10 years of podcasting and it still sucks
December 22, 2014 6:46 AM   Subscribe

 
Gruber's podcast on the "untapped potential of podcasting and YouTubing."
posted by cjorgensen at 6:56 AM on December 22, 2014


A post about mathowie on MetaFilter? You went full meta; never go full meta.

Seriously, podcasting is just one of those things I've never gotten, for a lot of the reasons the article touches on.
posted by resurrexit at 6:57 AM on December 22, 2014 [10 favorites]


Hey, you forgot to say "Metafilter's own mathowie" but I suppose it's even more accurate to say "mathowie's own Metafilter", so NEVER MIND.
posted by grubi at 6:57 AM on December 22, 2014 [17 favorites]


My favorite podcast has a fairly large Facebook community built around it. You do need to be a patron to get into the group (the podcaster makes his living by podcasting), but it makes the experience of the podcast a lot more fun to listen to. They even have live events from time to time.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:59 AM on December 22, 2014


I never really got into podcasting despite the fact I'm been connected to the internet since 1994 back in college. When I did listen to the occasional podcast, I wouldn't bother with the actual podcasting part of it; I'd just find the MP3 file with the browser on my PC and click on the link. Subscription models that download content in any form to my device whether I wanted it or not never appealed to me. What if I didn't want to listen to the podcast for a day? Oh well, too bad.

I tend to agree with the article's position that podcasting is really a solution that's looking for a problem to solve.
posted by surazal at 6:59 AM on December 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


Make old timey art deco-inspired Jamboxes?

Christ a-mighty, Matt, get out of my skull. You're stealing my dreams!


(Yes, this is a thing I'd love.)
posted by grubi at 7:00 AM on December 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


They sure clutter up the Fanfare page, anyway.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 7:01 AM on December 22, 2014 [10 favorites]


Subscription models that download content in any form to my device whether I wanted it or not never appealed to me. What if I didn't want to listen to the podcast for a day? Oh well, too bad.

Any half decent podcasting program (the built-in iOS one doesn't count) allows you to control if/when automatic downloads happen.
posted by kmz at 7:05 AM on December 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


mathowie's own MetaFilter's own mathowie
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:06 AM on December 22, 2014 [16 favorites]


I try listen to a few podcasts but there are so few times in my days when I have time to listen to an hour of talk. My commute is only 25 minutes or so which doesn't really give enough time to get into a podcast.
posted by octothorpe at 7:09 AM on December 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


I'm pretty sure I disagree that podcasts should be made more social and that there should be podcast listening parties. That robs them of their greatest and most individuating feature. What I like about podcasts is how personal and intimate they are. The best ones feel like conversations you're having with the hosts. The radio shows that are available as podcasts, like all the NPR ones, don't quite get this right... they're overproduced and are obviously radio shows first and podcasts second.

I love talking about podcasts with my friends after the fact. I don't like listening to podcasts with them together. But that's a feature, not a bug.
posted by painquale at 7:12 AM on December 22, 2014 [26 favorites]


There is the problem that most people have irritating voices and bad mics.
posted by The Whelk at 7:14 AM on December 22, 2014 [27 favorites]


For several years in the late 00's I worked as a software UI engineer for the Logitech Squeezebox products (r.i.p.), a line of streaming audio players. The were doing deals with service after service that provided misc. music streams (Spotify, Pandora, Rhapsody, etc.). I mentioned on several occasions that it was important to also fill out other niches, and recommended they take a hard look at building out the UI to specifically support podcasts better. Could not get anyone (or at least anyone in product marketing) interested.

For me the big issue with podcasts is getting people interested in them. While there isn't that much to them, they are a really different mode of listening than pretty much anything else. Time-shifted from radio, less-focused than audiobooks, (much) more focused than music...

After leaving the telecommuting gig with Logitech and moving into a job that required a bus commute, podcasts literally shifted that part of my day from dread to eager anticipation. Podcasts rule.

For those reading this thread and looking for a podcast app, my strong recommendation is Pocketcasts.
posted by mcstayinskool at 7:14 AM on December 22, 2014 [7 favorites]


Heck, most of them are heard in headphones, which are tiny speakers you stick inside your ears for you and only you to listen to — it’s intensely personal.

For some of us this, when it works, this is a powerful asset and one of the best aspects of podcasting.

I talk about podcasts in person with friends occasionally, but not having a strong, closely-liked, sort-of-obligatory-if-you're-a-serious-fan social media component is, if anything, a relief.
posted by ryanshepard at 7:16 AM on December 22, 2014 [8 favorites]


Interestingly, it was probably only about 24 hours before Matt posted this that I saw my Facebook feed blow up with people talking about having binge-listened to Serial, and were continuing to debate the outcome.

An occurrence which, in one fell swoop, seems to disprove at least 3 of Matt's points.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:17 AM on December 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


Podcasts, an iPhone, and a car stereo with Bluetooth have been a game-changer for me on long drives. I drive 10 hours to Canada at least once a year, usually alone. I do other drives of 3-4 hours regularly throughout the year. If I queue up about ten episodes of something it makes the ride so much more enjoyable.

Even on shorter rides it's been great. I get into my car in the morning, the podcast starts up. I drive about a mile to the train station parking lot, turn off my car, put my headphones on and the podcast starts up right where I left off. I then walk about 1/4 mile to the station and listen all the way into work. Reverse all that for the ride home.

The best feature is, If I don't want to hear 20 minutes of Marc Maron's insecurities I just skip to when the interview starts. Can't do that on radio.

I personally have no need to make podcasts social or discuss them on a forum, but I guess others might. Anyway, I would generally stick to my "never read the comments" rule.

I've never been able to listen to a book on CD, because I tend to tune it out after a while, but an episode of Nerdist or even the Metafilter podcast works perfectly because, even if I tune it out, I haven't missed part of a story. Maybe I've missed a joke or two but I can still enjoy the parts I'm paying attention to.

Searchable transcriptions of everything sure would be nice. Seems a decent app with voice-recognition could to that to some degree.

I still use the iPhone podcast app. For those recommending other apps: what are the advantages? What do they do that the Apple app doesn't? Is there really more to it than subscribing and listening?
posted by bondcliff at 7:19 AM on December 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


I talk about podcasts in person with friends occasionally, but not having a strong, closely-liked, sort-of-obligatory-if-you're-a-serious-fan social media component is, if anything, a relief.

This.

I don't find mathowie's focus on social possibilities surprising, given that that's an area he has a longstanding interest in. However, in that aspect, what he describes as a weakness is, for me, a strength. I love getting in my car, or putting in my earbuds, and just enjoying listening to people talk about interesting topics. The question of who I'm going to talk to about it or how I'll dig deeper into the source material is rarely a concern.
posted by tocts at 7:22 AM on December 22, 2014 [6 favorites]


Please recommend better podcast apps. The iphone one drives me insane. The number one thing I want it to do is download the podcasts automatically when I am not in the car but I'm on wifi. The iphone one always wants to download them when I'm in the car and uses up all my data.
posted by interplanetjanet at 7:23 AM on December 22, 2014


kmz: Any half decent podcasting program (the built-in iOS one doesn't count) allows you to control if/when automatic downloads happen.

I think you just hit the nail on the head. I don't know if you meant it or not, but you just managed the reinforce one of the article's main points: the tools designed to make podcasting happen. When you have to point out that third-party tools are far better than the ones that come pre-installed on your device (which is going to be the de facto first user experience for podcasting for pretty much everyone), then you have a problem.
posted by surazal at 7:23 AM on December 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


interplanetjanet, I think you just need to adjust your settings. The iTunes podcast app should automatically download every hour that you're on WiFi if you have it set for that.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:25 AM on December 22, 2014


I'll have to fiddle with it. It was working right for a while and then there was an update and now it's driving me nuts.
posted by interplanetjanet at 7:28 AM on December 22, 2014


While there isn't that much to them, they are a really different mode of listening than pretty much anything else. Time-shifted from radio, less-focused than audiobooks, (much) more focused than music...

This is why I've never done much experimenting with podcasts -- it's a mode that doesn't fit neatly into my listening life. I don't have a long daily commute, which sounds like the obvious use for them. If I'm at home I'm busy or reading or watching movies; on long highway drives I listen to audiobooks (for more focus that has continuity for the entire trip) or music (for less focus). At work I have to talk to people and get typing done, so listening to someone talk is not going to work. Someone above called podcasting "a solution that's looking for a problem to solve" and that sounds right to me.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:30 AM on December 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


That should be "closely-linked" vs. "liked". The often free-standing, terrestrial-radio-like nature of podcasts is part of their appeal for me.
posted by ryanshepard at 7:31 AM on December 22, 2014


I don't do podcasts -- they just don't really fit into my life (short commute, often by bike). But a friend of mine loves them so much she started a podcast club. Like a book club, everyone listens to the podcast on their own time and then they get together to talk about it. Seems like people who want to be social about it will find a way.
posted by misskaz at 7:33 AM on December 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


It was working right for a while and then there was an update and now it's driving me nuts.

That's our iTunes!
posted by thelonius at 7:34 AM on December 22, 2014 [22 favorites]


Please recommend better podcast apps.

