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Old 09-23-2005, 01:19 PM   #1
Bob Russell
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Podcasts are a waste of time

We've all heard that "Time is money." I'm not sure that my time is money, but I do considerate important. Even the time I spend unwinding or wasting in the name of frivilous activities. You know, like things associated with mobile computing. I'm starting wonder if podcasts are the very worst way to pass information, or if it's just that it's hard to put together a really good podcast that justifies the choice of media.

What's the biggest weakness of the podcasting paradigm for information exchange? Plain and simple, it's time.

Think about it. When you read material, do you get stuck reading the parts that don't interest you? Not really, you can adjust your reading speed to match your interest in the material. And when you finish skimming the material, you are satisfied because for the most part you basically know what you missed.

But not so for podcasting. There are no indicators of when a topic changes, nor chapter marks or anything else that helps you skim materials other than a skip mechanism on your audio player. Some podcasts come with very nifty guides, like Tech Addiction or Engadget so if you are looking at the podcast agenda, it's a little easier to navigate and decide what to listen to. Some even have time indicators of when topics start and end. I like that, even though I don't have a screen in front of me when I listen to a podcast in my car.

So, do I really think that podcasting is a complete waste of time? No, of course not. And I listen to some, although not nearly as many as I did when I first tried them. There is something nice about podcasts, especially for car listening or material that you like hearing discussions about, or that are put together by people you enjoy hearing.

My plea is for a better podcast, and one that is considerate of my time.

Here's a few ideas that should make a podcast worthy of the listener:

* A summary of topics in the beginning of the podcast
* Constant and reasonable volume levels, including for music and sound effects and ads.
* Minimal background noise or whistles and pops and clicks
* Edit out the time wasting portions when there are long technology failures, etc, unless they have special interest to the listener.
* If you must have ads, keep them short and not at a higher volume level.
* Something worth listening to!

Surprisingly, most podcasters have something interesting to say. Maybe not interesting to everybody, or even as interesting as other podcasts that we could listen to instead, but it's good to have a lot of material out there. With the internet, the very best stuff will usually get found.

You would think my list is full of no-brainers, but that's apparently not true. I wrote earlier that podcasts hurt my ears, and I meant it. It's often not pleasant at all when sudden loud noises hit you and the volume is already high to hear over road noise. Or you turn up the volume because one podcast is barely audible, and then the next podcast almost shatters your windows with nightmarishly loud intro music.

Just think about almost any podcast not coming from a mainstream media outlet, and you'll see what kind of difference audio and production quality can make. I can understand that not everyone has the skills, equipment or even the desire to make a top-notch podcast like from BBC news, but after half a dozen podcasts from a source, I guess I hope for a little consideration for the listener on sound levels, background noise, and announcement of topics.

Do I still listen to the podcasts I'm most interested in despite these issues? Yes. But it could be so much better, with some simple consideration for the listener.
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Old 09-23-2005, 02:38 PM   #2
lwehrung
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Bob,

Good article! I know my palmcasts are not the best, but I have tried to keep them one topic and very short. Thus, people have the choice whether to listen to them or not. I do not take the time for sound effects or other extra stuff, either. I try to keep focused as if I was writing the palmcast for you to read. In addition, I listen to the entire palmcast before I post it.

Now, a shameless plug...

PalmFocus Palmcasts

Anyway, I hope to do them more often, but it has really been hard to find the time. Have a good day!

Thanks,
Lance

Last edited by lwehrung; 09-23-2005 at 02:43 PM.
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Old 09-23-2005, 03:00 PM   #3
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Bob, cute dog, but I hope it wasn't you who put that poor pet the headphones on! Don't worry I am not going to call PITA

I have never found the time to listen to more than one or two podcasts a week. My choice is rather random - not based on a particular site but more on the content of an individual podcast.
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Old 09-23-2005, 03:26 PM   #4
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When podcasting started to take off, especially after all of the podcasting hype Apple generated when podcasting support was added to iTunes, many people predicted that Audible.com would start to feel the heat from free podcasts.

According to this article, Audible shares have gone up more than 3% today following the release of a report on audio book listening habits.

It seems, at least for now, audiobooks have nothing to fear from podcasts. I think Bob hit the nail on the head with the reasons why. The saying "you get what you pay for" is holding true for now in a majority of podcasts. The ones that offer interesting, quality content, differentiation, and "added value" for listeners will be the ones that stand out from the current crowd.
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Old 09-23-2005, 05:37 PM   #5
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You all are better than I. I stil dont listen to podcasts. Too much like talk radio to me. I agree that having some sort of bookmark feature, or multi track playlist podcast would be better for everyone. But then again, who knows.
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Old 09-23-2005, 06:00 PM   #6
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I have pretty much stopped listening to music now, its all Podcats for me.

I love them. They are not high density information pumps like text based news, but they are not meant to be are they? Are they not meant to be priomarily entertainment by entertainers who are interested in what they entertain about.

Its an exciting time for audio media.

What are your faves?

Mine are in this order:

This Week In Tech
Daily Source Code
This Week In Science
Tech Addiction
Dawn And Drew
Diggcast


Be well,

Mat
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Old 09-23-2005, 06:58 PM   #7
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The longer podcasts should consider putting chapters into the podcast. I think .AAC format supports this whereas .mp3 doesnt. It would be nice to FF through boring audio.
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