room. Any sound that does happen (including my typing) seems oddly exaggerated and therefore a little distracting.

If I'm properly concentrating I don't notice, so often I'll put on something short for background noise as I start a period of trying to get something done and don't replace it when it finishes as the need has passed.


I can't stand silence, I need the distraction from my own thoughts.


I'm sure people vary but driving/plane/etc. for me. I mostly don't listen at home unless I'm doing something fairly mindless that requires me to be using my hands.

ADDED: When I commuted regularly, I would often listen to audiobooks but they're less amenable to dipping in and out of than podcasts are.


I listen while:

* cooking or cleaning (usually politics or culture stuff)

* working if the work isn't too intense (usually lighter stuff)

* on the treadmill (30 minutes of tech stuff)

* doing random stuff and just want a voice in the background, like some people keep a TV on.

I don't listen while commuting because my walking-and-public-transit commute requires that I stay alert and doesn't give me any sit-down time. Nor do I usually see anybody with headphones on during the tram ride. For longer stretches that would make sense, or maybe in a car.

[Edit: list format]


I only take public transit rarely but I've never been able to adapt to wearing earphones while walking about--especially in a city. I just don't feel comfortable being isolated from my environment in that way. Probably a pretty minority opinion these days.


I remember when I started listening to stuff while walking around in public (classical music, at the time). It was like giving the world a soundtrack -- strange at first, but you get used to it.


If I'm out for a slow run (music or silence work better for a fast run, silence for a trail run as part of the point of that is enjoying the sounds as well as the sights of nature as I trundle around), pottering around the flat doing chores, sometimes on the train when I'm travelling.

Though some of what I listen to isn't really podcasts - it is panel shows and other radio output that gets mixed in with the podcast output of the BBC and other sources.


That’s what I’m thinking. I lightly listened to podcasts before becoming a remote worker, but now that I’m remote I never remember to start one up.


Commute, plane rides, going for a walk, cleaning the house... pretty much any time I otherwise would listen to music or nothing, but instead I want to be entertained and learn a little something.


Usually I listen on the way to/from work (I have a short commute so it often takes a few days to finish longer material) or while working on my house/cooking/some other activity where I like having a story to occupy my mind.


I listen to podcasts while cycling. Somehow makes me feel faster but my GPS disagrees.


During the morning routine, during commute, at work, after work, with a friend on road trips. Any time really.

I usually start something in the morning and lose focus as I'm working (which is kinda the goal).


I listen to them while I run or do house work. I don't have a commute and if I listen to podcasts while I do knowledge work I either don't retain anything or my work suffers.


I listen while cleaning, while exercising (mostly running), and while doing yard work.


Car and gym. I need music, often sans lyrics, when working.


I dislike the "hour of unedited rambling" ones, enjoy some of NPR, and find the over-produced stuff like Radiolab insufferable. I also enjoy a lot of recorded music. But the great thing about podcasts is that, like blogs, there are way more of them than you can ever consume, and they're just RSS feeds, not locked into some platform (yet). To each his own.


I don't like aimless blab, I don't like the NPR style, but I've still got a huge list of podcasts that I regularly listen to. A podcast is just an RSS feed of audio files. There might be fads and fashions like any other medium, but there is also limitless possibility to do mad and brilliant things. The accessibility of a decentralised online medium combined with the intimacy of radio has IMO sparked a creative renaissance.

https://www.beefanddairynetwork.com/

https://www.imaginaryadvice.com/

https://athleticomince.com/

https://play.acast.com/s/blindboy


I would hope that blab would not be the point. I've always thought to myself that, when I see a link to a video or podcast about some technical topic, I know that some large chunk of that cast will be "er, um, is this thing on?", stupid jokes and laughter, and I think to myself, "Are they incapable of writing this down?".

I don't have time to watch or listen to these things and ignore them.


Blab is definitely the reason I listen to some podcasts. It's real. I get tired of the perfectly edited videos and television shows. Even better are LIVE podcasts where the show could go off the rails at any moment :)


Yes. And this is the same reason people enjoy local bands who perform live, especially if they're performing at the edge of their ability (i.e. taking musical risks).


Hell, I can deal with shitty microphones, I just wish people would figure out that you need to record all speakers' audio independently and not rely on Skype or Discord or whatever relaying it to a single location. Robovoice is the worst.


You don't need to necessarily have independent audio streams to have good audio, just independent sources. I did a podcast up until January, and as the person doing the editing, I found zero benefit to having one input stream per microphone, and ultimately I eventually just started outputting the multiple inputs as a single dual channel stream. Podcasts that aren't in person are rough to listen to though, for sure. The ability to read body language and respond without weird little timing idiosyncrasies just isn't there with Skype.


I think you missed the parent's point. Remote participants should be recorded locally. It's not about having multiple streams for flexibility in editing, it's about having high-quality sound instead of the compressed garbage that comes through a Skype feed.

I recently learned one of my favorite podcasts hires a local audio engineer to mic and record all their remote interviewees, which seems like insane overkill but obviously is one way to do it. Is there really not a product that's a dead-simple USB audio recorder you can ship out to your guests, have them plug it into their laptop, and lets them Skype/whatever you while simultaneously recording their audio locally and sending it out to your editor after the fact?


Independent streams really helps me when editing. If I'm talking and one of the other guys' dog barks at the mailman, I know I can just keep talking and silence the dog later.

You're right, though, that the hardest part of recording remotely is avoiding collisions / incremental back-off problems. Then you have to cut out the "No, you go ahead" and people have a real bad habit of then following up with "I was just going to say, ..."


When I was doing a podcast, getting guests in the same room was always the limiting factor. Between lack of body language/other physical cues and technical glitches, I just never liked doing interviews remotely--although people obviously make it work.


I just listened to an interview podcast that was clearly done on Skype. Interviewer on the left stereo channel, interviewee on the right. Despite the sucky sound quality of Skype and mics, the stereo separation made it relatively easy to follow.

Of course, this one is all about kitchen remodeling. I don't expect kitchen remodeling experts to also be audio engineers.


[flagged]


Having worked in broadcast and film myself, I know there's nothing much to using high end microphones for podcast work.

You just need to know a few basics (which you can learn in endless e.g. youtube video tutorials, in 1 hour or so) and you're pretty much done.


The snark isn't really necessary but it's probably fair that there are a lot of people who obsess about pro-level gear and studio setups when that last 1-2% of hardware is pretty much indistinguishable in the final product unless everything else is REALLY nailed down.


Yup. I have a small studio (for podcasting, among other things) and my go-to microphones are $99 sE L7 dynamics because to my ear they're cleaner than SM58s. I have a few others available, like the AT2035 that sits at my desk, but the difference is so, so marginal for any spoken-word stuff that I don't know why someone would bother.

(The above is with one major caveat: I'd kick a puppy for a half-dozen RE20s. I love the sound of them.)


Have you tried Monoprice's dynamic performance mic[0]? It's an SM58 clone with (if reviews are correct) great detail and a bit more high-mids/highs. It might be another alternative besides the sEL7.

[0] https://www.monoprice.com/product?p_id=600058


I haven't, no. It looks like a competitor (if it isn't a rebrand) of a Behringer XM8500. Which are fine cheapo mics, and really good for stuff like on-stage performance or karaoke or whatever. But I, for my purposes, am using those sE L7s as something of a knockoff of a broadcast mic, with decent-to-good plosive handling and very strong off-axis rejection (they're supercardioid microphones). So, while they're more expensive, they exactly fit my needs.

Lots more interesting options exist in condensers, IMO, than in dynamics. The sE V7 is a standout in the space. Honestly, from my experience, the only real upgrade in the "quiet room, sitting down" dynamic microphone realm is an Electro-Voice RE20 (if I want "newsy" or a Shure SM7b (if I want "aggressively neutral"); both are amazing microphones but neither are as notably bright as a V7. There's one interesting option in the Beyerdynamic TG V70d for some stuff, because it has a dangerous amount of proximity effect, but it's more "interesting" than "good".


You're setting up a false dichotomy between decentralized & centralized, where the real concern here is quality vs. careless. The same technological advancements that have allowed everyone to have a voice have also made it trivially easy to obtain decent recording equipment and software to edit out the useless parts of the conversation. Not to mention the concepts of research and planning have been around since time immemorial, which are both free and the greatest contributors to producing a quality podcast. But that's more work than just using your phone mic to record a meandering hangout with your mates.


God, I miss the old weird internet.


This article is fantastic, because it lays out exactly why I love podcasts.

Podcasts are to audio what punk rock was to music: freedom to be an amateur. Was punk for everyone? Nope. Were punks particularly talented? Some were, but mostly nope. Yet punk became one of the most influential genres of music of all time because it gave you permission to suck.

It's like what's been said about the Velvet Underground: They never made it big, but almost everyone who went to one of their concerts or bought one of their albums started a band of their own. (The same was later said of The Pixies.)

Sure, there's a lot of garbage. But it's real. It's raw. It's people finding their voice.

I couldn't be happier to see the elites complaining about podcasts. Just add it to the pile of people complaining about punk, YouTube, ebook self-publishing, blogging, and all the other ways we're free to express ourselves today.


>I couldn't be happier to see the elites complaining about podcasts.

Especially when the elite's journalistic production (e.g. WP articles) are not really higher quality: just follow some long established conventions, are self-congratulatory, follow the norms of polite talk, try to not ask the "wrong" (elite-wise) questions, put into use all the BS they've learned on "essay/creative writing" class, etc, which is why they pass for "serious" by people conditioned to seek those traits.


I think you're oversimplifying the trade of journalism and massively underselling the value and importance of it.

WP isn't "the elites". They're journalists. They have a trade, which is on a completely different plane and set of standards than a random blog.


>I think you're oversimplifying the trade of journalism and massively underselling the value and importance of it

That's because I have about 15+ years experience with it (until relatively recently) from various roles (and family in the business).