Downcast is the popular choice, I think. I use iCatcher. They're all pretty similar.
posted by painquale at 7:36 AM on December 22, 2014 [5 favorites]


Podcasts, like video, seem like a medium that is just sort of used without discretion. People generate so much content that would be just fine as a written article. I can read much faster than people can speak, and the "rewind" feature (re-reading a paragraph) for segments I didn't parse correctly is superior too.

If it's a music podcast, then it's appropriate. Same if it's something dramatic in which the voice acting matters. Otherwise, just transcribe the interview or article, and let me read it instead!

I'm largely turned off by the medium because Sturgeon's Law seems to be on steroids.
posted by explosion at 7:41 AM on December 22, 2014 [8 favorites]


Oh my god, if there were an honest-to-god wood cathedral or tombstone Jambox, I would buy that SO fast. GET ON IT.
posted by entropicamericana at 7:41 AM on December 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


I just looked at my settings and I have "only download on wifi" on. So why it keeps using my data I don't know.

I'm sorry I don't mean to turn this thread into an AskMe on my inability to use my iphone! To be more on topic, I definitely agree with the article that the #1 place I listen to podcasts is in my car. I have a short commute so audio books are too long and in depth but a nice 1/2 hour podcast is perfect. If I could just play them straight through the car stereo without the iphone at all it would be great.
posted by interplanetjanet at 7:44 AM on December 22, 2014


Man, I listen almost exclusively to podcasts. BBC stuff, and history stuff, and academic topics about which I know nothing before I listen. And funny stuff. Basically, I've curated my own talk radio via podcasts. That said, iTunes sucks, and when this iPod dies as soon as it's warranty expires, as they always seem to do, I'm in the marek for a new set of hardware and tools.
posted by dejah420 at 7:44 AM on December 22, 2014 [9 favorites]


Podcast listening as it stands today is intensely personal.

And I like it that way, honestly.
What I love about Podcasting is that it has (successfully, imho) managed to maintain that lovely amateur patina. It's the ham radio of cyberspace, if you will. This is what's endearing and "real" about podcasting. When you listen to a podcast, you know this is something the presenter(s) really enjoy/love/know. It's personal for them, and that's what I love about podcasting.

I hope to hell that it never succumbs to overt corporate influence, and becomes just another monetized commodity.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:44 AM on December 22, 2014 [17 favorites]


They sure clutter up the Fanfare page, anyway.

Fanfare has gone from being useless because it was an experiment following only one series I wasn't watching, to being nearly useless because there is so much there and it moves so fast and there is no easy way to follow up your own comments that it is very hard to have a substantial discussion about anything before it falls off the bottom.

There really should be separate entire sites for podcasts, rewatch projects, and current TV and movies. Those content streams require completely different technologies and like many people I only have access to one of them, so the others are just clutter.

Series (both TV and frequent podcasts) shouldn't have a new thread for every episode; compare the discussion for a series like Sleepy Hollow this season on Fanfare versus last year when it was on the blue.

And it badly, badly needs a way to find your own comments.
posted by localroger at 7:45 AM on December 22, 2014 [12 favorites]


I am fairly technologically inclined, but the process of subscribing and listening regularly to podcasts has always seemed fairly opaque to me (granted - I avoid iTunes like the plague). When the 'Dude and I go on road trips, we still follow this practically obsolete process: (1) Download podcasts to our media center (2) Manually sync the files we want to our ancient MP3 player. Our car is a 2011 model and it is not natively equipped with bluetooth, so syncing it to our phones is right out. Listening to podcasts at home *feels* strange because most podcasts we've been exposed to aren't designed to be listened to single-mindedly.

A few months ago we wanted to get into "Welcome to Nightvale" as the weekly radio drama it is supposedly an homage to, so we went to their website and just... couldn't figure it out. It looks like since then they've added a soundcloud option which seems like the least opaque way to just listen to/download some shows when I want to listen to some shows.
posted by muddgirl at 7:45 AM on December 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Isn't every post about mathowie on his own site a self-link by definition? Ban him!
posted by bicyclefish at 7:45 AM on December 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


Science Friday is a radio program from Public Radio International (to which it moved just this year, formerly of National Public Radio) also available as a podcast. It gets one thing right which many other podcasts get wrong.

Very simply, each segment of the show — a typical program might have 6-8 segments — is a separate podcast "episode." This makes it very easy, if I decide if I'm not interested in one segment, to skip to the next one. It takes a single long-press on one button.

But no other podcasts I listen to, most of which would have a natural division into segments, do this. As much as I like This American Life, sometimes, I decide a few minutes into <IraGlassVoice>Act Two: Sound and Fury</IraGlassVoice> that I'm not interested in that segment, and I can't easily skip to the beginning of Act Three. I have to scan through it and try to figure it out from the little bits I catch where Act Three starts.

I'd rather more podcasts adopted the SciFri model; or better yet, have a way to encode metadata on when "tracks" start within a podcast, and have podcast players recognize that metadata and allow the user to easily skip to the next/previous track within a podcast.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:48 AM on December 22, 2014 [16 favorites]


I'm a pretty avid podcast listener. I have about 25 podcasts in my feed. They're a mix of things like Radiolab, This American Life, book podcasts, storytelling podcasts, and just plain old stories.

I actually prefer to listen to some NPR programs via podcast. For example, I 'd lots rather listen to This American Life by podcast. In addition to the ability to easily replay bits if you need to, they don't bleep words on the podcast like they have to do on the radio. Plus I get to choose my time to listen. I'm a dog walker, so I listen while walking dogs & while exercising. I often listen in the car too. Most of my podcasts don't have the obtrusive ads of broadcast radio. That's a BIG plus for me.

I'm an old hermit, so I don't long for more social interaction centered around podcasts. Is there a correlation between people who like audiobooks & people who like podcasts? I like both. Audiobooks take a larger time commitment though.
posted by Archer25 at 7:51 AM on December 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think the social aspect of podcasts/YouTube videos is often on the creators' end, not the listeners'. I listen to a lot of podcasts and watch a lot of YouTube videos and the ones that I tend to like, the ones that seem popular, are the ones who have multiple hosts, people who are friends acting like friends discussing a topic. As a listener, I feel like I'm part of that social conversation - I don't need someone else in the room listening with me, the social end of things is taken care of on the other end of the speakers.

Of course, this doesn't hold true of all podcasts - those that are descended from the more public radio approach with a single presenter and some segments or whatever - but that style of podcast takes a lot more work to produce and is much harder to produce well.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:51 AM on December 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


The only difference between a one-hour podcast and a one-hour broadcast radio program is when you turn off a podcast for a few minutes you can go back to it without missing anything.

Personally, I consider that an ADVANTAGE for radio.
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:51 AM on December 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


Also, since Podcasts are pretty easy to put together, "please 'like' my page and listen to my podcast" is the new "you should check out my band."
posted by bondcliff at 7:53 AM on December 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


mathowie's own MetaFilter's own mathowie

META SINGULARITY - UNIVERSE HALTED.

Press any key for big bang.
posted by eriko at 7:55 AM on December 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


I hate podcasts, they are the least enjoyable and/or efficient way for me to absorb any kind of information/entertainment. I barely have a commute, under 10 minutes, so setting time aside to sit and listen to something for 30-45 minutes that would take me approximately 5 to read is like, why would I do this to myself, why. At best they're like overhearing a conversation that you find mildly interesting, at worst they are the relentlessly tedious drone of talk radio on in the cab in which you've been stuck in traffic for the past half hour.

It sucks because I am definitely missing out on awesome stuff, so people who transcribe their podcasts are the best kind of people there are.
posted by poffin boffin at 7:58 AM on December 22, 2014 [14 favorites]


Almost all the podcasts I listen to are comedy/chat focused and I can't imagine how terrible they would be in transcript form.
posted by kmz at 8:01 AM on December 22, 2014 [23 favorites]


Podcasts are like using a PVR for radio. Except they're not radio broadcasts. Also, there's no pod involved.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:01 AM on December 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'd rather more podcasts adopted the SciFri model; or better yet, have a way to encode metadata on when "tracks" start within a podcast, and have podcast players recognize that metadata and allow the user to easily skip to the next/previous track within a podcast.

The SciFri model always gave me problems when I used to automate podcast downloads on my Mac, since it was impossible to predict how many segments there were.

As for encoding metadata for podcast "tracks", iTunes/iPod at least has chapter markers in audiobook files, which allows one file to have several chapters.
posted by ZeusHumms at 8:02 AM on December 22, 2014


Who's this mathowie guy? This post needs more links for context.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:02 AM on December 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


kmz: +1

I'm like that with (most) videos online as well. I don't need to watch 10 seconds of "So and so presents... Title of the Video" only to see some amateurish thing I don't want to watch. Been online since '94, guess I'm old fashioned.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 8:05 AM on December 22, 2014


mefi's own matthowie owns mefi
posted by Ned G at 8:05 AM on December 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


> Almost all the podcasts I listen to are comedy/chat focused and I can't imagine how terrible they would be in transcript form

Same here, which is probably also why I don't care about the "social media" aspects of it. I love podcasts and listen to them while I'm driving, going for a walk, doing chores, etc, but I have no desire to get on-line and talk with other people about that one joke they made on MBMBaM. Besides, who has the time?
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:05 AM on December 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Just to be clear, I too like that podcasts are personal and I can listen in headphones and in my car alone, but I also think they could be socially enjoyed too, without affecting personal usage.

