Slusher’s Law of Podcasting

OK, I’m being ridiculously bold and naming a rule of podcasting after myself. This is to formally encapsulate a mathematical formula to express why I don’t so much like banter-driven podcasts. I find that a lot of the shows I really like tend to be one person affairs. This makes sense since I publish one of those, that my tastes lean this way. I find that the more people you add into the mix the messier and dumber the talk gets. Without further ado, here is my law:

Whatever interest I have in the topic of a podcast, that interest tends to decrease with the sum of the number of participants in the discussion. Call one person the baseline. The same topic with two people is 1/(1+2) or 1/3rd as interesting, with three is 1/(1+2+3) or 1/6th as interesting.

I hate to talk smack but I’ll name a name. I desperately want to love the Dollar Bin podcast. I heard about them on Comic Book Noise, I’m interested in adding more comic book podcasts to my subscriptions and to boot they are from right here in South Carolina. Right on. However, when I try to listen there are too many people and they spend too much time making in-jokes and goofing on each other and it just reduces the value to me. I first started listening when they were doing their Heroes Con shows, in which one or two people were interviewing comics creators and I thought those shows were great. However, when they went back to their more normal roundtable format of four or more people sitting around talking, I found that I liked it a lot less. I know people like to do the round table format because it takes the pressure off you the individual having to come up with the entire show but me as a listener, I like it less as an experience.

In fact, you can take this back as far as the IT Conversations version of the Gillmor Gang. I liked the shows where they had four or five people, but one episode they had eight and it was way less interesting and informative than an average show because it was all people talking over each other and basically unlistenable.

Are their exceptions? Sure. I should really call this “Slusher’s Tendency of Podcasting” because it is both just my taste and not even universal within that but that ain’t as sexy a moniker. The In Our Time podcast is always Melvyn Bragg and three panelists and I like that just fine and probably more than I would with just two people discussing the topic. But on the whole with the average show, I find that throwing more people in the mix almost always reduces the value to me.

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Dave Slusher is a blogger, podcaster, computer programmer, author, science fiction fan and father. Member of the Podcast Hall of Fame class of 2022.

8 thoughts on “Slusher’s Law of Podcasting”

  1. Jason says:

    What about TWIT? It’s a panel/discussion podcast. I like it. But your right, eight people in a podcast is just too many people. If it was a video podcast that would be different, but with audio, you have to try and remember whose voice is whose.

  2. dave says:

    I haven’t listened to TWiT in years. I don’t find it exempt from the rule. Of course, just Dvorak by himself is sufficient to make me stop listening.

    The first six months I enjoyed and then it just starting getting more half-assed every week until I finally dropped it. When I did it actually felt like a relief.

  3. zgatt says:

    Good point.

    > Are their exceptions? Sure.

    Ah, but you don’t know how good they could have been otherwise.


  4. Adam says:

    I tend to agree that too many people can get distracting. Especially, if all of the voices sound the same. The thing I don’t agree with is that a podcast with 2 people is much more interesting that one with 1 person. I’d say the magic number is 3. We, however, as you have pointed out, tend to have 4 or 5, but from a fun factor for us it works. Thanks for trying.

  5. PJ Cabrera says:

    Yo Dave, I’d like to comment in here about what makes podcasts/citizen media fun for me.

    “In Our Time” may be a roundtable kind of show, but it is *orderly*, people aren’t talking over each other, and there are no in-jokes and goofing off on each other.

    On the other hand, one of the interviews I enjoyed most of the many you made, was the one with you and Paul Melançon joking about his creative processes.

    So it’s not about the number of people, or about whether people are goofing off. It’s about how the whole enchilada is wrapped together.

    So I say, for me, killing a podcast is about whether the in-jokes are too personal between the dumbasses behind the mic, and whether the roundtable has any useful content or whether it’s just BS and hot air.

    I unsubscribed from TWiT because of one particular twit *cough* *cough* Dvorak *cough* *cough* I couldn’t stomach. I stand him about as well as I stand Scoble. In fact, to me they’re one and the same.

  6. PJ Cabrera says:

    What I meant to say about TWiT is that I would have continued subscribed if it wasn’t for Dvorak. It wasn’t as annoying without him.

  7. I second Slusher’s Law of Podcasting.

    In the 100+ episodes of the First Crack Podcast, I’ve found the ideal number of people being recorded is 2 and the max is 3. Each additional person makes both listening and producing n* more difficult.

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