>They have a trade, which is on a completely different plane and set of standards than a random blog.

From a random blog, yes. From a good blog, no. And there was no real training required in being a journalist (the same there is in engineering for example), anybody could become one (and even worse today) no matter how ignorant about the topic they cover. What little exists "school of journalism" style education used to laughed at by old school journalists (and not the worse ones either) -- and still doesn't make you an expert in politics, or tech, or whatever you get to cover.

>WP isn't "the elites". They're journalists.

Still the ten-percenters (or percenter wanna-bees), and all commingling with the elites and eating their crumbs.


> From a random blog, yes. From a good blog, no.

It's perhaps also worth noting that blogs and professional journalism aren't actually distinct anymore.

At one end, news organizations started hosting blogs under their main domains, often not clearly identified as such. The bloggers get big-name prestige and the appearance of being contracted journalists, the news orgs get free content and click-attracting stories that can be disclaimed if they're inaccurate or improper.

At the other end, Vice News has multiple Peadbody awards. Emptywheel exists. Notable, award-winning journalists like Marcy Wheeler and Nate Thayer publish on their own sites, without editors, then link up with news orgs later to publish books or take contracts for specific stories. (And, yeah, sometimes those people break completely with journalistic practice. Wheeler outed a source, then gave a detailed account of her ethical justification. Thayer may or may not be completely off the deep end.) Neither of them works for a major outlet, but both of have worked for major outlets, so it's hardly clear how to score either the positive or negative aspects of that.

Comparing the Washington Post to a blog is hard to do, because there's no particular guarantee that the two are on different sites, or by different authors.


> sometimes those people break completely with journalistic practice.

This may be the first real argument I've seen for the difference between blogging and journalism.

Blogging is one person's opinion or account of a topic.

Journalism is one person's opinion or account of a topic, as filtered, reviewed, revised, challenged, fact-checked, and approved by an organization.

It's reasonable to expect an individual to be able to decide whether they trust a handful of news organizations. If the NYT repeatedly breaks my trust, I can remove them from my reading list. But until then, I trust that the NYT to vet their writers. So I trust the authors published on nytimes.com without knowing a thing about them, because I trust the NYT. (Likewise, if I mistrust the org, I'll mistrust the contributors. Hello there, Fox News.)

It's not reasonable to expect individuals to be able to decide how much they trust each individual writer. I don't even know how many writers I read on a daily basis.

When it's a blogger, I take it with a grain of salt unless it's someone I read so often that I've come to trust them. (Hello, Jason Kottke.)

This doesn't make blogging inferior to journalism. I probably get more value from blogs than news sites on the regular. But I do think it's a valid distinction to take into account.


> So I trust the authors published on nytimes.com... because I trust the NYT. Likewise, if I mistrust the org, I'll mistrust the contributors.

This is probably the best argument I know of for having journalistic 'institutions'. Gellman Amnesia is a real thing, and very hard to solve for any topic where you're not an expert. But if a source manages to provide a predictable level of quality over many stories, it's suddenly possible to use the topics you know as a way to predict the quality of everything else.

Of course, the downside of that is the way it creates confidence that can then be abused, and in particular the risk that everyday accuracy will provide an aegis for misrepresenting topics which people can't fact-check. Functionally, it's something like the SSL chain-of-trust problem; the tradeoff for being able to trust things we can't personally inspect is having a system which propagates any claim that gets past the weakest gatekeeper involved.

I don't think it's very common for journalism orgs to go off the rails completely, and when they do people eventually catch up to the loss of quality. Rather, I worry about trusted names being manipulated to spread stories without showing proper evidence. If you're running Theranos and know actual scientists would laugh at your data, or you're promoting the invasion of Iraq and know no one can challenge your "classified evidence", the name of a trusted news source becomes a welcome road to legitimacy. And instead of convincing a bunch of reputable blogs or analysts who each have their own reputation on the line, you can shop a claim until someone bites and then start using their output to convince further voices.

(There's an interesting debate hidden in there about source anonymity: keeping sources anonymous from other journalists, even after they're proven dishonest, allows them to try out a lie repeatedly without being caught. It's a tough problem.)

As you say, most of my favorite sources are either bloggers or specific writers I trust by name instead of organization. But there's a lot to be said for delinking "knows and writes about a topic" from "has strong verification practices and a reputation to risk"; there are just too many interesting stories to rely on personal reputation for every one of them.


Well said!

On a related note, Michael Lewis has an excellent podcast called _Against the Rules_, and one of the episodes focuses on what happens when we can't trust the referee. In this case, the referees in question were scholars entrusted with deciding whether classic works of art were legitimately painted by the artists they claim to have been painted by (like a da Vinci).

I won't go on too much about it, other than to say in this discussion of podcasts and trusting journalists, there happens to be a great podcast about the challenge of trust. We have to trust SOMEONE, but so often that trust is abused.


Interesting, thanks very much. I'd never heard of Against the Rules, and it sounds like exactly the sort of thing I'll love!

(And a nice touch that we're now full-circle to the topic of podcasts.)


> And there was no real training required in being a journalist

This is nonsense unless you think the only training of value happens in post-graduate degree programs. Journalists get a huge amount of on-the-job practical training.


On the job journalistic training is (a) ad-hoc (b) training constrained to teach the motions and traditions of the trade -- not training on the things that you cover.

Both good and bad journalists could be produced on the other end of it -- even on the same newspaper. Now consider on different, low quality, newspapers (e.g. on the job training on some gossip rag). Still, you get to call yourself a journalist, like someone who slaps together some shitty PHP code from Stack Overflow answers is a "programmer".


All true, but this isn’t a problem with on-the-job training. It’s a problem with all education. There are plenty of terrible professionals coming out of even well-regarded universities.


The problem with on-the-job training is that the quality of it is highly dependent on the workplace and the coworkers around you and the job in question.

Just look at programming and software engineering. It takes very little to call yourself a programmer, and on-the-job training may or may not help at all.


Some of it, particularly the funding for investigative journalism and research, is valuable and on a completely different plane of standards than (some) random blogs.

Much of it however, is not.


Some print media podcast productions are super amateurish production wise. You can hear it's two persons in a tiny conference room with no sound proofing (so it's really echoey) and a third person phoning in so you can barely hear what they are saying. No editing whatsoever. Maybe recorded with a cell phone?

They should get a summer trainee who has been in a band, or even watch a youtube video on how to do podcasts. It should be easy to set up a normal microphone and put some foam rubber on the wall. And please, do get all the people in the same room!

But the content can actually be good - ie some enthusiastic reporters actually know widely about their subject and can discuss it in an interesting way. Vi Hart of youtube fame was invited to a journalist conference and was saying just the same - that we need good quality journalism and content should be front and center - and stop with the gimmicks and forced video features.


>And please, do get all the people in the same room!

Often easier said than done. As I wrote elsewhere, I definitely prefer to be in the same room as the person I'm interviewing for both technical and conversational reasons. But it can really limit the number of people you can get on a show--even more so if it has to be in your studio.

Lots of people record podcasts and videos at events like conferences (partly for this reason). Sure, the audio isn't pristine but IMO it's perfectly listenable if done right. I gave up stressing about getting perfect studio sound years ago.


is there software that can do multi track recording on everyone's computer / phone and later combine the high quality local recordings after the fact? Because it's hard to guarantee enough bandwidth for real time high quality centralized recording.


I don't know how to automate it but you can have remote guests make a separate recording using a USB mic and then email you the file. Of course, the more complicated you make things for a guest the harder it is to get them to go along and the more mistake-prone it is.

That does add to the work but it's not bad for a 15-20 minute interview.

The thing I'd like to see which I guess falls into the "seems easier than it is" bucket is software that automatically stripped out common verbal tics like "umm" and "you know." Cleaning up at least some of those and equalizing all the volumes probably takes most of my time editing a podcast.


What software do you use for equalizing volumes?


Usually I do it manually with Audacity. There is a free (but not open source and apparently no longer updated) program called Levelator (Mac) that will do this automatically. It's by no means perfect, but I'll sometimes pull it out if I just can't get someone to speak up or the volumes are all over the place for some other reason.

I haven't looked recently to see if there's anything else out there as I don't have a podcast at the moment.


Any compressor or (rarer) leveling plugin will do.

On the Mac for example, Garageband comes with a free compressor plugin -- and even EQ presets for "spoken voice" like material.

But you can also find free VST compressors -- you'll then need an audio plugin host. Audacity can do that too.


I host the Kubernetes Podcast from Google and we use zencastr.com for this.


Lou Reed made it pretty big though.

I agree with the article. Especially this part:

> Forget the lousy microphones and the dinky interstitial stock music — the thing that derails most podcasts is the blab. There are two kinds, more or less. The first is that soft, inquisitive staccato popularized by Ira Glass on “This American Life,” the source from which so much pod-voice appears to have sprung. The second mode is performative in a different way, and you hear it on most round-table podcasts — a tone that people use at parties when they want to be heard by people that they aren’t necessarily talking to. And it’s pretty much one or the other. Be podcasted to in a cozy, overly considered way, or be podcasted at in a hastier, less-considered way.

There's something phoney about podcasts. I see most podcasts as similiar to TED talks or books by Malcolm Gladwell. These things are the opposite of Punk, which feels real, even when it's shitty.

That doesn't mean there can't be good podcasts or that there aren't any, but the dominant format seems pretty lifeless to me.


Really? I hear that some people do not like the "NPR voice". OK, that's a criticism of the format, I suppose.

But to then compare Ira Glass/TAL with TED or Malcolm Gladwell stretches credulity.

TAL is the pinnacle, the granddaddy of storytelling, of many types, shapes, and colors. It can't be painted with a single brush. Ira Glass usually speaks for a couple of minutes of each episode.

