Here’s what I missed about podcasting, what I thought was a weakness – or at least I had trouble getting used to it – and now understand it as podcasting’s chief strength: it meanders.
This is no news at all to the millions of people who listen to podcasts already, but it is to me, who loved the idea of podcasting from the start but was annoyed by the implementation, the way people just, ummm, talked to each other.
My background in broadcasting doesn’t help, especially because I’m a product of commercial tv news where you don’t use many words, so everything has to count. You’re very goal-oriented. So 45 minutes of drifting in and out of a topic struck me as grossly inefficient and boring.
What I missed was the way a good podcast mirrors a good conversation in the real world, how you turn over an idea or an item from the news or you-name-it from a bunch of different angles. I find myself absorbing more about a given topic and, I think, getting a fairer take on the matter at hand.
A good podcast isn’t seat-of-the-pants of course; there’s preparation in the background. Windows Weekly, a favorite, alludes to the show notes, which get passed around in advance among the three hosts. It’s their ability to animate those notes, to digress from and return to them, which makes the show work.
I also like podcasts which are repurposed from radio – like the Fresh Air and Radiolab shows – but they don’t strike me as the main event. I know, I know – I’m laughably late to the party, but I tend to be this way about tech. I didn’t care about Twitter until I understood it as a highly personal wire service. I still don’t care about Facebook much because I don’t value what it does best, work at the personal level.
I have yet to find the ideal podcast client; I finally understand Stitcher, and like it better than anything else, but it doesn’t let me download shows for offline listening and has some gaps which suprise me – Dave Douglas’s A Noise From The Deep isn’t on there, and neither is The Committed podcast with Kirk McIlhearn. So I’m using Stitcher, TuneIn Radio (I hate the new interface though) and Podcasts! on my Windows 8 phone.