I Hate Podcasts

I tend to find podcasts highly annoying. This is for several reasons.

First, I generally don’t like the “listen to someone else talk” format, unless it’s something I need to do for work. I don’t listen to books on tape. I don’t listen very well to church talks. The act of sitting, and listening to someone talk, just about drives me batty in a very short period of time. It’s a recipe for mind-wandering, daydreaming, or just plain getting up and walking away. I very much prefer reading. (This isn’t just bloggernacle podcasts. I usually last through a session and a half or so of general conference, and then the wanderlust kicks in, and I say, “I’ll just read it in the Ensign anyway.”)

Second, podcasts take far too long. I can skim most blog posts in five or ten minutes. This fits ideally with my model of blogging. I often use blogging as a short break from some other activity, not as a major event for which I have to schedule a 45 minute block.

Third, there’s no obvious slot in my life for podcasts. I don’t have much of a commute, and the commute I have, I prefer to listen to music. I have an annoying non-iPod mp3 player anyway, and downloading files onto it is a bit of a chore. The only time I listen to my mp3 player at any length is when I work out — and I don’t really think that listening to Mormon Stories would help improve my mile time.

This is not to say that there’s no value to the podcasting format. It clearly brings some benefits. For example, it allows for really cheap, quick production of content. (Recording can be less work-intensive than writing.) Also, it can allow for some level of more personalized interaction with the creator. Despite hating the format in general, I did smile at the back-and-forth between JNS and Taryn on the sole Evening and Morning Star podcast I’ve listened to, where JNS set a more serious tone and Taryn took the role of the more improvisational, fun contributor.

For me, those benefits don’t really outweigh the serious drawbacks to the form. (And obviously, this analysis is of the format in general, and not of any one person’s podcasts in particular.) And so I may still listen to podcasts from time to time. But given past precedent, I suspect the experience is likely to always be a little like eating cauliflower as a child. That is, an exercise in doing something I feel like I should do, not something I really want to do.

51 comments for “I Hate Podcasts

  1. Kaimi,

    I see the benefits of podcasts, but I’m with you. They don’t fit my needs. There’s something more enduring about the print format, especially if you’ve got a debate going on. You can cut and paste a comment far easier than you can with a vocal debate.

    However, for debate purposes, a podcast has a very distinct advantage over print. It is far easier to catch the inflection and tone of a person’s comments if you hear their voices than if you read their words. There have been far too many instances of people misunderstanding each other due to misreading each others’ words.

  2. It took me a long time to get over that too. I’m much more of a reader than a listener. However after listening to mormonstories, I decided that the added elements, which Dan mentions, are worth it. You pick up some of the personality of the speaker, and some nuances that wouldn’t be there in writing. The person being interviewed is probably likely to expand a bit more on some ideas than he or she would in a written discussion of their work. I doubt that I’ll start listening to lots of podcasts, because of the time problems, but some are definitely worth it. I listen to them while I”m doing housework, or on a walk. (My 15 year old sees this as evidence that I am too “churchy”, and refers to mormonstories as “Godcasts”, just because they’re about church stuff. )

  3. What if we put some slices of cheddar on that cauliflower? Would that help?

    Because I think the podcast that you’re talking about (let’s not pretend that we don’t know) really needs more cheese.

    Specifically: fondue!

  4. “really cheap, quick production of content”

    Riiiight. Taryn and I have been working on our third episode of the Evening and the Morning Star for more than a month now. Let me sketch out what goes into this:

    1) Write a script. Because our show has the goal of providing reasonably accurate information as the underpinning for a discussion or narrative from Mormon history, we can’t just wing it. So we have to write before we record, or else we have to endlessly re-record to clean out the errors we make in our first go.

    2) Record. This takes roughly 3 times as long as the finished product, because of miscues, lost source documents, water breaks, etc.

    3) Edit. This involves deleting the miscues, attempting to level out our volumes — because we’re real novices at this home radio show production thing — and minimizing the number of pops and crackles in the final file.

    4) Put in music and other finishing touches.

    5) Upload, write a linking post listing source documents, and update RSS files.

    For every roughly 1 hour episode we produce, I’d guess there’s 25 hours of effort that go into it. Not counting the research.

    So, why even bother? First, it’s fun. Second, the audience for podcasts is surprisingly large — bigger than for all but the very most popular blog posts — and evidently largely separate from the audience for the blogs.

  5. I share all of Kaimi’s sentiments, except I’ve recently changed my tune for 2 reasons: (1) I have a 20 minute commute with poor radio reception and an overworn music CD collection, and (2) I spend a lot of time watching our 18-month-old son who has been getting cabin fever a lot lately–hurry spring!–and I’ve had decent success taking him on outings to explore the mall, Walmart, pet stores etc. whilst listening to audio files. (I’ve also been planning to listen to mp3 more doing solo work-outs, e.g. biking and running, since soccer hasn’t been fitting my schedule much lately, but so far I’ve only had good intentions…).