I would challenge you to listen to some of the classic episodes and then tell me it still reminds you of TED:

https://www.thisamericanlife.org/513/129-cars

https://www.thisamericanlife.org/570/the-night-in-question

https://www.thisamericanlife.org/414/right-to-remain-silent/...

https://www.thisamericanlife.org/355/the-giant-pool-of-money

https://www.thisamericanlife.org/206/somewhere-in-the-arabia...


> Lou Reed made it pretty big though.

Not compared to the influence he had on other musicians. The general music loving public is not THAT familiar with him. He was a musician's musician. (Also an asshole and abuser of women, which has nothing to do with this discussion, but I can't praise him without mentioning this.)

> There's something phoney about podcasts. I see most podcasts as similar to TED talks or books by Malcolm Gladwell.

Ironically, Malcolm's podcast "Broken Records" has an episode where Rick Rubin discusses this, in a way. He said something to the effect that all musicians start out copying their favorite musicians, until they find their own sound.

I think this is the same for podcasts. Most podcasters are new to the form, so they haven't had the time to find their voice yet. They're still figuring it out.

Ira Glass himself speaks to this point:

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”


Sure, The Velvet Underground's influence on pop music exceeded their popularity, but they were relatively successful, just not compared to The Beatles or to Dylan (who influenced Lou Reed and The Beatles).

But who is The Velvet Underground of podcasts? Who is the punk of podcasts? It's not Ira Glass. I'm not saying you're wrong to celebrate the "democratization of long form audio" but the popular stuff seems milquetoast to me. And that's what's being criticized here, though maybe a bit too broadly.


> the popular stuff seems milquetoast

Isn't that true of any medium?

I don't know who the Velvet Underground of podcasts would be. I wouldn't have recognized VU when they were getting started either.

I suspect this is the sort of thing that's easier to recognize when looking back.

I certainly didn't understand punk the way I do now back when I was a punk rocker. All I knew was I could play a little bass (badly) with some friends who played guitar and drums (badly) and sing (badly) and we had a blast doing it. Yet today, looking back, I see so many top-notch musicians who credit punk for the work they've been able to produce.

Of course, this may be my way of passing the buck. "Wait and see" is an easy way for me to dismiss your argument, and I apologize for that. It could be that in 10-20 years we'll look back at podcasting and say, "Meh, that didn't really amount to anything." But I suspect that won't be the case.

(As for my 2 cents on who's killing it at podcasting... I'm personally a fan of the Cracked podcast. It's always entertaining and educational to boot.)


You've convinced me that "I'm Against Podcasts" is a stupid statement.

I think you're absolutely on-point for saying that, 10-20 years from now, we'll look back on podcasts that are widely acknowledged as classic.

At the same time, I think criticisms by this author are mostly valid and probably helpful (inasmuch as they push people to innovate and take risks with the medium). The criticisms are just overly broad and they ought to be aimed more clearly at specific trends within in the medium rather than the medium itself.


Like I said, "This article is fantastic" :-)

The author isn't wrong, in that you can't really be wrong about a subjective opinion. The man dislikes podcasts, and that's a-ok.

I just happen to love them for all the same reasons he hates them. He's right that far too many podcasts sound like Ira Glass wannabes. He's right that the production quality isn't very high most of the time. There's plenty of garbage.

But the fact that podcasting allows garbage to exist? That's pure gold.


And TBH I'm not at all sure every podcast needs to be innovating and taking risks. There are lots of podcasts out there that are just interviews with interesting people or a bi-weekly panel-type discussion with sometimes guests in some topic area. Sure, some are good, some not so good but even the best aren't really breaking new ground; they're just interesting.


What's wrong with Gladwell? I love Revisionist History


Did I malign Gladwell? That wasn't my intention. Revisionist History is one of my favourite podcasts.


ah oops I meant to respond to GP


Weird. The podcasts I listen to are mostly improvised long form conversations between interesting people: EconTalk, Partially Examined Life, Primo Nutmeg, The Henry George Program, Software Engineering Daily, A16Z, Track Changes, Joe Rogan, Tyler Cowan, and so on. Mainstream anything is kind of bad, but the supply of truly interesting podcasts is quite tremendous.


Agreed. Podcasts let me listen to longer form conversations about topics I'm interested in.


I agree that a lot of the major podcasts don't focus enough on clarity. That said, I've found more high quality content than I'll be able to listen to by digging a little deeper.

I've gotten into music composition recently, and I've been completely blown away by the number and high quality of music writing podcasts like SongExploder. I'm constantly and pleasantly surprised by what I find.


Exactly. The same goes for news and political commentary. We are in a golden age of media creation and we have the tools to seek out the truth in many areas and spread the messages we think are worthy of spreading.

Whether an audience exists is up to the savvy of the podcast maker themselves. It is not uncommon to see independent YouTube streamers on a laptop with live audiences that put corporate media to shame.


Totally agree, I find it fascinating to compare how the media tells us things are in other countries and cultures vs how YouTubers show us they are.


Great way to put it.


punk also gave you a way to connect with the artist. you saw DK at a shitty club in the bad part of town, and Jello was 3 feet from you, and he'd talk to you after the show. (Instead of going to see Zeppelin at a giant stadium)

With podcasts, a lot of them are Extremely Online and so interacting with the host is easy. They'll talk with you on Twitter or Reddit or here.


For me, it beats having to listen to top 40 music interlaced with commercials. Yes, podcasts have their own commercials, but you can always forward past them.

There is some really interesting stuff out there, and podcasts are just another great learning format for people.


Exactly right. Any way we can find to create low barriers of entry into media is a good thing. We have to find a way to preserve the manic weirdness of the old internet.


I think this whole piece is a pretty bizarre exercise.

> I consider [podcasts] an enemy of music. [...] With all of the world’s unheard songs beckoning us with their endless mystery, why would anyone choose to waste their precious listening hours on a podcast?

This isn't just comparing apples and oranges, it's arguing that apples are the enemy of oranges. "With so many delicious oranges uneaten, why should anyone waste their time consuming a mealy, flavorless apple?" At least apples and oranges are both types of fruit. I don't think there is anything to be learned by debating the relative worth of two different types of media. He has his reasons for disliking podcasts, but they sound very personal. If he is annoyed by how podcast hosts talk, for example, that is simply how he experiences it. Others will have a completely different perception.


The commenters over there are falling into the same trap hard. So many variations of "Why would I listen to this when I could just read the information quicker?" Who are these people who cannot fathom that people may want to listen to something mildly informative while they are otherwise unable to focus on reading? Or just have an easier time absorbing information audibly rather than visually? Or even that someone would listen to something because hearing another human voice provides a value beyond pure information?

Really though, I just wonder how valuable these people think their time really is? I assume their "I need to be absorbing optimal information at all times" shtick is supposed to come across as smart, but it just comes across as a little slow.


It's part of the whole tech self-important "Always be hustling" schtick. The same people who want an abstract at the beginning of every article that isn't written in inverted pyramid style.

That said, I've never liked talk radio (or even radio in general) very much. And am certainly not a fan of meandering chit-chat style podcasts. A lot of podcasts could also probably stand to be shorter as could many presentations. But even a simple 20-30 minute interview conveys information and nuance in a way that a transcript or article doesn't necessarily.

ADDED: There are of course also produced shows that are more than just the words spoken just as a film is more than a paragraph synopsis of the plot.


It's not about valuable time, it's about the low bandwidth. That's why I also, in general, don't watch Youtube videos that try to explain theoretical concepts. It's like watching paint dry, when I could just read it in a small fraction of the time if the material is available in written form. At least Youtube videos are useful where the visual is important, e.g. repair instructions. Podcasts don't even have that. The only time (in my particular situation) where podcasts could be an alternative is when I'm driving my car, but my commute is very short, so in practice there's never a time where I would want to listen to a podcast. How each of us feel about bandwidth is, of course, completely individual.


Just to provide a counter experience, there are so many moments in my life that I find more enjoyable now by "low bandwidth" consumption. Washing dishes, cooking, weekly and even daily yard work, dog walks, commuting of all sorts, exercise. I can fill all of these moments with news or laughter or critical thought or just another voice to have in the background keeping me company in what would otherwise be a very singular task.

With that said, I'm not a music person, I never have been, so I don't turn to music often for entertainment and don't really find much joy in it. I also learn extremely well from spoken word and visuals and much less-so from written (probably why I like youtube videos that explain things).


You can speed up videos. 3x is easy and efficient.


I forgot to add that in addition to the bandwidth issue, it's also about the sequential nature of podcasts and videos. I like to move back and forth when I'm learning something. E.g. an explanation that I want to re-read after reading something more, for a better understanding. So for me it's the slow input _and_ the sequential nature of audio and video that I don't like, for the most part. With some execptions, of course.


It's not solely about 'time value'. I have an inherent dislike for reiteration and meandering, which is easy to skip in written works by scanning ahead. But with podcasts I have to do a skip-dance without cues.

On the contrary I've found that listening to air traffic control recordings is relaxing and helps with task-concentration because it follows strict procedures and no-one wastes time blethering. It's like a verbal metronome. You really have to make your own if you want high quality, though, since LiveATC is an earsore.


He's outraged because he can be. Personally, I think it would be better to be against pointless written opinion pieces.


Is he though or is this an attempt to discredit a competitor? This guy is a journalism in a era when newspapers and other forms of tradition media are dying. Journalism is seen as a joke, partisan, propaganda, and even an enemy of the State by large swatches of the public.


Lol and articles like these are exactly the reason why people feel this way


Yea, I'm not going to listen to music I want to listen to for the first time on a crowded noisy tube thanks.


As if where you listen to some music the "first time" matters?

(Like the first time one has sex, which has rom-coms and romantic fiction instill on us that it has to be "special"?)

I've discovered and first heard all kinds of great music on the tube and other casual places, and didn't hurt my later re-listening and appreciation of them...


I dunno, I have an intense fandom for certain artists and when they release new music I like to listen with my higher quality headphones, at home in peace and quiet to really take it in as fully as possible.