My main point is that podcasts should drive listeners to a site where they can interact. Sure everyone's talking about Serial everywhere, but none of it happens on the serialpodcast.org site, which is a bummer for them. I shouldn't have to build Podcasts at FanFare (btw, a "My FanFare" to follow just stuff you love is coming soon).

I forgot to mention (I'll probably update the post soon) that the subscription model is either ignore or all-in on podcast apps, and you should be able to browse way more than you can right now. New podcast listeners should be able to sample shows instead of download hundreds of Mb of them.
posted by mathowie at 8:06 AM on December 22, 2014 [9 favorites]


I find podcasts a little contrived - I much prefer the serendipity of radio. I love turning on the radio during my commute and find out they're talking about Interesting Topic X, rather than putting on a podcast and knowing in advance exactly what's going to be talked about. I enjoy the cut and thrust of live radio - knowing others are simultaneously listening and contributing to the programme I'm listening to. Podcasts are a little soulless in that respect, a non-interactive, linear stream of one-way information.

Perhaps it's down to my 2004 car not having vast amounts of technology - I have to burn a podcast to CD and then put it into my car CD player to listen to it, which seems a lot of effort when we have so many interesting live radio stations around here. Dipping in and out also seems a lot more fun than pausing a programme mid-way and coming back to it at the exact same point, when it hasn't developed or moved on at all.

I don't know - perhaps I'm just old fashioned, but put me firmly in the old-school radio camp. I don't care how it's delivered - FM/AM, digital radio, online, smartphone app - as long as it's live and lively. Podcasts are neither. What's a podcast with 'social add-ons' if not a needless rehashing of good old live, interactive radio? Why bother?
posted by winterhill at 8:06 AM on December 22, 2014


I listen to audiobooks.

With that said, some books are padded out. They would be better as long form featured pieces in magazines. There is currently a missed opportunity for the long form pieces to be made into audio.. the problem is who would pay $1 for a 30 minute audio when you can read it for free. Wouldn't it be great to have a professional reading of the year's best long form featured journalism packaged as a single audiobook.
posted by stbalbach at 8:08 AM on December 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


Press any key for big bang.

NO KEYBOARD FOUND

Press F1 to Continue
posted by localroger at 8:08 AM on December 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


> I forgot to mention (I'll probably update the post soon) that the subscription model is either ignore or all-in on podcast apps

Not in the iPhone's Podcast app, which isn't as terrible as it used to be. It can show you the feed and let you pick which ones to download as they get updated, or you can subscribe and get all episodes downloaded automatically.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:09 AM on December 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


New podcast listeners should be able to sample shows instead of download hundreds of Mb of them.

The various apps I've used all download the latest episode automatically when you add a feed (if automatic downloads are enabled) and then you can download the backlog at your leisure. I'm subbed to The Nerdist but I only download if the guest is somebody I actually care about, whereas new episodes of MBMBaM, Baby Geniuses, etc are downloaded immediately (if I'm on WiFi).

Perhaps it's down to my 2004 car not having vast amounts of technology - I have to burn a podcast to CD and then put it into my car CD player to listen to it, which seems a lot of effort when we have so many interesting live radio stations around here.

I'm super happy that my car still has a cassette player, because I find cassette adapters way more reliable than Bluetooth. I guess a fancy enough audio system these days will have a direct line-in as well.
posted by kmz at 8:18 AM on December 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


There is the problem that most people have irritating voices and bad mics.

Also the refusal to edit themselves; there are a bunch of neatly-disciplined gems out there, but way too many amateur podcasts are just people shooting the shit improvisationally for a huge block of time without any interest in cutting out chaff. It is utterly maddening, and there are so many podcasts that I'll begin with goodwill, but then will turn into me shouting "I DON'T FUCKING CARE, DUDE" after like ten minutes.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:18 AM on December 22, 2014 [29 favorites]


One thing I've found that makes the best Podcasting (or netcasting for the non-trademarked term) experience is Sticher. Since it ccan sync my listening location across all my devices or even the web app. I don't have to worry about downloading everything since I can just stream it as it downloads.
The only annoying part is not every Podcast can be found on it.
posted by MrBobaFett at 8:18 AM on December 22, 2014


If I'm doing something where I can pay enough attention to the podcast to enjoy it, but I can't read, then that's when I listen to them. Commutes, working out, housework, holding my baby who can tell if I'm trying to read a book or website.

When I'm not doing any of these things then I have no time for podcasts, and that's okay. If I didn't have a desk job then I probably wouldn't have time for MetaFilter and some other websites, and that's okay.

I've never had an issue with the software, but I just bought Pocket Casts from the Play store and started using it because that's what everyone said to get. It's tougher on iPhones, I guess?
posted by ODiV at 8:19 AM on December 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


I really like antennaPod on Android. It's free, and open source.

Subscription sync

The subscription thing is a problem. In the distant past, the common solution was Google Reader. You subscribed to podcasts with reader on your desktop, and the mobile apps all integrated with that. Yet another thing Google kiling Reader fucked up. There's alternatives like gpodder, but I don't think anything has the mindshare Reader had on the sync front.

Commentator communities

The social thing is probably unworkable. Many of the podcasts I subscribe to already have blogs. But I suspect there's a barrier to building a commenter community. I generally listen to podcasts in the car, and when I do go to the effort to find a podcast message board, it's to say something, not listen to what others have to say. I suspect I'm not alone, and this transforms it into a write only message board, or a public inbox for listener complaints directed at the podcast hosts. Kinda like this comment is becoming.

Fanfare suffers a related problem, IMO. Metafilter is essentially organized around a principle of 'here's a link or two you will find interesting, spend five minutes reading it and discuss for hours." In contrast, fanfare seems to be more "here's the place where we discuss episode fifty of game of thrones," and generally involves a lot more upfront investment and a context switch between Netflix/Hulu/Tivo/TV and a desktop computer.

Clip and share

This is more workable than mathowie realizes perhaps; HTML5 media elements allow for time positionings, so it comes down to building a UI for generating such URLs. On the other hand, direct access is often unallowed. You can't provide people a static link to youtube .flvs, instead they have their own API for time skips.

Listening parties

I thought it'd be neat to have some sort of science themed restaurant near university, and instead of loud music they could play podcasts over the speakers.
posted by pwnguin at 8:20 AM on December 22, 2014 [7 favorites]


Also I'll note that most of my podcasts are from NPR, BBC, or TWIT.tv. All have very high production values. I can't tolerate a podcast with bad mics and bad/no editing.
posted by MrBobaFett at 8:20 AM on December 22, 2014


> There is the problem that most people have irritating voices and bad mics.

The other thing that gets on my nerves is podcasts done between contributors over Skype or other VoIP. We can tell you're not in the same room together by the dodgy audio, random delays and distinct lack of chemistry.
posted by winterhill at 8:24 AM on December 22, 2014


I AM TOO OLD
posted by allthinky at 8:24 AM on December 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


winterhill: "Perhaps it's down to my 2004 car not having vast amounts of technology - I have to burn a podcast to CD and then put it into my car CD player to listen to it, which seems a lot of effort when we have so many interesting live radio stations around here."

All you really need is an audio in jack and your smartphone / ipod. Kinda sad how that was cutting edge technology in 2004, when you consider that for 5 dollars, my 1991 Honda Civic had one feeding through the cassette deck.
posted by pwnguin at 8:25 AM on December 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


The failure of podcasts is due to the same reasons as it was ten years ago when it was first starting. There is almost nothing you can do in a podcast that can't be done better in writing. At a minimum, podcasts need text transcripts, since the audio is not searchable. A podcast is a linear format, the audio content is presented at a pace and structure determined by the producer. Reading is a nonlinear format, you can instantly skip ahead, or go back and reread a section. Many people have tried to improve that inherent problem with podcasts, for example some players have 1.5x and 2x playback, while others have "smart editing" that removes dead air, even short pauses between speakers.

And that's ultimately what killed podcasts for me. I remember back in the early days of podcasting, someone said hey you should hear what that asshole Dave Winer did on his podcast today. I listened to it. About 5 minutes in, Winer said he needed another cup of coffee, hold on. Then you could hear him walk away, and he came back five minutes later with coffee.
THAT is the problem with podcasts. They are for control freaks like that asshole Dave Winer, who think that you will be entertained by five minutes of dead air, hanging on his every word so intently that he can force you to sit there for five minutes until he begins spouting his wisdom at you again. And it's just as inconvenient to try to fast forward. There is no convenient way to search for the podcast resuming, you can fast forward and skip around, but you have no way to predict how much dead air to skip past.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:26 AM on December 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


Also the refusal to edit themselves; there are a bunch of neatly-disciplined gems out there, but way too many amateur podcasts are just people shooting the shit improvisationally for a huge block of time without any interest in cutting out chaff.

