It now seems like the strongest anti-podcasting meme is that of “Podcasts take too long to listen to. I can read X blogs in that time.” It’s tiresome to hear people over and over look at podcasts with blog-colored glasses. Because these people write blogs and read blogs and podcasts are in some cases (decreasingly so) associated with a sponsoring blog (such as this one), they think there is a one-to-one correspondence. When they have drank so deeply the blog kool-aid, everything tastes like blog to them. Ain’t so, McGee. I frankly don’t care how many text blogs you can read. As I’ve said over and over, audio carries far more extra-textual information and nuance and context than does the written text, so it is a fallacy that you are “reading more”. You are reading more and getting less, so I think that issue is a wash. If you think the value of a podcast is solely contained in its words, you have missed the point by a mile. You get the words, you get the personality, you form a connection to the podcaster faster than you ever can from reading their text weblogs. It’s not about speed of information datadump, its about the ease of feeling connected to another person.
Stop thinking of podcasts in blog terms, bloggers. If you have to score them, I’d take a stab that the DNA sources for them is 85% radio, 10% blog and 5% TiVo. Do you complain that “I can’t skim This American Life or The Howard Stern Show?” Is that really what is of value to you in a medium, how little you can pay attention to it while paying lip service to having “consumed the content?” God help us all if that’s the best we can do.
I’ve said it in conversations and around the net, but not sure if I’ve said it here in a top-level post. I think this prevailing feeling of “There are too many podcasts, I can’t listen to them all” is the wrong way to look at it. In every city or burg in the developed world and in some of the undeveloped world, you have more radio than you can listen to. You are locked into one channel at a time, and not only doesn’t that bother you but you use that to your advantage. When one sucks, you push the button and try another until you find one that meets your needs. The key metric is not what percentage of all podcasts published you can listen to, it is how much of the time that you’d like to be listening to something interesting, informative, or entertaining are you actually doing so? If 100% or close to that, mission accomplished. It’s about replacing the failure of radio to do that for us, not about taking weblogs to the ears. Frankly, those who think that podcasting is about creating an exact copy of weblogs in audio are shooting so absurdly low as to cause me physical pain. It’s about creating a new medium with new modes and interactions. Even if it started with aspects of all its genetic ancestors, it must go far past that or I will consider the whole grand experiment to be a failure.
To diss a medium because “I can’t listen to it all” is the cry of anguish of the anal retentive. You can’t watch all of TV, listen to all of radio, read all books or magazines published, read all the weblogs out there. When did this become such an important factor? You need enough to keep you happy and occupied, not to feel like you must be able to listen to every second of every podcast ever published. I say that the rallying cry of podcasting is in the words of one of our greatest American philosophers:
With the lights out it’s less dangerous
Here we are now
I feel stupid and contagious
Here we are now
Thank you, good night, drive safely.