Though this is only for maybe 3 projects a year so it isn't how I listen to all new music.


I guess this comes to personal rites etc.

I like to do that too, but if you're anything like me, most of your early music, you listened in high school or college in whatever kind of crappy quality (e.g. downloaded mp3 or crappy cassette copy depending on age), random conditions, etc, but still connected fine with it.


I think they are actually apples to apples when you consider that the apples are 'attention' and that we live in an attention economy where every piece of media is trying to maximize the time you spend with it. So what he's saying is that your attention is being wasted on shitty podcast, instead of trying to find good unheard music. I disagree with this, because I find that knowledge should get more attention than art/entertainment. But that's not to say that there aren't shitty time-wasting podcasts, but you can say the same about music.


> "With so many delicious oranges uneaten, why should anyone waste their time consuming a mealy, flavorless apple?"

Well, you're not wrong, apples are a garbage fruit. And podcasts interviewing people via cellphone lines is a garbage podcast.

If any podcaster is worried about inconveniencing their guests by asking for quality recordings, consider that the viewership takes a lower view of their guests when audio quality drops: https://psychcentral.com/news/2018/04/14/scientists-often-di.... You practically owe it to your guests to insist on a quality line to avoid disadvantaging themselves in the marketplace for ideas.


I'm fine with the rest of your comment, but no, no NO you just don't get to say apples are a garbage fruit without contention, just no. Apples are great. Not all (I'm looking at you, Red Delicious), but I'd much rather eat an apple than an orange. (I'd much rather have fresh orange juice than any form of apple juice, if that takes the edge off my orange-hate.)


> Not all (I'm looking at you, Red Delicious)

Red Delicious is the American platonic ideal of an apple. When I think of all the apple's I've been given in childhood, they were all RD. Any vigorous defender of apples has to answer for the crimes against humanity that we call "Red Delicious". After all, one rotten apple spoils the bunch.


If you haven't had one yet, one of my recent favourites is an Ontario-grown Red Prince apple. There should probably just be a whole thread for apples as that's a subject I could get into!


It's pretty clear what's happening here: the author prefers music to podcasts, and then tries his best to make some sort of argument to justify this. His arguments are at best nonsensical and at worst completely contradictory.

I was considering writing out a response to each of his points but it's honestly not worth my time. A lot of what the author says is a blatant slap in the face to podcasters that spend so many hours tinkering with their work. Quotes like "By sound good, I meant that I wanted podcasts to sound considered." and "...podcasters aren’t thinking hard enough about what their talk sounds like" are ridiculous if you know any serious or notable podcaster in person.

One reason why this might be happening [to the author] is because the author wants podcasts to be more like music, but the reality is that even though music and podcasts are competing for the same resource (ears) their goals are mostly different. The primary differentiating factor is that podcasts almost always aim to convey some concrete information to the listener, and this constraint will always limit the ways the information can be transmitted to the listener (as opposed to music, which is more free-form in nature and isn't necessarily subjected to any restrictions).


His half explained defence of music being less listened to was pretty strange.

Who cares if people listen to less music? Most people were listening to recycled top 40 trash on radio before podcasts became accessible in cars and on smartphones. I’d personally rather people learn stuff or hear about interesting topics while they drive than hear the same song for the 30th time.

A lot of crap passes for podcasts but so does modern journalism where the click baity headlines are the only interesting part of the story.


> Who cares if people listen to less music?

The writer here is a pop music critic, so his paycheck comes from people listening to and being interested in music.


> Most people were listening to recycled top 40 trash on radio before podcasts became accessible in cars and on smartphones. I’d personally rather people learn

Thank you! Personally I'm very disappointed by Top-40...I view music as a medium which has inspired me with confidence, empathy and curiosity.

What's more, music, like porn, should get credit for having bootstrapped open-source data sharing.

It plays a huge role in my life personally. I like to think that certain lyrics and artists gave me back a thirst for spirituality after a dogmatic, puritan upbringing brought me to nausea at the mention of the word. (FWIW, I wouldn't describe myself as a "worshipper"...but rather I've a fresh appreciation for the potentials of meditation and storytelling)

I enjoy curation of Podcasts, and more pointedly...seeking out interviews with people talking about what I want to learn about...this has taken what I love about "edifying music" and does it in a more distilled and long-form format. Allow me to name a few off the top of my head who just ooze wisdom:

Henry Rollins (In his older age esp.) is a profoundly well-spoken and inspirational traveler and writer. I intend to read all his books someday; but for now getting a distilled version of his wisdom from his spoken word or interview on JRE is hugely empowering and inspiring during a workout or long commute.

Jordan Peterson; Big disclaimer here: I don't love his conclusions. Instead, I immerse myself in his thought-experiments, remaining skeptical, smirking at his casual dismissal of activism. I've listened to his audiobook (12 rules) back-to-back when biking to work, it got me asking questions, which reinforced my own pursuits. This is the opposite of apathy, so agree with him or not...he's a voice I like to have around.

Alan Watts: Philosophy, Taoism. I mention this because there's a very interesting trend going on: Philosophical Chillstep; aka rhetoric set to a rhythm. The paranoid might cry brainwashing...I've been critical of that dynamic and I conclude that it's a nice way to get someone's talking points...it's encouraged me to seek out the long-form original versions of the oration.

Zoog Von Rock / Amelia Arsenic of Angelspit: The top commenter mentions punk, so allow me to include these Auzzie-gone-murrican cyberindustrial rabblerousers. What's funny is that I see correlation between some messages in Angelspit's lyrics and aforementioned JP's rhetoric (both consider the consequences of a world that liquidates human quality of life in pursuit of productivity) Edit: Example of some of Zoog's helpful vlogging: https://youtu.be/WYDjNKESS5A

Adam Yang 2020: Obama rode on Facebook. Trump ran on Twitter. I'm watching Yang on Youtube with particular interest...this is a guy with 75 policies...and at rallies there seems to be a sentiment for returning to respecting intelligence and a thirst for leaders who can back up their ideas with numbers. Feeling hopeful, might streetteam l8r.

I hope the author of the article takes notice of him, in fact, because for how formulaic pop-music is...one wonders how long it will be before generating reviews and top-lists of pop-music songs will be entirely automated...


> It's pretty clear what's happening here: the author prefers music to podcasts

So true. It seems like people fall pretty hard in to one or the other, music or talk. People like the author here doesn't seem to understand or accept this? Or he just has a word count quota. I fall in to the talk side of things, my husband falls in to the music side of things. He gets to arrange all bbq, get-together playlists and I get to arrange our road trip queues that keep me awake at the wheel.

> I was considering writing out a response to each of his points but it's honestly not worth my time.

I, too, want to talk at length about this. Ultimately, that would cut in to my podcast time so I'll just grumble to myself and leave my reply at this.


"I have strong feelings, and therefore I will invent rational-sounding excuses to justify my feelings, and I know they are right because they are mine!" kind of writing.


What an edgy, contrarian critique.

Watch as the author translates his criticisms of some podcasts that he doesn't like into a global criticism of all podcasts.

I wonder if this guy still insists on listening _exclusively_ to LPs and lossless audio formats.

Here are some things about podcasts that I love:

* some podcasts are true gems -- extremely high quality content

* free

* no ads or ads are trivial to avoid

* blather that I (and apparently the author) don't like can be trivially skipped

* rule 34 for podcasts: someone is making podcasts about everything

Did I mention occasionally extremely high quality, free, and no ads?


Can you point me to some high quality podcasts? Most I have listened to have so much fluff and unnecessary banter that I subconsciously tune out.

I have been trying to get on the podcast bandwagon but having a hard time finding something to like.


Are you just listening to popular stuff or looking for podcasts about your more obscure interests? Or just randomly sampling?

I like storytelling podcasts for example, so something like "Re:Sound" was great. It is compilation of the best from other sources: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/re-sound/id135072877 (hard to find it actually) This can lead you to a number of podcasts from all over the world.

Critical Role is an amazing very long form podcast of a DnD game: https://critrole.com/ And if you like it, there is another bunch of similar content discoverable by association.

A lot of top-level stuff targets general audience. If that does not appeal to you, keep digging. Possibly treating it the same way you may look for technical information, with specific keywords, exclusion patterns and following the cross-referencing links. Once you hit the niche you like, you can then test different things within that.


The Adventure Zone: a family roleplaying game turned into a largely-improvisational radio play.

It's not even that this podcast is perfect, but I think it hints at the immense promise of what the format could become!


Jocko Willink puts out an excellent podcast focusing on learning leadership and discipline lessons via military history books from the perspective of a Navy SEAL.

I don't listen to it too much because it gets pretty dark (My Lai, WWI, Chechnya), but every episode I've listened to has been worthwhile.

http://jockopodcast.com/


99% Invisible

Making Sense

This American Life

Serial

Heavyweight

Imaginary Worlds

Reply All

More Perfect

Intelligence Squared US


Welcome to Night Vale

The Black Tapes

Within The Wires

Myths and Legends

Ear Hustle

The Allusionist

The top four there are fiction if it matters to you.


Hardcore History

Drifter's Sympathy

S-Town


noagendashow.com


And congressionaldish.com


Slate Podcasts


>What an edgy, contrarian critique.

Let's not use "edgy and contrarian" like Britain's working class use "pretentious". E.g. to criticize any attempt to divert from the norm and be more inquisitive.

It's perfect fine to be "contrarian". If anything, we need more of those.


>And being contrarian for the sake of being contrarian is a TERRIBLE idea. I'm all for thoughtful criticism, but simply disliking things for no intelligible reason is grounds for ridicule.

It makes as much sense as liking things because they're the norm, which is the default for most people. So hardly "grounds for ridicule".