DAMMIT GREG I'M RIGHT HERE
posted by cortex at 8:26 AM on December 22, 2014 [20 favorites]


All of the problems Matt mentions are solvable, but only if you go out and find the specialized software/hardware/community. The problem is the poor adoption rate of all of those solutions.

Seems like the solution is to get a ubiquitous community styled app to make this happen. If you listen to the Start Up podcast from Gimlet you'll have heard the episode where one of his investors specifically suggests creating something like this. Making it the "Instagram of Audio" or something along those lines. Alex Blumberg opts to definitely not go that route though because he wants to to content creation instead.

If someone could make some software like this that just works, they might have one of those overvalued billion dollar start ups on their hands.

Trying to think of who might be poised to make this happen and I keep thinking of Sound Cloud. They already have software that allows community interaction on any specific second of an audio clip. Maybe they could clean their stuff up into a bulletproof app with more robust community and subscribing/following features they could pull it off. They'd need to change the focus from just music to all kinds of audio though.

Hell, if someone could pull it off really well it could even kill the word "podcast." I'm imagining an app that is based around social interaction with any kind of audio, be it serialized podcast episodes, new tracks from top 40 artists, a garage band's demo, or just some Vine style clip of some dumb shit that you and your friends did. If this becomes something ubiquitous, why call an episode a podcast? It would just like "X just posted a new InstaVineOid (or whatever the heck the app gets called), go check it out."
posted by cirrostratus at 8:29 AM on December 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


Almost all the podcasts I listen to are comedy/chat focused and I can't imagine how terrible they would be in transcript form.

Eh, I can't watch tv/movies/anything without the subs on anyway so I'm already used to awkwardly phrased stuff being written as awkward phrases.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:30 AM on December 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


The other thing that gets on my nerves is podcasts done between contributors over Skype or other VoIP. We can tell you're not in the same room together by the dodgy audio, random delays and distinct lack of chemistry.

That's the reason Jeff has always insisted on no Skype Bombcasts, outside of a few special segments over the years. MBMBaM is I think the only Skype podcast I listen to, but there Griffin actually edits together three local audio feeds. Plus they've literally had all their lives to develop their chemistry.
posted by kmz at 8:31 AM on December 22, 2014


I really like podcasts for, as mentioned above, times when I cannot read but don't find my brain otherwise engaged. Filing, housework, driving (I just stop the podcast and start it again if it is too long). I don't generally want to discuss them -- I've enjoyed talking about Serial, but that's about it. I can't blame podcasters for not wanting to also be moderators or for not being up for hiring a moderation team.
posted by jeather at 8:33 AM on December 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


> There is almost nothing you can do in a podcast that can't be done better in writing

Well, my driving is better if I stick to listening to podcasts rather than reading.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:34 AM on December 22, 2014 [22 favorites]


I'm already used to awkwardly phrased stuff being written as awkward phrases.

[AWKWARD MURMURING INTENSIFIES]
posted by Greg Nog at 8:36 AM on December 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


The other thing that gets on my nerves is podcasts done between contributors over Skype or other VoIP. We can tell you're not in the same room together by the dodgy audio, random delays and distinct lack of chemistry.

This is a tricky thing, because one of the things I like about niche podcasts is the ability for contributors to come together from a distance in a way that would otherwise just make the show not possible.

I mean, yes, totally, I prefer being in a room to being on Skype, for sure, because that extra channel of paralinguistic communication is a great boon to natural call-and-response patter, visual/emotional feedback, etc. I do three shows right now and only one is in person and there is something special about the specific social immediacy and presence of the two of us and maybe-a-guest sitting in my basement together with beers. It's nice. I'd do all my shows in person if it were logistically possible.

But the problem isn't Skype et al. The problem is lack of chemistry; Skype is just, for a lot of combinations of people, a bigger impediment to building chemistry than sitting in a room together. You get to know a person a bit and you can anticipate and work with a lot of that patter-and-flow stuff even if you can't see each other, can't do anything but operate on your instinctive knowledge of their speech patterns and discursive tics and so on. You recognize each other's modes of conversation and account for it.

I have definitely listened to podcasts where the lack of flow over the phone/headset/whatever is awkward and stilted. It'd definitely a thing. But that is, fundamentally, an hosts/guests issue, not a telecom issue.
posted by cortex at 8:39 AM on December 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


The other thing that gets on my nerves is podcasts done between contributors over Skype or other VoIP.

i like it because you can pretend one person is in outer space
posted by poffin boffin at 8:40 AM on December 22, 2014 [6 favorites]


THAT is the problem with podcasts.

Maybe it's been long enough since the early days that they deserve another shot. 5 minutes of dead air might just have been an outlier. There are absolutely shitty podcasts, but there are shitty everything else too. You know how many websites out there aren't worth my time? Almost all of them.

Then again they could just not be for you. I absolutely hate listening to podcasts if I'm sitting at my desk, hanging out with people, or especially browsing the web. If a podcast isn't stellar it's not like I've wasted my time because I would have had to walked to work, done the dishes, etc anyway.
posted by ODiV at 8:42 AM on December 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


Podcasts are like using a PVR for radio.

Years ago I actually had a thing that did this. It stopped working due to one of Apple's innumerable backwards-compatibility-breaking OS updates, but it was cool while it lasted. I probably still have the hardware sitting around in a box somewhere.

Broadcast radio, if equipped with a fast-forward button so you can skip through the commercials, isn't bad. Particularly if you have a pretty big library of programming to listen to.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:42 AM on December 22, 2014


Fun fact: the term "podcasting" was first coined in a Guardian piece by metafilter's own DangerIsMyMiddleName.
posted by rocket88 at 8:43 AM on December 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


Well, my driving is better if I stick to listening to podcasts rather than reading.

Yeah, exactly. I listen to podcasts in the background while I'm doing other stuff, and they are great for that. If you don't have a need for that in your life, and can only listen to podcasts as appointments, then you will have a completely different experience.

Like when I am running during the more temperate months, I probably listen to 5-10 hours of podcasts a week. Very much more enjoyable than just listening to workout music.
posted by smackfu at 8:46 AM on December 22, 2014 [7 favorites]


Man, I fucking love podcasts. What it took to get me into them is my wife and I deciding to send our kids to a school across town. Before that I spent zero time in the car.

Now I'm hooked and the only thing that's suffered is the amount of time I watch TV. Also, I keep a blue tooth speaker in the bathroom. I think it started with The Moth or maybe even the MeFi podcast. Now there's 8 or so I follow religiously and am now in the middle of my first podcast binge ("There's No Such Thing as a Fish" -- rapid fire interesting factoids designed to inject dopamine machine gun style into the brains of nerds who are now addicted to a drug for which there is no cure.)

We're just waiting for the technology to catch up. Think about how many people choose to listen to talk radio over music programming. As soon as they realize they can access any fruitcake on the Internet from the touch screen of their F150, it will be the death of AM radio.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:48 AM on December 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


Then you could hear him walk away, and he came back five minutes later with coffee.

Honestly, if this is what you are basing your podcast hate on, I don't know what to tell you. Do you think all of us fans are just dummies listening to dead air all the time?
posted by smackfu at 8:48 AM on December 22, 2014 [11 favorites]


That's like going to one of those concerts where people "play" vacuum cleaners and blenders and deciding afterwards that you hate music.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:50 AM on December 22, 2014 [13 favorites]


Podcasting is still dominated by RSS, and DRM-free MP3 downloads hosted on unsecured HTTP servers that you can link to directly. You can download stuff. And keep it. You can play any of it without a network connection, on almost any conceivable device that can play audio.

If we want to improve podcasting, let's please, please, please not throw out the baby with the bathwater. Podcasting is a wonderful little corner of the internet that we haven't managed to break yet.

Podcasting somehow managed to fly below the radar, and has somehow managed to take advantage of all of the things that make technology great in 2014, without throwing away any of the things that made technology great in 2004.

It's open. It's decentralized. It's independent. Some might call that antisocial (it is; on purpose), and others might argue that podcasters need better tools (they might). However, as the web races away from openness and interoperability, I seriously hope that podcasting manages to cling onto its independence and soul.
posted by schmod at 9:01 AM on December 22, 2014 [35 favorites]


At best they're like overhearing a conversation that you find mildly interesting.

I listen to a lot of podcasts, but I totally agree with this. If I want to actually learn something or engage substantively with the material, podcasts are not the way I would do it. The scripted NPR-style nonfiction podcasts set my hair on end (as does the same material on the radio). I'm all about the light fluffy conversational/comedy podcasts. But you know, overhearing a mildly interesting conversation is basically the same motivation I have for reading Metafilter. I listen to podcasts while running and while doing work that involves number crunching or data arranging (they get in the way cognitively if I'm trying to read or write), and they help me stay focused on those tasks, but I have zero desire to get anything out of the podcast itself. Although I have wound up with much more knowledge about the lives of standup comedians in LA than I have any need for.
posted by yarrow at 9:05 AM on December 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


please, please not throw out the baby with the bathwater

I'm not proposing changing things drastically at the core, I'm asking for better tools to be built on top of the existing open architecture. I wish subscribing was easier, and that seems like a solvable problem without changing very much. I wish people could make short clips, and cutting up mp3s in a player on a desktop browser seems pretty easy to do, but no one has done it yet. I also wish people could talk about podcasts with other listeners, but none of those would have to abandon the dead simple tech behind them.
posted by mathowie at 9:05 AM on December 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


I like podcasts. I've been regularly listening to podcasts, auto-downloaded onto my successive mobile phones in basically the same way since around 2005.