    So I’ve been looking for good audio books, talks, adresses etc. to listen to and haven’t found much by way of Mormon Studies (General Conference doesn’t count). FARMS has some offerings, and I found a few interesting Nibley talks through Deseret Book, but I didn’t have any success with other publishers: Signature, Kofford, U of Illinois. Before I break down and try an electronic voice reader (this looks like it’d take a bit of work to get transferred to my mp3 player…), does anyone have any suggestions? I’d love to find, say, By the Hand of Mormon or Rough Stone Rolling, or even a Margaret Barker book on mp3, but I haven’t found anything like this yet.

    I’ve most recently been listening to some Christian Sunday school recordings by Dr. Constable (thanks to a link Julie provided to his excellent and free written commentaries). These aren’t bad, quite interesting in fact for various reasons, but I’d like to find something more scholarly and less devotional/evangelical (though I sort of enjoy, in a twisted way I guess, his occassional cult-Mormon warnings…)–does anyone have any suggestsions/recommendations along these lines?

    (Kaimi, I don’t expect much response on this, but sorry ahead of time if this becomes a thread jack–I esp. hate derailing deep doctrinal posts like this….)

  6. You should listen to This American Life. I know it’s actually a radio show but because it’s retro-fitted to the podcast medium I can listen to it whenever I want. And it’s the greatest podcast ever, nothing else even comes close (well, maybe the Ricky Gervais show).

    And my goodness Kaimi, get an iPod already.

  7. Kaimi is wrong. Podcasts are cool. John D.’s interviews of Richard Bushman, for example, are top-notch. Some of the best stuff the bloggernacle has brought into my life.

  8. I have an auditory processing disorder that makes it very difficult for me to take in people talking, especially when I can’t see them. I’ve tried listening to a couple podcasts but get about 2 minutes in and I’m gone. I can’t do books on tape or baseball on the radio, either. The telephone is really hard for me, too.

    Ironically, I’m working on putting together some music podcasts for fun—keeps me occupied during my commute.

  9. Second Rusty on This American Life. Some of the best new narrative art out there in my humble opinion.

  10. The best podcasts are discussions and debates. Interviews are pretty good as well. The rest…

    But they really are good to listen to while jogging, hiking, working out, or cleaning.

  11. The only MP3 player I have is my palm pilot. I’ve never listened to a podcast. I do get a lot of talks from the BYU speeches website and listen to those though… Mainly Truman G. Madsen right now.

  12. I have become a big NPR fan since my commute became much longer a couple of years ago. Podcasts have the same appeal. I am not wasting my time and learn some fascinating stuff. With an I-Pod, I can multitask at the same time. I usually enjoy a podcast to fall asleep to each night.

  13. I love podcasts. They make my commute much more enjoyable, I learn about new things I can’t through music and I get to choose what show I listen to.

  14. I’m a radio guy, I guess… But additionally, if I listen to music while running, I find myself trying to match my pace to the music, which can be a real killer some times, so spoken word is better for me.

  15. I’m a HUGE fan of the Books On Tape format. I “read” approximately 20-25 books (both fiction and non-fiction) per year this way. Approx 98% of the time I listen to books I’m driving in my car; the other 2% of the time I’m sitting in a parking lot or my garage, too engrossed in the book to turn off the engine. I’ve tried to listen to books or podcasts while sitting around the house but I find myself getting impatient or sidetracked. What is needed to enjoy a podcast or book on tape is some kind of limited physical activity (driving, gardening, painting a room, working on a simple spreadsheet) that binds you to a particular spot, but requires minimal mental effort. With those variables in place, and assuming one is listening to a good book or podcast, the tediousness of whatever activity you have to do simply evaporates.

  16. I have no Ipod. I have no Iphone. I have no mp3 player. I have no Blackberry. I have no Apple products, nor any handheld technology of any kind. I own, and still listen on occasion to, music I recorded off the radio over twenty years ago on cassette tapes.

    And yet, I am happy.

  17. I have an IPod, use ITunes, have a Treo (after a long line of other handhelds).

    And yet, I too am happy.

  18. I’ll plug my hands-down favorite podcast: Speaking of Faith


    Incidentally, you might want to take a listen to the most recent MoStories with Bushman. Blogs are a good example of the irrepressible intellectualism of Mormonism, but also a waste of time. :) Ouch.

  19. But Russell, the issue isn’t whether you are happy but whether you could be happier. We’re all about eternal progression you know. You can always be better…

    BTW – had you an iPhone I’d have been jealous and slightly concerned about how you got it.