Plus, "being contrarian for the sake of being contrarian" adds contrarian voices, which are by definition few (if they were many, they wouldn't be contrarian but "the norm") -- and are thus sorely needed in a mono-culture of agreement (or shallow bi-partisan splits of opinion, like Dems and Reps).

If not for anything else, to serve as the devil's advocate, since few ever consider points outside the norm.

Notice that I said contrarian, not stupid/crazy. E.g. it should be a contrary opinion to popular opinion/norm, but that doesn't mean any contrary opinion will do (e.g. "I believe we should all be eating rocks").


This was the best quote of the article for me:

Forget the lousy microphones and the dinky interstitial stock music — the thing that derails most podcasts is the blab. There are two kinds, more or less. The first is that soft, inquisitive staccato popularized by Ira Glass on “This American Life,” the source from which so much pod-voice appears to have sprung.

The ubiquitous NPR Voice/Sound is really what turns me off from podcasts/audiobooks/etc. While I love NPR, their sound is absolutely grating to listen to. Too HD, rife with extremely loud and detailed plosives and sibilants. I don't want to listen to the speaker suck the spit back down their throats in excruciating detail after every sentence.

NPR's sound quality is too detailed. It's like if you watched a video of someone talking and could see the aftermath of a popped zit smack in the middle of your screen.


That's fascinating, because the NPR sound is just a close-mic'd Neumann U87 microphone with the bass roll-off engaged:

https://current.org/2015/06/a-top-audio-engineer-explains-np...

The U87 is a classic mic first made in 1967 and used on everything. Lots of famous pop song vocals are still recorded with a U87 to this day. And they're expensive, they cost $3200 new at Sweetwater.

The U87 is a Condenser microphone, while the RE20 mentioned in the article is a Dynamic - I wonder if maybe you don't like the sound of condensers mics in general. They typically have a crisper high-end that catch a lot of detail.


I imagine if you listened to the vocal stem it would sound as extreme. It's just masked by other noise or gated/sliced out most of the time. Some people make a feature of those noises; Muse is an obvious example and they certainly divide people.


So don't listen to NPR? I don't understand how any of this is a reflection of podcasts as a whole. There are so many different podcasters and organisations all doing it completely differently. It's one of the most democratic forms of media consumption that I'm aware of - you can pick any platform, you can pick whatever you want to listen to, you're not locked into a certain player or anything else. If you don't like the way one podcast sounds, listen another podcast.


This sound is from excessive EQ and limiting held over from trying to get the most out of the limited bandwidth of broadcast radio.


My understanding is that, more specifically, it's a sound that's very carefully tailored to the acoustic environment in which NPR is typically consumed: a moving car.

I once heard an interview with an NPR audio engineer where he related how he'd epoxy the studio microphones' bass roll-off switches in place because the setting that most people thought made their voices sound better also made them harder to understand over highway noise.


I didn't see your reply before I posted, but I think I just linked to that interview in my comment above - it includes that anecdote.


>the setting that most people thought made their voices sound better also made them harder to understand over highway noise.

I'm looking at you, Roman Mars of '99% Invisible'.


I was never really into podcasts until I started my current job and commuting regularly. After a while I noticed that listening to music was beginning to fuel my frustration with other drivers and I'd get to work already stressed out. I started listening to talk radio and podcasts and that has really improved my feelings on the road and my state of mind walking into the office.

I honestly don't think it has really impacted my music listening either. I'll toss something on at work and listen while I work through a problem or while reading. The type of music I listen has shifted to fit my purposes but it is still there and I don't see it going away either.


I too have a commute, and find podcasts a nice way to stay current with news, learn something new, or hear about new stuff in areas that are interesting to you.

I can't really listen to podcasts while working since I can't really focus on the the talking while thinking about what I'm doing, so music is perfect. It can help keep me focused and gives me plenty of time for exploring new music.

The author's stance on Podcasts is just so odd. That you somehow can't enjoy both? Seems like he has an axe to grind or something.


> music was beginning to fuel my frustration with other drivers

I find Reggae to be the best music for commuting, some Bob Marley, Peter Tosh or Toots and I am way more chill.


This is surprising, given the vitriol that is on much of talk radio. What kind of music was making you more frustrated on the road?


Also consider listening to audiobooks, or even better, audio lectures from places like ItunesU. Then your commute will actually make you smarter....


The single word that comes to mind when reading this: "Waaaaaaah!!!"

I listen to podcasts because I learn from them or am entertained by specific people with insights and expertise I appreciate. The whole bit about eavesdropping on a conversation is the essence of what makes a good podcast: it's a conversation that if you caught a part of it in real life you would stop and stand at the edge to listen and learn more. And the best podcasts involve listener feedback, sometimes in real-time.

Perhaps the ultimate irony of the assertion that podcasting is killing music is that podcasting was INVENTED by an MTV VJ and former disk jockey, Adam Curry, and that the ORIGINAL podcast -- The Daily Source Code -- was heavily focused on music and ultimately shut down because RIAA lawyers leveled a massive legal threat at Adam even after he had purchased online music licensing to cover his podcast.

What podcasting does is decentralize the exchange of information: it destroys the ability of a powerful few to be the gatekeepers of information or "pick the hits." That's why "they" hate it and why it will only increase as a medium over time.


Adam Curry came up with the name but people were embedding media in RSS feeds before that.


Actually, Ben Hammersley seems to have come up with the name. Adam Curry and Dave Winer are usually credited with the concept but it certainly wouldn't surprise me if you had embedded media in RSS earlier.


Wow, talk about gatekeeping.

I think podcasts are wonderful, a form of media that has very low barriers to entry and where the smaller players can compete with the big boys on a relatively level playing field.

So what if a lot of podcasts are crap? If the podcaster enjoys it and someone listens then good for them.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that.


Literal gatekeeping - I just get a paywall when I click on the link.

Aaand nothing of value was lost.


I'm sure even podcasters like to be paid for their work—whether you agree with what they're saying or not.

I hear a large number of podcasters slide their commercials and sponsors in as if they're not being sponsored at all—and there are no communications regulations focusing on subversive use of advertisements in those contexts.

There is space for the good in the podcast world, but I wouldn't assume it's superior be default. Fool's errand, IMO.


I'm referring solely to the link to the Washington Post article. No article comes up, just a paywall.


Podcasts are talk radio on demand. If you're against podcasts, you're against talk radio. Or at the very least, you're against making talk radio more convenient and accessible.


I feel like podcasts are similar to, but not exactly the same as, talk radio. Most talk radio formats are built around listeners calling in, for instance, which can provide a degree of spontaneity that isn't possible in a prerecorded format like a podcast.

(Which gives me an excuse to link to the classic Mr. Show sketch, "Pre-Taped Call-In Show": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mhVbLJvYP8s)

That being said, I do think the appeal of podcasts is pretty close to what people find appealing about talk radio: people like to hear other people talk.


I always hated it when listeners called in on talk radio. They very rarely had anything insightful to day, and even if they did, they general weren't able to convey it clearly.


I always inwardly cringe when they start going off topic and the host keeps trying to rein them in. But when it's someone who knows how to present themselves on radio, it's good.

There's this one show on CBC where listeners call in to a plant expert about their gardening problems, and he identifies them and suggests solutions on the spot. You get a wide variety of people who call in, but since the roles are reversed—callers are asking questions, not answering them—they tend to be much more to the point and willing to give up the floor. Despite not caring one whit about plants and gardening, I really enjoy this show.

If the expert doesn't know the answer, sometimes another listener will call in to save the day. One of my favourite ones is when a lady's tree saplings were starting to die after they got a new well drilled, and after a bunch of questions the plant expert was stumped. Well, a well driller called in a few minutes later and said it was almost certainly the oil coating used on the pipes to prevent rust during storage (totally safe for consumption, but apparently harmful to trees), and the solution was to wait until the oil wore off after a few months.

It sounds boring, but the plant expert is one of those old men who just have a way with words, and the CBC host is really good with prompting both the expert and caller with more questions or anecdotes.


"Gardener's Question Time" on the BBC is the same kind of soothing listening

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gardeners%27_Question_Time


There is a similar show in the Atlanta area where a professor from The University of Georgia answers gardening questions. I also find the callers on that show are a lot easier to listen to. I think you're right about them asking questions instead of just making comments.


Yeah, the whole "Long time listener, first time caller" thing where they take like a minute before they get to their question, if indeed they actually have one. To be fair, I see this sort of thing in person fairly often in scientific seminars where somebody "asks a question" but spends time first complimenting the speaker on the seminar, and then spends a couple of minutes just making comments rather than actually asking an answerable question.


Long ago I listened to a once-popular talk show host whose name is something in the neighborhood of Tush Pinball. He pushed his callers to dispense with all of that "Long time listener, first time caller from the heartland hills of Indiana" stuff and just start the call by saying "Ditto." Easy and convenient, a really time saver, right? Except callers somewhat quickly started saying things like "Mega-dittoes from the heartland hills of Indiana..." and little, if any, time was actually saved.

P.S. I made up "the heartland hills of Indiana."


Pretty much every conference with Q&A ever. You can't avoid it in some settings, and sometimes a question will hit some point that the speaker obviously deliberately avoided, but for the most part Q&A is an anti-pattern at events. Provide some forum where the speaker can interact one on one instead.


Most podcasts I listen to record on a live stream and take corrections and questions from a chat room, which usually keeps me from yelling at the hosts "YOU FORGOT THIS ANGLE TO THE MATTER". Having it be a text chat room going on in parallel also avoids the say-nothing dud call-ins and the hemming and hawing of the general public.


Having listened to both I don't think this characterization is right. The sound of podcasts is heavily heavily inspired by the sound of NPR, but that is very different from what a lot of talk radio sounds like. The new-age analog of talk radio is streaming, it has a similar cadence and improvisation with the back and forth between rambling and participating with the audience.