Driving, public transport, walking, in the bathroom, in the kitchen... I don't have any problems with time to consume them, and I honestly have never once thought "I'd like some way to tell everyone I know that I'm listening to this podcast right now" or "I'd really like to see what other people are listening to". Similarly, I'm not in the market for a radio with a "tweet" button on it.

So the only people who listen to podcasts are the kind of people who put a tiny bit of effort into listening to podcasts. Would podcasting benefit from being a mainstream majority pursuit? I don't think so, I think it'd turn into something different, something less to my tastes, something like mainstream commercial TV and radio. Slightly better discovery would be good - otherwise I'd vote for leaving it all alone, frankly.
posted by dickasso at 9:06 AM on December 22, 2014 [8 favorites]


I listen to an enormous amount of podcasts. I listen while doing chores, in the shower, while I'm sewing, on my way to and from class, when I'm walking around the city, on planes and trains, and pretty much anywhere I can.

I also love reading, but part of what works well for me with podcasts is that I'll listen to stories in a podcast that I wouldn't choose to read on my own. They broaden my horizons.

I'm definitely drawn more to story based podcasts than "2-3 people talking" podcasts or comedy podcasts. (Though there are a few of each on my list.)

I also like podcasts because it's an easy way to access media from other countries. I regularly listen to audio from the UK and Australia (and if anyone knows of particularly good podcasts or radio from other English speaking countries, please let me know!), and it helps me feel more connected to the world outside the USA.

I get that podcasts don't work for some people, and that, like any medium, there's a lot of crap out there among the good stuff. But I'm awfully glad it works for me.

FWIW, I use BeyondPod to listen on my android phone. I never touch iTunes, I choose which episodes to download, and I've got it set up to download on WiFi only. I often start downloads in the evening before bed, so I'm full up the next day for more listening.

And for me, having podcasts on fanfare has been wonderful. The conversations are pretty small right now, but I'm really enjoying them. It's particularly great when people share extra stuff in the comments that I wouldn't have known about otherwise. And I'm loving learning about podcasts I haven't listened to before on the fanfare podcast feed.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:07 AM on December 22, 2014 [7 favorites]


> The failure of podcasts is due to the same reasons as it was ten years ago when it was first starting

That failure that "15 percent of people ages 12 and over have listened to... in the last month"?
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:08 AM on December 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


>Then you could hear him walk away, and he came back five minutes later with coffee.

Honestly, if this is what you are basing your podcast hate on, I don't know what to tell you. Do you think all of us fans are just dummies listening to dead air all the time?


Yeah, you are. Pay attention to it and you'll see how much dead air is in your favorite podcasts. Professionally produced podcasts rarely have this problem because they are edited. But those are more like radio shows than podcasts. Certainly that format existed well before podcasts.

But there are plenty of podcasts that might as well be dead air even though someone is talking. I moderate a forum where people constantly post podcasts from youtube. I have to listen to them to see if they're off topic, spam, or whatever. Invariably they are some guy rambling on with no editing and no point. But what really kills me is that almost none of them really say a damn thing for at least 2 or 3 minutes. There's an internet aphorism about this, "that's 3 minutes of my life I will never get back." I give em 90 seconds and if they can't even state the purpose of their podcast within that time, I delete them instantly. If they only hint at the core content for the first few minutes, and force you to listen to other stuff (usually commercial sales pitches) before they get to the main point, I delete them. I only developed this policy due to complaints by other users. So now I am doomed to continually sacrifice my time, listening to amateurish, rambling podcasts, wasting my time to save thousands of people from wasting their time.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:09 AM on December 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Let's see how you all feel about podcasts once you quit your real job to take up a profession that involves drawing all day, alone.

The only problem with podcasts (assuming you enjoy podcasts) is that they don't update frequently enough (see: constantly).
posted by TangoCharlie at 9:13 AM on December 22, 2014 [13 favorites]


But there are plenty of podcasts that might as well be dead air even though someone is talking.

There is no reason why podcasts wouldn't follow the "95% of everything is crap" rule. Stick to that 5% and you'll be fine.
posted by bondcliff at 9:13 AM on December 22, 2014 [7 favorites]


Although, this has made me start to rethink how my wife and I do our podcast. Currently, we use a pair of mics plugged into a Zoom H4N, talk for an hour, and then I do a bit of editing (silencing coughs, adding intro/outros, etc) and then up it goes. I'm wondering now if we should try to record things in chunks more, say a 10-15 minute bit followed by a break and a reset. It would be a lot more work on the editing end (and I'm usually at my wits end with Audacity, but it's free) but I wonder if that would reduce rambling. Several of my 'people talking' pods do the same - Mysterious Universe is a great example of a well edited pod - so I wonder if emulating them, cargocult tyle, would get us more than tens of listeners.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:14 AM on December 22, 2014


There is almost nothing you can do in a podcast that can't be done better in writing.

Do you also disdain stand-up comedy because P.G. Wodehouse was funnier?
posted by Etrigan at 9:19 AM on December 22, 2014 [7 favorites]


you should hear what that asshole Dave Winer did on his podcast today

As expertly skewered by Maciej's phrase "snorfling cashew nuts" in Dabblers and Blowhards.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 9:23 AM on December 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


Without reading the comments nor the actual article, I will say that how podcasting can be improved is by equalizing the damn sound levels. I don't need one person yelling into my ear while another person whispers.
posted by I-baLL at 9:26 AM on December 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


So the only people who listen to podcasts are the kind of people who put a tiny bit of effort into listening to podcasts. Would podcasting benefit from being a mainstream majority pursuit?

I don't think podcasting will ever be a mainstream majority pursuit, so it seems to me like more listeners = more revenue from premium subscriptions/advertising = better podcasts.

I'm the kind of person who puts on Youtube Let's Play videos for background noise. Low production values and meaningless chatter are right up my alley. So the fact that people like me aren't being captured by the podcast market should be concerning. I don't know, maybe I would only be satisfied by a central podcast youtube- or blip-like storage house that would completely ruin everything podcasting stands for, but surely there's a middle ground between that and a completely decentralized system that places the onus completely on listeners to locate and deal with media files.
posted by muddgirl at 9:28 AM on December 22, 2014


Invariably they are some guy rambling on with no editing and no point.

That's not a negative. That's what I like about them. Not all rambling is good, of course... there's bad rambling and there's good rambling. But some people are unusually good at rambling. Listening in on another person's creative and intellectual process is usually way more interesting to me than hearing a polished conclusion from a non-expert.

Outside of podcasts, it's hard to come by this sort of unmediated access to inner conversation. You do not easily find it in writing, which is much more deliberate and mediated.
posted by painquale at 9:45 AM on December 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


From the article:
The very best bits of TV and Movies can be clipped and uploaded to YouTube to be shared. You can’t easily say “check out the 30 second clip here from the 37th minute of this hilarious podcast” using existing tools, and that needs to change.

This seems spectacularly wrong? Clipping and uploading a bit of a podcast is—I would say it's easier, but it's certainly no harder than doing the same for TV or movies. (In both cases, it's trivially easy if you know what you're doing and have the tools, and anything but easy if you don't.)

The real differences—putting aside matters of copyright, and peoples' attitudes toward large faceless corporations vs. homegrown works—are that (a) TV and movies have far larger audiences, and, accordingly, more people inclined to do the clipping and sharing, and (b) even when readily available, people are generally more inclined to share video clips than audio ones. Why that's the case may be worthy of discussion, but it's not due to a technological gap.
posted by Shmuel510 at 9:48 AM on December 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


> Yeah, you are. Pay attention to it and you'll see how much dead air is in your favorite podcasts. Professionally produced podcasts rarely have this problem because they are edited

Why are you presuming that our favorite podcasts are poorly produced?
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:50 AM on December 22, 2014 [10 favorites]


There is the problem that most people have irritating voices and bad mics.

A minor technical problem compared to the fact that this two minute read blossoms into almost fifteen minutes of listening time.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:52 AM on December 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


multi-user podcast software

This is one of those solutions I haven't gone out hunting for or thought about building, but would welcome. In a household where one of us listens to a few podcasts at actual speed, and the other of us listens to dozens and dozens of podcasts at 2x or higher, a way to automatedly compared who's listened to what (and when?) would be helpful for picking things in the car.
posted by deludingmyself at 9:52 AM on December 22, 2014


The Whelk: "There is the problem that most people have irritating voices and bad mics."

I pretty much only ever listen to NPR or PRI podcasts. Life is way too short to listen to random amateurs mumble into bad recording equipment without a script.
posted by octothorpe at 9:53 AM on December 22, 2014


Professionally produced podcasts rarely have this problem because they are edited. But those are more like radio shows than podcasts. Certainly that format existed well before podcasts.