  20. Just recently, I asked someone what the difference was between an Ipod and an mp3 player. The look they gave me was reminiscent of the look I got when I asked who OJ Simpson was, back in the day . . .

    I like quiet. Did you know that if you have a CD player and you don’t play a CD on it for over a year, it doesn’t work anymore? Most people don’t find out things like that.

    Carry on.

  21. I’m the same way, Kaimi! Though I like the content, it’s just so hard to find time to listen. Much better to read. I’m a print media person, I think. I don’t watch tv either.

  22. My problem with This American Life is that everyone on the show, hosts and guests, has a lisp. I can detect this because I have a doctorate in speech impedimentology from Case Western.

  23. I listen during my hour and a half commute, while I’m mowing my lawn (large, about an hour and a half a week), while working in my woodshop in summers, during my short lunch when I really need my eyes and both hands for peeling oranges, etc.

    I began listening a few years ago when my job required automobile travel to small towns throughout Montana–from Libby to Broadus is farther than from Chicago to Pittsburgh. . .I began to look forward to long trips. It took me from Missoula to the Warm Springs Resort in Oregon (for a conference) and back to get through Winston Churchill’s biography. When I got to Oregon, I drove around town for a while because I was at a good part and didn’t want to stop. . .

    I’m a reader, and in the beginning I had all the qualms and trouble Kaimi mentions. But one gets better at listening with practice–it’s a lot like reading in that. Now I downoad two books a month from audible onto my Ipod, and have “heard” far more books in the past few years than I have read.

    Interestingly, in response to the prophet’s recent challenge to us to read the Book of Mormon, I listened to it. In the evenings when I was a little fatigued with reading and reading and reading, I would turn the lights down low in my office and listen to Nephi and Alma and the rest. It was amazing. I had a regular sense of angels appearing and speaking. . .very powerful. . .

  24. I like hearing what people sound like. I listened to the last podcast while I was sitting at my desk grading papers. I liked it.

    But you know what? I still don’t know what the heck a podcast even IS, and how it differs from just uploading a sound file, and how one can or why one even WOULD download it to listen to on an iPod. I am so not with it, technologically.

  25. Potato, Potatoe.

    I think that diversity is great. Everyone is entitled to thier own opinion. Kaimi they might not work for you, and yet might work for others. On the flipside should we hate those that dislike the podcasts? I don\’t think so.

    Side note….

    Because they are podcasts does not mean you have to have an iPOD to listen to them…. :) or support Apple in anyway.

  26. I’ll second, third, and fourth This American Life. I commute roughly 45 min to an hour each way by bus, and had no intention of ever listening to podcasts. But then I became hooked on Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me and This American Life, and no week is complete without them. Add into that All Songs Considered (thanks Steve), The Roadhouse (an hour of blues) and Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child (children’s and children-appropriate music that’s hip), as well as a couple food-related shows, and I’ve got my commute. Any spare time, and I can switch over to my music.

  27. Last year I downloaded a collection that at the time contained every episode of This American Life ever. I figured if I ever have to drive cross country again it will come in handy. As I don’t commute I haven’t listened to any of them, though we always listen to it if we happen to hear it in the car. I suggest the “Fiasco!” episode for those that are new to the program and want a taste.

  28. “But Russell, the issue isn’t whether you are happy but whether you could be happier. We’re all about eternal progression you know. You can always be better…”

    Some can, perhaps, but I can’t. I’m just a sinner hoping to escape damnation at the hands of a angry god. (I’m referring to Bill Gates, of course.)

    “Are you really happy, or do you just thing that you are happy?”

    If my Thing tells me I’m happy, then I am.

  29. I can understand some reluctance to podcasts. Having become a producer of podcasts I am bias in their favor. But I am bias in their favor as well for the extra learning curve they provide us in times when we do nothing but sit and drive, or even work in the yard, etc. I am thoroughly enjoying many books on podcast format. I have had several people tell me they love the podcasts I am producing in the Book of Abraham facsimiles. Apparently it fills a need in some, but not in all folks, which is fine. I have several podcasts on several different subjects I love to explore, mostly the scriptures, but some science, some history, etc. I have tried to keep them to about 40-45 minutes, which many have noted is a good time length. I also have shorter ones as well though.

    I also think the value of podcasts is hearing the voice, which can be very informative as opposed to the printed word. I have been asked by some friends (both LDS and non-LDS) to produce some podcasts on the more difficult works of Hugh Nibley, namely his books \”Abraham in Egypt,\” and \”The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri,\” which is a good idea, since they are so valuable, but unfortunately hard for some to understand. So podcasts can be valuable in simplifying and helping everyone out in understanding materials such as the above, as well as the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Bible itself, other religions, etc.

    Kerry A, Shirts
    aka – \”The Backyard Professor

  30. I’m a mom with kids and I adore podcasts and audio books. It’s the only way I can hear adults speak some days. I’m a huge Harry Potter fan and to this day I’ve not read the hardbook of “Order of the Phoenix”, although I’ve listened to the audio book many times.