I'm not sure what you're referring to (maybe the big names of current podcasting?), but I can assure you the rest of the world has podcasts too and may or may not have ever listened to NPR at all. This American Life isn't so old afaik, and I definitely listened to podcasts before that and never to any NPR stuff.


This American Life started in 1995.


My apologies, I meant to say "This American Life in podcast form", or take Serial as an example that's often quoted.

But it basically stresses my point. It could very well be that it was a direct inspiration for the first podcasts, but nowadays it's used as "audio content, often episodic". Also people often name the production value and other criteria of the big ones. But my point is that podcasts are on average not high production value or even done by companies or in the type of certain radio programs. I'd even say a sizable chunk is just the same people talking about the same or related topic(s) - I don't think I've ever heard that format on a radio station. (Except the same person interviewing different people, if that counts as "the same topic".)


The on-demand feature changes the nature of the medium. With radio you are often joining mid-stream, whereas with a podcast you always get to hear the whole thing. Plus the live callers, as others have pointed out.


>With all of the world’s unheard songs beckoning us with their endless mystery, why would anyone choose to waste their precious listening hours on a podcast?

Yoy could replace podcast with pretty much anything. I don't like listening to music all of the time or doing any one thing all of the time for that matter. I get bored and I just don't enjoy it as much anymore. And really, I love music. I used to want a job like Radio DJ where I could listen to music all day and I love coding because I mostly get to do that. But, I don't want to listen to all the music ever created because a lot of it just isn't for me and the mystery stops feeling endless after a while. My listening hours aren't precious to me if I listen on the commute, 8+ hours at work, and at home when I'm doing chores. Every single day. I wish those hours were more precious sometimes. I'd love for music to feel as meaningful to me as it did when I was a teenager when I only had a few CDs and new music was a big purchase or something given to me by a friend. But now it's like I'm drowning in too many options and I'm just shuffling through different playlists trying to find something that sounds interesting. So I listen to Audiobooks or Podcasts or just my own head radio if I can. It's not wasted time at all because it helps me enjoy music more in the long run.

This really is a terrible article and it seems like an immature opinion to have. I'm surprised to see it in the Washington Post.


I would think a way to recapture the meaning and mystique of music listening is not necessarily to throttle your listening time, but rather to more intentionally explore different genres & curate your own taste. The kind of aimless browsing you describe can happen at any duration of listening per week, if we allow it.


This article reads like a wordy extension of the author's "Twitter fit". I feel like I read a lot of "I tweeted something" articles these days.

Ironic that the one tidbit about how it "sounds" (but not actually talking about sounds) is about people wanting to be heard, and the foundation of this is "I tweeted something one day".


I don't mind the tweet follow-up articles at all - in fact I'd hope that writers with a platform would use said platform to expound on their twitter musings more often. Twitter is perfect for taking the temperature on an issue.

That said - I felt that this article was a bit of a waste of the initial interest the tweet garnered.


I feel like Twitter is a terrible medium to take temperature of anything.

The medium is the message and Twitter only serves to push a very inane sort of message / response.


It’s weird that this article is upvoted but every commenter agrees that it’s worthless. Every point he makes falls flat, and it feels like pointless contrarianism. It’s fine if you don’t like podcasts, guy.


>Why does an experience so inherently intimate feel so alienating to me?

Because you're an obsessive extravert who's unable to enjoy a conversation you're not part of.

>so instead of treating podcasts as a convenient way to feel smarter

Author says that and then proceeds to do that the whole article. Every single podcast he tried was some hoity-toity artsy interview cast. I listen to podcasts to be entertained. I listen to people play Dungeons and Dragons, or narrate short stories, or improv comedy, or publish their own audio book.

>I’m anxious about music ceding all of that time and turf to the rise of “big podcast,

Good god, what a fucking douchecanoe this guy is.


Douchecanoe. You nailed it. Nothing like a pointless rant that tries to pin your extremely personal experience on the masses. Thanks WP.


I like the idea of podcasts because of the amateur angle, not so much since it's basically just another version of talk radio. I don't doubt there is some loss in social contact if you use a recording to fill-in for conversation, but there's something a little off-putting about music too.

It worries me sometimes that (given my age) 'More Than a Feeling' or 'Hold On Loosely' are so etched into my brain...and I'm a jazz listener/musician. Why is that? They live next to old commercial jingles and show the amount of programming that can go on in the 'independent' mind.

To finish up my old man rant, it's funny how modern people need constant noise and a steady supply of sweet beverages to avoid unease. Maybe there's a book here on the curative value of quiet walks and drinking plain water, it wouldn't be very long though.


> Maybe there's a book here on the curative value of quiet walks and drinking plain water, it wouldn't be very long though.

I like the sound of that one. You should put it together.

Leave some blank pages for breathing room. Some nice binding, fine paper selection, and care in type choices.

Are we collaborating now?


Only the finest handmade paper will be used.


But first, a smartphone app to manage the water consumption and walking times.


This is just an ad for a book. He wraps it inside an inflammatory opinion piece. But it’s really just an ad. Why isn’t that obvious to people?


Perhaps this is what art is at this point. Crafting a piece that can get people outraged, get them to invest time and finger activity over an opinion that perhaps the author doesn't even care about. It's just to cause a stir in people. I think there are a lot of people who just listen to podcasts to tune out the emptiness of their day. Why does it matter if the auditory input is a podcast, or terrible music, or the drone of daily life? I don't think the author does. I think like you said, it's just to stir the pot to get eyes on an ad. That seems like a fun job.


Thank you. I wish newspapers would stop this deceptive practice or openly mark the "article" as an ad. It's far worse than clickbait titles to me since I can immediately spot the clickbait, but you won't realize the article is an ad until you've read the damn thing.


> “Ways of Hearing.” It’s a podcast — recently transposed into a book

> I’ve been pushing “Ways of Hearing” on my loved ones

All podcasts are bad, but a book about a podcast is okay because I can sell it.


Podcasts are radio on demand. They offer all the variety that radio does, or did, and more. They can offer the quality of a good commercial radio show, or the quality of a rotting potato, or anything in between. It’s up to you to find something you like. There’s so much out there that there is probably something you’ll like.

So many of these comments talk as though “podcast” implies news or commentary and that’s it. Did I stumble into an alternate universe? I know those exist (news and commentary podcasts exist, that is), but there’s so much more. The closest I get are news-related comedy shows like Wait Wait or the BBC’s Now Show. I’m always on the lookout for the next episode of Welcome to Night Vale, and on the rare occasions that there’s a new Hardcore History, it’s a real treat. If I run out of something new, I love to listen to an episode or two of the old Dragnet radio series and get immersed in 1950’s Los Angeles.

Podcasts are inferior to text or video? That’s like saying that cheese is inferior to the Central Limit Theorem. The comparison doesn’t even make sense.

I basically can’t listen to podcasts without something physical to do. If I’m idle and trying to listen, I’ll start reading something at the same time and miss half the show. But while I’m out for a walk or doing yard work or cooking or on a long drive? They’re the best! Text or video aren’t sensible there. The only competition would be radio (or, ugh, my own thoughts), where the comparison is just like the comparison between live TV and video on demand.


Summary: Bad boring and podcasts with low production value are bad and boring and have low production value.


Huh, its funny because I always thought I hated podcasts because of the typical NPR sound. I love a ton of low budget podcasts now and feel like its a lot more normal/organic to listen to people on lower budget mics than the NPR style mic/sound production.


It seems the author doesn't like bad podcasts.

If you came to the comments to see if there was anything of substance about the article, don't worry, you're free to move on. ;)


Listening a big chunk of my free time to various podcasts, I reluctantly come to the conclusion that the biggest enemy of podcasts is thinking and introspection. Where before I had moments in my day where I let my mind freely wander and think to the issues I'm currently working on or others, now I rarely have these moments anymore as I listen to podcasts more. I wish I reverted a bit, but it's difficult, listening podcasts has become a kind of addiction I guess.


I've commented about it before--I was listening to podcasts way too much and it destroyed my creativity. I've cut down to 3 shows, which comes out to about 3-4 hours of content a week, and I try to save it for washing dishes, cooking dinner, or driving. My suggestion: trim the fat, pick a couple podcasts you really enjoy and unsubscribe from the rest, then resist the urge to hit 'play' as you're getting dressed in the morning.


My experience is the opposite. Every little external sound is distracting. It's only when I'm ignoring some audio that I can think about problems holistically.


I wonder how he feels about NPR or BBC? I listen to a lot of podcasts but they are almost all round-table style shows. I very occasionally catch This American Life on NPR but I have very little interest in listening to all the scripted shows that seem to be imitating it and I have zero interest in true crime.


The difference between an edited and an un-edited conversation is night and day. Editing takes out all the stumbles, half-sentences, unfinished ideas etc.

The reason it's not more common? Recording a 2 hour podcast takes 2 hours. Recording and editing a 2 hour podcast takes closer to 10.


Why is this taking up space on the Washington Post? Doesn't this belong on a personal blog or on twitter? Or better yet in private diary? My response is as follows: I'm against self-indulgent, curmudgeonly writing like this intended for public consumption being given the patina of approval by respectable publications like the Washington Post.


I don't like podcasts. The reason I don't like podcasts, though, is the same reason I don't like talk radio or television. If I want to listen to people, I will talk to people myself.

This is not an indictment of podcasts. Rather, it is a personal opinion. And I think the author of this article is confusing his opinion for a general truth.


I agree about unedited podcasts where people just talk to each other, but there are excellent podcasts that are closer to documentaries or audio books (Hardcore History, for example). They're pre-written, heavily edited, and performed well.


And that's just fine, except I don't have any interest in sitting and listening to such things. Other people are totally welcome to enjoy them; I just spend my free time on other things.


Generally, you don't just sit and listen. You do it while doing something else that is non-audio, like commuting or exercising or cleaning or cooking or...


I don't multitask. I follow the philosophy of committing the entirety of my attention to one task at a time.