This feels like a particularly weird twist on the "no true scotsman" fallacy. Your stance is that podcasts are worthless because they're so poorly produced, and you bolster that point by defining any well-produced podcast as not really being a podcast.

There's a whole lot of well-produced podcasts out there, and they are more than just "radio on the internet". Perhaps consider that something about your own experience with them (e.g. having to listen to ones that you didn't personally seek out due to interest, in an official/moderator capacity) makes you a poor judge of the medium as a whole.
posted by tocts at 9:55 AM on December 22, 2014 [12 favorites]


maybe I would only be satisfied by a central podcast youtube- or blip-like storage house that would completely ruin everything podcasting stands for, but surely there's a middle ground

That's basically what Matt's talking about in the sense of aftermarket apps and centralized search. It wouldn't ruin "everything podcasting stands for" and it would change nothing about how people make and distribute their podcasts, but would make them easier to access for people who need them to be easy to access as a point of entry.

And maybe that thing IS youtube. I'm going to ask my husband if he's thought about putting his audio-only podcasts up there (or maybe he does, it's kind of weird to listen to his shows so I usually don't). I don't know if he bothers uploading his video podcast to anything other than youtube.

For most people *who have a smartphone or tablet*, almost every complaint or misconception I've seen so far is already handled, with the exception of knowing about Overcast or Downcast or the other apps created to handle them. Possibly also not knowing what podcasts they might actually enjoy, whether that be rambly chatting or super-tight short dense productions. I'd love to see that become easier across the board, but in particular for non-smartphone users.

I probably listen to 5-6 hours of podcasts a day - rambly chatters for background noise when I'm doing more mindless types of work, more story-oriented stuff for housework and my very occasional driving. There's one podcast I save to listen with my husband in the car (You Must Remember This is released as infrequently as our outings, is often the same length as our drive since everything we do is 30ish minutes away, and listening to stories of classic Hollywood is extra fun when you're driving around LA), and there are a couple others we will listen in in lieu of TV time if a new one is out and neither one of us have heard it yet. I spend way more time listening to podcasts than watching TV.

So much podcast hate is predicated on things that simply aren't true, and I don't know why so much of that seems to be powered not by technological barriers to exposure but because they think podcasts are something that they're not. Someone in the podcast thread a couple days ago seemed upset that podcasts were being differentiated from radio when they preferred to just think of it all as "audio" and I don't even understand what it is podcasts are doing that is so mean that people are instantly, "Not possibly of any value whatsoever, sirrah!" and pedaling away angrily on their velocipedes.

For example: Life is way too short to listen to random amateurs mumble into bad recording equipment without a script. There are podcasts that are like that, but there are podcasts that are not (and some are made by professionals in things other than radio), and so many of them that this is not a useful argument or dismissal. It's fine if you don't get it, don't want to get it, and aren't interested in it, but why walk into a conversation other people are having that is actually concerned with the nuances and poop and walk off?
posted by Lyn Never at 10:08 AM on December 22, 2014 [11 favorites]


And maybe that thing IS youtube.

Could be, but if you want an audio version of YouTube, that's pretty much SoundCloud's mission statement.
posted by Shmuel510 at 10:10 AM on December 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


I've been podcasting for five years now and have been editing our show for almost four years now. I like to think we've taken steps to eliminate most of the common complaints about the format. I cut the dead air out of the show during the editing process, cut the stray "ah" "um" "y'know" as much as possible, and trim anything that turns into a conversational dead end. We record over Skype, but everyone records their own audio tracks individually and then I sync them up so we avoid the sounds of AM radio or transmitting from space (exception: when guests don't know how to do that). We're also a one-hour show (approximately) so we don't overstay our welcome each week.

I know it's a lot of work. It takes about two and a half hours of editing work to make each finished hour. A lot of podcasters I've talked to are shocked I put so much effort into a show that so few know about (we have our small devoted audience and that's what keeps us going). Most are content to turn out a three-hour stream of consciousness show, technical errors and all. I go the extra mile because it drives me crazy to listen to a show where 30% of it could be cut and nothing of value would be lost. I know I can't be the only one who feels that way, so I want our show to stand out. After all, if I wouldn't want to listen to our show, why would anyone else?
posted by Servo5678 at 10:28 AM on December 22, 2014 [7 favorites]


I'll also add that Skype VoIP is not a problem with making a good sounding Podcast, if you're getting poor audio or bad pauses you're doing it wrong.
Anyone Skyping into a podcast should be splitting their mic output so one goes to Skype and the other dump right into a recording session in Audacity (or other high quality recording program/hardware). After the show wraps all the remote contributors upload their local audio recording of their vocal mic to the producer. The producer then drops them all into a multi-track session, syncs them and removes dead air and other awkward pauses or hemming and hawing. Editing is just as important as the initial talking.
posted by MrBobaFett at 10:29 AM on December 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


I love podcasts and have probably learned more weird factoids from them than anywhere else. I've certainly heard more intelligent discussion than I ever would on the radio through them, and it usually isn't too much work to find a new favorite when one of the old ones fades.

My one complaint about them is more that there's no easy way to skip forward a minute or two (at least, as far as I am aware.) A handful of mine either have repetitive advertising (which I realize pays for the show, but I still do not need to hear the pitch for joining Audible for the nth time) or periodically have segments that aren't of much interest. As it is, I scrub forward and approximate, and that works okay, but I'd love a button that just fast-forwarded for a minute. It'd be awesome if more podcasts were broken up like the SciFriday described above, and I wonder if that's just because it's technically difficult to implement, or if there's some other reason.
posted by tautological at 10:30 AM on December 22, 2014


with the exception of knowing about Overcast or Downcast or the other apps created to handle them.

Both of those are Apple-only, BTW. And Apple users already have neat ways of syncing their files between all their constellation of devices.
posted by muddgirl at 10:33 AM on December 22, 2014


tautological - FWIW Sticher has a skip foward and skip back 30 seconds button. Right by the the sleep timer button if you have a need for that. But I would still love "chapter" bookmarks for some shows.
posted by MrBobaFett at 10:36 AM on December 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


BeyondPod has 30 sec skip buttons, too, and variable speed playback.
posted by ocherdraco at 10:39 AM on December 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


tautological: "My one complaint about them is more that there's no easy way to skip forward a minute or two (at least, as far as I am aware.) "

Downcast lets you swipe anywhere on the screen, right to skip ahead, left to jump back. It's particularly helpful in the car. You can customize the time span for each.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:43 AM on December 22, 2014


there's no easy way to skip forward a minute or two

I love that Instacast's fast forward and rewind buttons default to 30sec each direction. If there's an uninteresting musical guest or a long rambling ad I've heard several times already, I just hit the button 2-3 times to skip past.
posted by mathowie at 10:48 AM on December 22, 2014


Overcast has 30s forward/back by default, configurable to however long you want. I keep it on 30s and it's four taps for Squarespace/Stamps, etc etc.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:51 AM on December 22, 2014


I'm curious about people that listen to audio sped up. Is listening to 2x podcasts bearable? Do you just get used to it? Do some apps handle voice pitch correct better than others? I've tried a few times and can't get used to it, so I'm curious to hear what it's like from people that do it regularly.
posted by mathowie at 10:53 AM on December 22, 2014


The real differences—putting aside matters of copyright, and peoples' attitudes toward large faceless corporations vs. homegrown works—are that (a) TV and movies have far larger audiences, and, accordingly, more people inclined to do the clipping and sharing, and (b) even when readily available, people are generally more inclined to share video clips than audio ones. Why that's the case may be worthy of discussion, but it's not due to a technological gap.

Yeah, both MBMBaM and the Bombcast has tons of clips on Youtube, some with animations as well.
posted by kmz at 10:55 AM on December 22, 2014


Be careful what you ask for.

In the early days of radio, you had to find the frequency of a station. Then you had to plug in a coil for the right band. Then you had to tune to the frequency, adjust the antenna and volume, and listen. It was an experience of skill, mystery and glowing blue tubes. Charm.

That was all much too hard for most people (even when they had much more time on their hands). So stations started staying on single frequencies. Business swooped in. A switch replaced the coils. Meanwhile, Lone Ranger, Green Hornet, Dick Tracy, music selected by individuals with taste. Then pushbuttons replaced the tuning knobs because of people whining about how tuning a radio is "hard". Dorky comedians and ventriloquists and cigarette ads and music selected by sales potential. Cold-sounding transistors replaced the glowing tubes. Preacher Herbert Armstrong ranting about his World Tomorrow.

Moral of story: Once people whine things into being so easy that anyone can do them, the charm vanishes and is replaced by tedium. Things that are free have no value. This same recipe of instant and pushbutton and easy wrecks everything. Stop it. Stoppit, stoppit, Stop it.
posted by Twang at 11:02 AM on December 22, 2014 [6 favorites]


Why can't podcasts have markers at each segment so I can skip segments?
posted by diogenes at 11:03 AM on December 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


I wish subscribing was easier, and that seems like a solvable problem without changing very much. I wish people could make short clips, and cutting up mp3s in a player on a desktop browser seems pretty easy to do, but no one has done it yet. I also wish people could talk about podcasts with other listeners

The interesting thing about each of these observations is that they all seem to stem from the fact that Podcasting never got shoved into the browser-centric paradigm that the rest of our media seems have to fallen into.