    BTW if all I’d heard of audiobooks were the ones with some gravelly smoker-voiced actress reading a book in a manner so dry it could be used as an absorbent lining for a diaper, I wouldn’t like audiobooks either. Jim Dale’s rendition of the Harry Potter series will change your mind, if you think audiobooks are boring. Dale is a master and he does all the character voices so well that you can tell which character is speaking.

  31. I second that Wacky Hermit… Jim Dale does the character voices BETTER than the actors in the movies.

  32. Another great time to listen to books on tape or podcasts is while doing housework. It numbs the pain.

  33. On my iPod:

    KRCW’s Good Food podcast
    Brain Food podcast
    LDS Voices podcast– including the recent Sperry Symposium on the NT
    Moyers on America podcast
    NPR: Books podcast
    NPR: Health and Science podcast
    NPR: Hidden Kitchens podcast
    The International Spy Museum podcast
    This American Life podcast
    Napoleon 101 podcast

    Not podcasts, but happiness nonetheless:

    The SWK Teaching of the Presidents manual
    Several issues of the Ensign magazine
    Brian Greene’s Fabric of the Cosmos
    Getting Things Done
    To Rule the World and Make the World Obey: A History of Rome
    John Hogeman’s The Areas of My Expertise
    Deep Survival
    Several Patrick O’Brian books
    The Gifts of the Jews
    The English Novel
    Books That Have Made History

    I listen while doing chores, in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep (that GA conference talk tone of voice is better than any Ambien), driving in the car, on the treadmill, while cooking dinner.

  34. Kaimi,

    Once you listed to the new podcasts over at BCC, you’ll be hooked. I promise. The erudition, wit and spirituality of the three podcasters over there is truly stunning. One of them in particular is extraordinarily profound and insightful.

  35. Saying you don’t like podcasts is like saying you don’t like books, movies, or radio. It’s just a medium.

    The way to think of podcasts in as Tivo’d radio shows. For example, if you don’t have a schedule that permits you to listen to AM radio at the right times, you can still catch Paul Harvey on his podcast (News and Comment, Midday News, and The Rest of the Story). The Boston Symphony Orchestra does multi-media podcasts that go over the type of stuff that you’d have in program notes for concerts — this is especially useful when they do a series of concerts, like their recent Beethoven/Schoenberg series.

    Podcasts in blogs too often mis-apply the medium. The blog is a newspaper-like format — updated frequently, content heavy, but browse-able. A pod-cast is a more radio-like format; it is a spontaneous, surface level treatment that occurs within the framework of some regular serialization factor. If all you do is take content that would otherwise be a post, and make it into a podcast, then you’re not likely to succeed. (Likewise, good podcasts are not likely to succeed as text-only blog-posts, either.) Unfortunately, this kind of thing is all to common in the blog-world. In my opinion, this is because good bloggers have been trained to do a certain thing that works, and they stick to that at all costs even when the content or style doesn’t fit the approach.

    As far as bloggernacle goes, there are many areas where interesting podcasts could be developed. I’d like to see an informal-symposium type of broadcast surrounding gospel doctrine lessons. You could involve 3 or 4 gospel doctrine teachers, one of whom would serve as a moderator/agenda setter. Then they could discuss issues surrounding a specific reading for 10 to 15 minutes. This is something that you can’t effectively do in a blog-type format, because online exchanges aren’t spontaneous enough, and reading transcripts of spontaneous exchanges tends to be tedious. It would be great if (say) every 10 or 15 podcasts, things completely broke down and they started yelling at each other and calling each other wicked, but even without that I think it would be interesting.

  36. DKL, I do this with great trepidation, but I think your idea about a gospel doctrine podcast is brilliant.

  37. Hate is a strong word. I pretty much avoid them like the plague. Partly because of the time involved in buffering them so I can listen to them. It\’s too problematic.

    One good thing, though, is hearing how someone voice sounds. Like your funny thing last year, muttering wit sort of like Anna Nicole Smith on drugs, only smarter. A more reedy sound, also.

  38. Randy B, it may be wise for you to request that the administrator delete your comment #44. If you leave it there like that for everybody to read, people are likely to think you’ve lost your ever-loving mind.

  39. I don’t know Wacky Hermit,

    I agree James Dale does a great job on the main characters. But his supporting characters all sound alike. Every single older female character, for example, sounds exactly the same as Professor McGonagle.

  40. What this really means, Kaimi, is that you’re old.

    We (a twentysomething intern and I) do a podcast for the small university where I work. Every week we have several segment — announcements, GRE words of the week, study tips of the week, and issue of the week.

    Them kids loves it.

Comments are closed.