I read it more as he wanted to vehemently express his opinion, because he likely isn't the only one who has it, and it is an opinion that is not currently voiced in the media.


Since we’re on the topic of podcasts and the article at hand has been pilloried to my satisfaction, I have an unrelated question for other podcast listeners.

Have you ever listened to the same podcast twice and experienced strong, even intrusive visual recollections of what you were doing the first time you listened to it? I find it particularly true from when I’m walking or driving while listening, but my memory is usually terrible and to have these photographic experiences is alien and awesome at the same time.


Yes, especially when driving. Sometimes it feels like I should be reaching for gear stick at the same time as I previously did. It does feel bizarre.


Yes! Sometimes I play Minecraft while listening to podcasts. The episode becomes associated with what I was doing at the time.


Counterpoint: Podcasts can have an immediacy about them that the written word can't compete with.

I'm not talking about the long-form "Serial"-type or magazine "This American Life" style podcasts. Those are very scripted and rehearsed. Rather, I'm talking about a lot of the topical shows I listen to.

Having a few people with chemistry discussing their topic, where they can riff and improvise and be themselves, can be incredibly interesting in the way the written word can't.


> Podcasts are bad because podcasts sound bad — and podcasts sound bad because podcasters aren’t thinking hard enough about what their talk sounds like.

Isn't this how most people get good at things... by doing them badly a bunch of times, and gradually improving?


Such a weird article, more of a waste of words than any podcast I've listened to in a long time.

The mainstream journalists/media have raced to the bottom in a clickbait orgy. Podcasts are one of the only areas where you still have deep in depth coverage of areas the mainstream has too short of an attention for.

Also funny he thinks it's bad for music. I listen to a lot of music podcasts. Mainstream/Pop music is in a horrible place, a lot of these podcasts help keep real musicianship alive. Lots and lots of knowledge transfer.

I play guitar, to use the guitar example if a famous guitarist goes on a podcast you're going to hear a very very different level of content compared to if the Washington Post interviews the guitarist. The podcast guy probably plays guitar and the audience is guitarists so the interviewer can ask intelligent questions and the musician doesn't have to dumb down everything they say to the point it all comes off as magic.

This article is the same kind of thing as someone lamenting we should go back to a 1950s music system where there are a few big companies that are able to play gatekeeper on everything.. so we end up with everyone stuck listening to the same stuff.


I love listening to goofy podcasts that are just a few friends shooting the shit. Middling-to-low production value is part of the charm. One of my recent favorites is The Greatest Generation [0], which is about Star Trek, mostly.

https://art19.com/shows/the-greatest-generation


It's not technically a podcast, but I enjoy listening to James Rolfe and friends (The Angry video Game Nerd) discuss old movies on his youtube channel (cinemassacre)


After skimming through the comments, I refuse to click this link as a matter of principle.


As soon as I noticed that this particular post had more comments than upvotes I couldn't wait to jump in and read both the article and the comments.



With so many wonderful, unread books beckoning, why waste your time reading rags from WP, NYT, etc.?


Strange article, at least for me. A little of what the author says resonates with me but most is a hard ‘no’.

Killing music? Well maybe some people listen to too much music. The author likes highly polished written material (so do I; I have written several books and I am a voracious reader - I am just finishing the very good 66 hour audio book Jerusalem) but there is also a nice human connection hearing someone’s voice and spontaneous interactive dialog.

I listen to the podcast Exponential View (and sometime the MIT AGI class interviews by Lex Firdman) while I am at the gym. I am not a huge fan of going to the gym but keeping up with new tech and the social changes caused by tech while I work out makes the experience better.


Someone call the wambulance.

The entertainment police are out in full swing telling people they are being entertained "wrong."

Look, I really don't care for listening to music, it's just not entertaining to me. I can't explain the reasons why, just not my thing, music just doesn't tickle my fancy so I never listen to it. I also really don't care for live theater or art museums. However, I don't go writing wordy and overwrought op-eds or blog posts saying how I'm 'against' those things, because I different people understand people enjoy different things than me.

I read the first several paragraphs and skimmed the rest because its truly insufferable.


The author needs to find better podcasts. He acknowledges this, but still remains dismissive of podcasts. The Knowledge Project and Exponent replaced every self-help babbler and tech blogger for me. My Brother, My Brother and Me and The Dollop are better entertainment than most of the best TV shows and movies.

It's interesting that this is the opposite of one of the more convincing podcast takes I've seen. I forget who it was, but they argued that podcasts and video were a return to the visual and verbal storytelling and information sharing that pervaded before the relatively limited--in some ways--written word took over. That might have been an Exponent episode...


Just a heads up that The Dollop unapologetically built their huge, lucrative following via naked plagiarism.

I have my own history podcast (with a much smaller audience than The Dollop), and a few years back I discovered that they were re-reading lengthy segments of my original podcast scripts word-for-word on their podcast without permission or attribution. When I called them out they claimed this is "Fair Use", and that non-fiction cannot be copyrighted. It really knocked the wind out of my sails, and it bothers me to this day, so I can't see them recommended like this without adding this important asterisk.

My open letter to them from 2015, with audio evidence: https://www.damninteresting.com/a-special-note-to-the-writer...

Sorry for the bummer. MBMBaM is great though.


It looks like their defense is that they make it clear they're reading what someone else wrote and making jokes. That wasn't clear, but I do understand where they're coming from. I listen for the jokes, not the history. They should be more upfront about their sources.

It's similar to MBMBaM reading Yahoo Answers questions word for word while being silly about it. Except they do make the source clear. I do agree with them that it fits under fair use since it usually protects parody and commentary. They list all their sources now, so it's moot.

I was much more moved by hearing that Lore basically reads off wikis. They don't add anything. That's why I switched to Myths and Legends.


Well, if they had been reading one single article they found online, and just reading it aloud and making jokes about it, I might accept (though still be annoyed by) the "oops we forgot to attribute" defense. But if you look at what The Dollop actually did, they took 5-6 paragraphs from one article, 7-8 paragraphs from another article, a few solitary paragraphs from others, and just glued it all together and never said a word about where the text came from. Cribbing segments from various places like that, and "forgetting" to attribute, that is classic, flagrant plagiarism.

Like you say, MBMBaM credits their source. They're also using 1-2 sentences from a public forum, not a dozen paragraphs from a competing podcast.


I don't now what The Dollop was like four years ago when this happened. What I do know is they list all their sources now, and I can't find any issue with the ratio of quoted material to original.

You obviously put a lot of work into your project. It's not to my taste, but there's a place for a plain telling of history. It's unfortunate The Dollop's early missteps still affect you all these years later. I know what it's like to get hung up on something for long enough that everyone else thinks you should have moved on.


.... so don’t listen to them? I don’t understand why someone’s personal media preferences require an editorial.

I’m pretty meh on TV, but you don’t see me writing a few hundred words on it because I understand that nobody gives a shit about my media preferences.


Of course a jean-wearing, podcast-listening, village-idiot wouldn't understand the Washington Post's high-brow takes.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/04...


This is such a wonderful piece. Thank you for sharing.


The best part is that 1/3 of it is simply quotes from a WSJ piece published a few weeks prior.


You can learn a lot from podcasts and they have the power to turn a commute into productive time.

An odd thing to be against (although indeed, it's hard to listen to ones with poor audio quality).

Maybe the author just needs to discover some like Hardcore History...


This may be the dumbest thing to ever make it to the front page. What a pointless thing to complain about. Podcasts are not for everyone, but to be "against" them is so dumb I dont even know where to start.


This is a pop music critic, of all things. The quality of pop music from a culture and complexity standpoint has fallen through the floorboards like a chunk of radioactive debris and is digging to depths unknown.

People are listening to podcasts because they want to be entertained and informed. You aren't gonna get that by listening to the mumble rapper from Degrassi High. If pop music suffers from podcasts, then maybe podcasts aren't the problem... and if the best you can do is complain about the timbre in someone's voice or the quality of the studio, then you've lost the argument.


Podcasts vs music seems a matter of personal preferences.

I skimmed through this post in a few minutes. It would have been a much longer time if it were a podcast. I don't have that much time to invest on a single subject so I'm not into podcasts. I rarely watch technical videos for the same reason. I definitely prefer text: same content at my own pace.

However I don't commute anymore. When I did I listened to news and random music if driving or I read a book if I was on a subway train (much better than driving.) I could have listened to podcasts or audio books back then.


old man yells at cloud


wait until he comes across an "i hate podcasts" podcast and then he'll be hooked.


> With all of the world’s unheard songs beckoning us with their endless mystery, why would anyone choose to waste their precious listening hours on a podcast?

Maybe some people don’t like music as much.


Pop music critic comes out against podcasts, in part because they aren't well produced.

Yet, what's really killing pop music, at least in part, is that so much of it, to my ears, is now an exercise in production techniques than it is about the music being produced. Ultimately, that "sounding right" is also simply an extension of fashion statement. True, that fashion in pop music has been more important than the actual music for a long time, but over the decades the music part of this has been diminishing in importance.

And frankly, it's pretty boring stuff out there these days mostly because of that emphasis on production values over the content. Everything is so homogeneous; yeah, old guy talking here, but I'm not exactly locked into a generation or genre in what I do choose to listen to, either...

I'm not a big podcast fan, either, though there are a couple I listen to if I have drive time. Still, much of that world, and some YouTube efforts, just seem so much more genuine to me.

Anyway, I think a pop music critic should likely be thinking about what's wrong with pop music that makes podcasts appealing by comparison rather than having sour grapes about a format that clearly is comparatively more desirable, regardless of what faults it may or may not have.


I'm always surprised at the popularity of podcasts vs audiobooks. Seems podcasts have made the jump to "gen pop" but audiobooks, despite the increasing popularity of audible, still tend to be niche.

I'm biased because I'm an audiobook hound, but I'd take an audiobook over a podcast any day. Far superior production quality, better content, a beginning, middle and an end, professional narrators, researched analysis and not just random people spouting off opinions.