The sad solution is that "PodTube" would be a really easy way to solve all of those problems. I didn't mean to imply that you were suggesting such a service, but I think that it is the logical conclusion that many would draw, when contemplating how to bring podcasting "into the future".

Really, it's becoming increasingly apparent that the browser is the problem that seems to be causing so much lock-in. However, unless you can somehow convince the world to resurrect the notion of "files,"I'm not sure that I have any suggestions for how we can make things better.
posted by schmod at 11:05 AM on December 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Is listening to 2x podcasts bearable? Do you just get used to it?

So, I don't use this for every podcast, but I do use it regularly for a few (some that are on the chattier, less-editing side, and some that just have slow-speaking hosts).

I find that 1.5x is very easy to get used to, and that 2x is only comfortable for the rare podcast that is truly glacially paced (it often works well for podcasts of academic lectures, because professors have a tendency to speak excessively slowly).

For me, it's a matter of using it to adjust individual podcasts to approach my ideal listening speed, rather than using it for everything I listen to.
posted by ocherdraco at 11:21 AM on December 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Why can't podcasts have markers at each segment so I can skip segments?

Some do. I think back when I had an apple device The Bugle would do this.
posted by edbles at 11:21 AM on December 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


Moral of story: Once people whine things into being so easy that anyone can do them, the charm vanishes and is replaced by tedium. Things that are free have no value. This same recipe of instant and pushbutton and easy wrecks everything. Stop it. Stoppit, stoppit, Stop it.

tell us more about these onions on your belt
posted by poffin boffin at 11:22 AM on December 22, 2014 [12 favorites]


There's a lot of people complaining about the form because it takes longer to listen to something than to read something and you guys have entirely missed the point of the medium. It's not about absorbing information as quickly as possible, it's spoken word . It's made for people who either learn better auditorialy, or prefer listening to reading or just are stuck somewehre they can't read and need to kill time. The idea that you wouldn't try a podcast because reading is faster is a really weird statement, it's like saying you wouldn't listen to music because it takes longer than reading orchestration.
posted by edbles at 11:24 AM on December 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'm curious about people that listen to audio sped up. Is listening to 2x podcasts bearable?

I listen to all podcasts on at least 1.25x speed, and make some quicker depending on the hosts' talking speed. (British people tend to speak much more rapidly, I've discovered.) 2x is too fast on almost all podcasts. It's not just about consuming things more quickly: speeding up a podcast makes people seem a lot more quick-witted and a lot more sharp. Humor becomes a lot funnier.

I've also discovered that I prefer almost all theme songs sped up. It's weird to encounter pop songs on podcasts for the first time. When I then next hear them outside of a podcast format, they sound cartoonishly slow. I can't listen to NPR themes on the radio any more without thinking that they sound comical.
posted by painquale at 11:25 AM on December 22, 2014


Podcast speed increases don't seem to be standardized, by the way. 1.25x on iCatcher is the same as 1.5x on Downcast for some reason. I'm not sure why.
posted by painquale at 11:27 AM on December 22, 2014


The idea that you wouldn't try a podcast because reading is faster is a really weird statement

I have to read along with all audio because I am hearing impaired. If I am reading along with something that is ONLY audio it is far easier for me to just read it on my own time instead of following along. Podcasts are incredibly frustrating without transcripts because I can't listen to them while doing anything else in the background, they require a level of concentration that I find exhausting, I might as well be listening to radio static with occasional speech bursts, or nothing at all.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:33 AM on December 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


There's a lot of people complaining about the form because it takes longer to listen to something than to read something and you guys have entirely missed the point of the medium.

God, seriously. I can't imagine how much of the charm of How Did This Get Made? or Doug Loves Movies or Pop Culture Happy Hour would evaporate without the vocal performances. (On the flip side, I think part of what I don't really get about Welcome to Night Vale is that it's all in the writing and comes across as pretty dry by audio.)

I'm also struck by how many people have said, "I only have a half-hour commute and thus have no time to listen to podcasts!" as if (a) they don't run the gamut from five minutes to two hours and (b) what, you never wash dishes or just go for a walk or whatever?
posted by psoas at 11:36 AM on December 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


I haven't tried 2x playback, but I once accidentally listened to several minutes at 90% speed. This magically makes everything spoken sound extremely sarcastic.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 11:39 AM on December 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


Even Apple's podcast app lies about the speed, like 1.5x isn't 50% faster. Marco had a post on it that Googing should readily find.
posted by smackfu at 11:46 AM on December 22, 2014


It's fine if you don't get it, don't want to get it, and aren't interested in it, but why walk into a conversation other people are having that is actually concerned with the nuances and poop and walk off?

The subject of the FPP article is how to improve podcast technology and distribution. Exploring how the current technology and distribution (and content) don't work for a lot of people certainly seems like a valid part of the conversation and certainly not a threadshitting.

It's fascinating for me to read here about what kinds of things people enjoy listening to and how it fits into their lives. Personally the genre of " random amateurs mumble into bad recording equipment without a script" sounds like my idea of hell, and yet there is clearly an audience for it.

The sad solution is that "PodTube" would be a really easy way to solve all of those problems.

Why is there no "PodTube"? (Or is there, and I've just never heard of it?) It sounds like an obvious parallel to how people access videos and other online media content.
posted by Dip Flash at 12:02 PM on December 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


"I don't like the way this works" does not mean "this is broken."
posted by Linda_Holmes at 12:06 PM on December 22, 2014 [9 favorites]


Why is there no "PodTube"? (Or is there, and I've just never heard of it?)

My best guess? Podcast listeners tend to be tech-savvy introverts (for reasons that Matt outlines in his article). The people who currently listen to podcasts don't need a "PodTube," and there's been no rush to create legions of additional podcast listeners, because the format isn't particularly lucrative to monetize.

Also, the iTunes Store functions as "PodTube" for most people, and there's never been a rush to monetize the format, so corporate interests seemed to stay away. Soundcloud also fills this niche on occasion (despite being an absolutely godawful way to listen to podcasts, or anything longer than 5 minutes)

Seems like a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem, coupled with "the shitty tools that we have are marginally adequate;" but that's just my best guess.
posted by schmod at 12:16 PM on December 22, 2014


I've always taken issue with podcasts (and with the notion that YouTube is the future of communication on the web), because they are time consuming in a way that reading and writing aren't. They do not allow for useful skimming, snippet saving, commonplace book saving, or any of the other things that writing as a medium really facilitate. Above all, it's hard for me to find the time for a podcast. There are one's I have listened to and enjoyed, but that kind of time is essentially a luxury I (and a lot of people) don't have for all sorts of reasons.

For instance, I know that this echoes other comments in this thread, but there were 70+ added since I loaded the thread, and all have come since I read the article when it was first posted with zero comments. If I had to listen to the end to participate then I would be shut out. (I know, I know, feature not bug, but still.)
posted by OmieWise at 12:26 PM on December 22, 2014


Exploring how the current technology and distribution (and content) don't work for a lot of people

"Podcasts suck! They're all bad!" doesn't even reach the starting level of "don't work" though. If what you want in a podcast app is for there to be no podcasts in them, I think the creators and app developers are going to have some difficulty with that as a feature. (Though the first iteration of the Apple Podcast app tried pretty hard.)
posted by Lyn Never at 12:36 PM on December 22, 2014 [5 favorites]


I moderate a forum where people constantly post podcasts from youtube. I have to listen to them to see if they're off topic, spam, or whatever. Invariably they are some guy rambling on with no editing and no point. But what really kills me is that almost none of them really say a damn thing for at least 2 or 3 minutes.

Oh dear god this. I don't think it's all podcasts, it's really a Youtube thing, and I don't really know if I'd call most of Youtube "podcasts" if we're being really honest—if it doesn't have an RSS feed that you can subscribe to, it's not a podcast by my definition; it's just somebody recording themselves and putting it on the Internet.

But Youtube is really awful for having people doing weird cargo-cult stuff because they see other videos doing it, so they do it too, without understanding why those other videos might have done it and more importantly why they shouldn't. I saw a video the other day, which couldn't have been more than a few months old, that had a goddamn SMPTE test pattern before the video came on. This was video that was probably shot on a cellphone or something, but somebody thought it would look "pro" to put a few seconds of bars and tone on there, and they did.

(And then there's the mandatory title card shot, and then a glacially-paced introduction where somebody stands in front of a camera and tells you who they are, and what the video we're watching is—as though both of those pieces of information aren't printed right there below the video... ugh. You can pretty much throw away the first 30s of any 3m+ video right off the bat and lose nothing.)

Youtube is its own bizarre little pocket universe.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:41 PM on December 22, 2014 [6 favorites]


I'm also struck by how many people have said, "I only have a half-hour commute and thus have no time to listen to podcasts!" as if (a) they don't run the gamut from five minutes to two hours and (b) what, you never wash dishes or just go for a walk or whatever?