It's easier to write a story than it is to write a book. But most topics aren't book worthy, so stories it is.


You might like LeVar Burton Reads or Myths and Legends.


I hate podcasts too. Or to put it more lightly, at the very least they are completely alien to me.

In my opinion the elephant in the room when talking about informational podcasts or video is... text.

As a medium, text is just so much more efficient (at least for me) that I can't begin to imagine why one would want to listen to a piece of content instead of reading it. I scan-read 20 articles faster than I could hear (or watch) a single one of them if they were presented in audio or video. And doing so I still have my ears available (for coworkers at work, for example).

Video can be interesting in a few specific cases : music production is a hobby of mine, and video can be interesting (but not always) as you can simultaneously watch somebody doing something while hearing how it affects the sound.

But most podcasts (and youtube videos) do not exploit the unique properties of audio or video enough to justify the tremendous requirements they ask on my attention span.

In my opinion audio and video emphasize entertainment over information, but most of them are not that entertaining (compared to an actual entertainment media), and not that much informational (compared to a text article).

I think newspapers made a tremendous mistake with the pivot to video and the pivot to podcasts. Vive le texte !


I adore podcasts, they're some of my favorite bits of media in my life.

I also love text, and whole-heartedly agree that for an exchange of information there's nothing that comes close to well-written text. My RSS feed is a cornerstone of my general knowledge of the subjects I'm interested in.

I find the advantage of podcasts is in finding personalities I enjoy discussing those subjects I'm interested in. When I listen to something like ATP I probably already know the facts that the hosts discuss, but I'm interested in hearing their thoughts on the matter, and just as importantly I'm interested in hearing their interchange. The way someone unexpectedly feels about something which can spark a whole new branch of discussion.

The side advantage of the format is that I can do it without letting it distract me too much (such as while commuting) -- so I have this span of time where I cannot read, and maybe I'm not in the mood for music (which I actually get too distracted by).


Can you read 20 articles while driving a car or walking to the store or cleaning your house? I find they're a great way to double-up with activities where I'd otherwise be bored out of my mind, and I can take the opportunity to learn about something, or at the very least not be bored.

TV might be more entertaining, but I've never heard anyone argue "Why would you sit down and watch the new Game of Thrones episode, you should listen to a podcast instead!" Being an audio-only medium makes them a lot more amenable to consuming while you do something else. They're only competing with music and audiobooks in that respect.

It's not like I get home from work and think "You know what I want to do this evening? Sit in a chair and listen to podcasts for an hour."


I do these kind of activities, but mostly divided in 5 to 15mn chunks. (Notably, my commute to work is a mere 10mn walk and I have a toddler child at home requiring frequent attention)

I would have trouble dividing a 40mn podcast into five listens divided over 3 days.

For those kind of double-up, I find listening music vastly more enjoyable, but that's just my opinion. Lately I actually prefer not doubling-up and just listen to the silence and letting my mind wander. It feels good too !


There's short form podcasts that work in 10-20 minute segments too, The Memory Palace is one that I'm subscribed to.

But I totally agree it's nice to not multitask and just let your mind wander sometimes.


Do you spend parts of you day where you're able to listen to audio but not read text? For instance while commuting to work, while exercising, while using your hands in a project that requires only a bit of concentration? I'm a big fan of podcasts in those cases but I would never listen to one when I'm able to read text from a book or screen.


I mostly answered your question while answering the sibiling comment : https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19738724


I really can't read text when walking by myself or doing exercises which makes audio much more productive than text for my use case.


He missed a trick to christen "Big Pod". Most music is garbage anyways.

More importantly, pods are not about "sound". They're about "social".

Podcasts are rent-a-friends.


I used to be quite fond of many podcasts, but my love has been recently waning, mostly owing to two obnoxious trends: 1) Re-runs, which make no sense in the podcast realm; and 2) podcasts airing episodes from other shows on the same podcast network. Both practices are increasingly common, and they rapidly fill my feed with content I don't care to listen to. It's hard to housekeep since I mostly listen while driving.


>podcasts airing episodes from other shows on the same podcast network

I get your point but it's also allowed me to discover podcasts I probably wouldn't have otherwise learned about. And my general experience is that, if the cross-post is on a favorite podcast, it's probably worth at least a trial run.

I mostly pre-curate a playlist before getting in the car. There are very few podcasts where I listen to all or even most episodes. I do wish there was a better voice interface of some sort so that I could better interact while driving.


Yeah, I understand their intention, but personally I am seldom intrigued by the alternate offering. Consequently, to my ears, each such crossover becomes a very long advertisement, and these crossovers have been popping up a lot as podcast networks continue to grow. If the preview were in the form of a short excerpt, enough to give me a sense of the other show's vibe, I would call that a livable compromise, but I can't abide having entire episodes foisted on me.

But maybe I am an outlier, and if so, I will just be unhappy about it all by myself.


Fair enough. It's certainly more about mutual back scratching than it is audience service.

I'm probably less affected because I pretty much choose individual episodes to watch anyway rather than just listen to everything on a given podcast. I don't commute so I don't spend a huge amount of time in my car and therefore don't listen to a huge number of podcasts overall. (I rarely listen at home.)


I just read someone saying that he doesn't like podcasts but using the word "against" to shock friends and attract clicks.


Abbreviated: "I hate this medium because of my strawman reasons."


I know a few podcasters and one thing they seem not well prepared for is the extreme difficulty of voice recording and processing. In particular sibilance control and dynamics are just really difficult. Having a good vocal sound takes a lot of experience. I can't really blame them, as quality of content is probably most important.


TFA arguments seem ... ill informed. "Not a replacement for music?" Uh, ok. Entertainment is more important than information? sure bro....

I don't care for podcasts either.

(1) Most are too infomation-lite and too long. I can read far far far faster than someone can speak.

(2) Most adopt sort of a morning-show breezy chat back and forth, which drags the information content down.

I listen to one-two podcasts regularly, depending on mood. One is a 10-12 minute religious homily by a scholar; the other is a hour-long run by a criminal justice lawyer commenting on legal issues regarding the police and society. Both are information sources I can't get elsewhere easily.

I think of podcasts as talk radio.

FWIW, historically there were radio dramas - works of fiction created for radio. I am sure there are similar podcasts which are tons of fun for people.


This is by far the most immature accusation of all accusations i have heard from people on podcasts. He lost me when he said "Most podcasts are conversations for people to eavesdrop on — recorded talk that precludes real-life talk about real life with zombie talk about podcasts". This is like saying "Chemistry is just mixing chemicals on conical flasks and lighting up bunsen burners". This is oversimplyfying the existence of podcasts. What about social media ? Does it not preclude from real life connectivity. What about videos ? does it not preclude from real life experience ? What about any form of art ? Does it not preclude us from observing the art of nature. You can basically say this argument to anything. Its an empty argument.


This guy seems to have one of these "bullshit jobs" that David Graeber wrote about.


I don't understand the headline. the word "or" implies the object of podcasts is to kill music? I don't think those are the only options.

I listen to two or three podcasts on a regular basis that admittedly don't have top-notch production values, but also don't have "dinky interstitial stock music" or whatever vague "tone" this guy is admonishing. if he's only listening to badly-produced podcasts that use gimmicks that annoy him, that's basically a personal problem in my opinion. he should try listening to something that isn't just trying to sound like the radio.


>I consider them an enemy of music

Presumably something like 'Lost in The Stacks' http://lostinthestacks.libsyn.com/ with it's amazingly revolutionary mix of, get this, some talking and then some music, would blow his tiny little mind. Current episode, 'As Your Attorney I Advise You Again to Drive at Top Speed' - http://traffic.libsyn.com/lostinthestacks/LITS_Episode_420.m...


Weird article.

I personally can't listen to podcasts for another reason though: I find them so frustratingly slow. E.g. when I read the New Yorker, I can read 5x faster, and more importantly skip over sections I'm less interested in. (So even listening at 2x speed still doesn't fix it, and you just can't "scan" a podcast the way your eyes can scan a page.)

When I listen to a podcast, I feel so stuck at the pace of the spoken word.

A big part of it is also probably that I commute by subway so it's easy to read... maybe if I commuted by car I'd appreciate that a slow podcast is better than nothing at all.


Do you have this problem with speaking to people in real life too? Podcasts aren't meant to be an information dump, it's about the interactions between the hosts.


Huh. I mean, all the podcasts my friends recommend me always seem to be information-dump type ones, whether on politics or design or whatever. Kind of like audio New Yorker articles or mini-documentaries. I listed to the first few hours of Serial and it sure felt like a documentary to me too -- I didn't notice any interaction between the hosts. So I'd just prefer to read.

But to answer your question, no. But maybe that's the difference -- I'd rather "interact" with my friends directly where it's a 2-way street, that just listen to hosts interact with each other. But I guess if I were feeling lonely/bored that could make a lot more sense to put on a podcast, if I couldn't put on a TV show (e.g. because driving)...


And about nuance which can't be expressed as well in writing


The writer is against podcasts, I wonder why...


I'm really confused by the author's arguments

> With all of the world’s unheard songs beckoning us with their endless mystery, why would anyone choose to waste their precious listening hours on a podcast?

Why is he trying to compare music to podcasts? Because they're auditory? By that same token, it could be argued why anyone would choose to waste their precious listening hours on music with all of the world's unheard audio books beckoning us with their endless mystery and wells of knowledge and information.


I'm not so knee-jerk negative about the take industrial complex but boy, this seems like they needed some filler. I dislike the civilizing influence of the "well-produced" podcasts like stuff from NPR. It's not that they're bad (necessarily, but some of them are polished bullshit) it's that they're NOT weird and kind of bad.

EDIT: Ironically, the ones he holds up as standards (S-Town, Pod Save America) are the ones I generally detest.


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