If I had a half-hour highway commute, I might be able to listen to a podcast but mine is all city with turns and traffic lights and such so there's just too much external stuff` to think about while I'm driving. My brain is single-threaded, I can't do something like listen to an podcast or audio book and also do any other demanding task. The audio just turns into "Ginger, blah, blah, blah" in my head and I'll get to work and realize that I have no idea what was said. I have to sit and actively listen to something like a pod-cast to be able to get much out of it. Long road trips work for that but a morning commute really doesn't. Obviously YBMV (your brain may vary).
posted by octothorpe at 12:45 PM on December 22, 2014


I should point out that podcasts have pretty much single-handedly revived the short story format for science fiction, fantasy and horror. Only a few years ago short stories were dead; the magazines that held them were dead or nearly so. Now there's an explosion of short story podcasts, and even more diversity in the medium than before. Pretty decent for a "failed" technology.

There is almost nothing you can do in a podcast that can't be done better in writing.

I don't think you guys have gone quite far enough.

"There's nothing you can do with a television show that can't be done better in writing! Harrumph! Harrumph!"

"There's nothing you can do in a radio show that can't be done better in writing! Harrumph! Harrumph!"

"There's nothing you can do with atelephone that can't be done better in writing! Harrumph! Harrumph!"

"There's nothing you can do with writing that can't be done better with a recitation by a person trained from birth to memorize the sagas! Harrumph! Harrumph!"
posted by happyroach at 12:49 PM on December 22, 2014 [13 favorites]


look, do you want to win the riddling goose or not?
posted by poffin boffin at 12:52 PM on December 22, 2014


I've always taken issue with podcasts (and with the notion that YouTube is the future of communication on the web), because they are time consuming in a way that reading and writing aren't.

Here's the thing, though: podcasts aren't meant to be consumed in the same way reading an article is. Good podcasts aren't just about raw information dump, or even just about the writing (if any) that goes into them; they're also about the delivery, the editing, etc, all of which add to the experience.

I don't love The Flophouse because I'm just dying to hear a couple of one-liners and snark about a shitty movie. I love it because it's literally 3 great friends with a hilarious rapport, sitting in a room, bullshitting about a topic that's near and dear to my heart. The performance (completely unscripted) is the whole point of it. 80% of the time, I've never even seen the movie they're talking about, and it's still amazing to experience.

At the same time, I don't love Revolutions (and, prior to that, The History of Rome) purely because of the facts therein (though there's a whole lot of factual information presented). I love it because Mike Duncan does a great job of scripting and then presenting that information in a way that's super engaging, and his voice performance is really fun to listen to. If all I cared about was the facts, I could go read any of the various sources he's using, but the point of me listening is because the show itself is of serious entertainment value to me.

I am totally sympathetic to the notion that sometimes, video and audio aren't the right medium (god do I hate news stories that could be 300 words of text, and are instead 3 minutes of video with ads and stupid interstitials, etc). But, to me, that's not what podcasts are doing, and arguing purely on the line of "reading is faster" feels equivalent to the argument for a 100% soylent diet ("food is only energy, why ever bother with food that's in any way adorned/complex/interesting, that just gets in the way of the pure energy"). Maybe that's what some people want, but it's not for me.
posted by tocts at 12:52 PM on December 22, 2014 [11 favorites]


I listen to podcasts while cleaning and doing chores. If I can't find my iPod and am facing some stupid chores, I simply won't do them unless I can have my podcast reward. I would be living in a house neck-deep in dog fur and filth if I hadn't discovered podcasts.

Music doesn't do the same thing for because honestly, it's all just background noise to me and isn't enough of a distraction from the existential torture of cleaning the same fucking thing I just cleaned yesterday and will have to clean again tomorrow. I hate housework so damn much and cheerful people chattering in my ear about things they are excited by is the only way I can deal with the fact that housework makes me feel like throwing myself from the roof.

My only problem with podcasts is that there aren't more that are exactly the way I like them. If all podcasts were revamped to suit my specific tastes, I would say that would be an improvement for podcasts.
posted by Squeak Attack at 1:12 PM on December 22, 2014 [10 favorites]


(If I could read while cleaning, I totally would but it has proved impractical.)
posted by Squeak Attack at 1:12 PM on December 22, 2014 [5 favorites]


I listen to lots of podcasts, while driving, exercising, doing housework, and laying in the darkened kids' room waiting for them to fall asleep. I will always listen to the Slate gabfests, anything featuring John Siracusa, Risky Business, the New Yorker political scene, Exponent, Roderick on the Line, and Hello Internet. I sample from 5by5, Relay, and the Incomperable orbits. I typically listen on 1.25-ish with 'Smart Speed' enabled in Overcast.

I will let a dozen scifi short stories queue up and then binge them.

I listen to very little NPR these days - most programs seem to bound to the format and timeslot - no chance to cut it short if they run out of topics or run long on something interesting.

I understand the "I'd rather read it" complaint. I don't normally listen to the monologuey podcasts, whether it's one guy talking solo or two hosts where one is just there to add the occasional "OK". The enjoyable podcasts are conversations between people with a rapport.

I often think about how much joy I get out of listening to these things. I smile anytime I get an alert about a new Flophouse or ATP.

Yay podcasts.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 1:21 PM on December 22, 2014 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I just want to add to the chorus of people who value podcasts for alleviating tedium. I had a few weeks last year where I had to do hours of boring data entry every day. The fact that I'd just discovered some new podcasts to add to the rotation I normally listen to on my commute and on long runs made that not only not terrible, but something I looked forward to and enjoyed every day! It's the same with kitchen prep and doing laundry and cleaning the house and washing the dishes - having these little bits of chatter from people I've come to love about things I find interesting while I'm doing necessary but not exciting domestic work is really valuable to my quality of life. If I had to choose between these rambly conversational podcasts and the polished prestige cable dramas that I love and more "actively" watch, I would probably have to say goodbye to HBO. (THANK GOD I DON'T HAVE TO CHOOSE).
posted by raisindebt at 1:31 PM on December 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


FanFare does podcasts now? How am I only finding out about this through an article on medium.com?
posted by benito.strauss at 1:35 PM on December 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Podcast integration on FanFare was announced at the beginning of December on MetaTalk.

For those who are interested in sampling new-to-them podcasts, I highly recommend the FanFare podcast feed. Anything that shows up in the feed already has a page on FanFare, so you know other mefites are listening to it.
posted by ocherdraco at 1:45 PM on December 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


Why can't podcasts have markers at each segment so I can skip segments?

Mostly because very few people use the markers, and it is relatively time consuming to insert them. And then supporting them in a podcast app becomes a UI clutter thing that isn't especially beneficial, so maybe they don't get supported. IIRC they're not well supported in the mp3 format which is the podcasting standard either.
posted by wotsac at 1:57 PM on December 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


> Even Apple's podcast app lies about the speed, like 1.5x isn't 50% faster. Marco had a post on it that Googing should readily find.

More than you wanted to know about podcast playback speed.

If you have an iOS device, try out Overcast. I prefer it to Downcast, and it is miles better than Apple's own Podcasts app. (Why, Apple? Why?)

And I've been listening to podcasts since the first iPod Nano came out - I had the black one that scratched if you looked at it funny, my then-girlfriend had the white one, and bizarrely enough, Apple tracked us down like nine years later (?) and gave us replacement tiny square iPod Nanos that we're still using today on various otherwise-obsolete docks.
posted by RedOrGreen at 2:01 PM on December 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


How are people defining "podcast" here? I listen to hours of podcasts each week, but mostly stuff from the BBC.

It sounds like most people wouldn't really count those, as despite being delivered over RSS they're professionally produced. Do they have to be amateur to really count? And what about people who solicit donations?
posted by metaBugs at 2:09 PM on December 22, 2014


Podcastigator (n) Internet denizen with a dismissive, curmudgeonly opinion of podcasts, podcasters, and those who dare enjoy them.
posted by Celsius1414 at 2:21 PM on December 22, 2014 [5 favorites]


I also listen to lots of podcasts, and I get why some podcast fans are concerned about the idea of "socializing" everything so that in order to fully appreciate the podcast you also have to be following some online community/reading the right blogs/etc. I actually made a comment to that effect regarding Serial.

But, to the extent that I do want to participate in discussions surrounding my listening habit, I would really love it if it were easier to do the "clip and share" thing with podcasts. I know that Soundcloud is touted as the Youtube of audio, but what I'd really love (in addition to tools for making the clips that aren't hugely divorced from where I'm listening) is something like the imgur of audio. Let me make a clip, upload it, and grab a short URL for it, without having to make an account or login or do anything like that.
posted by sparklemotion at 2:33 PM on December 22, 2014


Podcasting has only been around for 10 years? I remember watching the spec evolve and hand-crafting the XML to wrap soundboard recordings of my community radio show. The show aired at an unreasonable hour and this was the way I could share with friends who had lives and also with friends and family spread across the country. I was really into RSS v1.0 and RDF so handcrafting XML was actually a fun thing for me. But I guess that was February 2005 when I started so, yeah, 10 years.

I haven't podcasted in years but it seems odd that there isn't a site or app dedicated to audio capture, editing, and packaging as a podcast feed in RSS on the production side. Seems like a fun fork for Audacity if nothing else. Add some config information for publication and then File > Export Podcast > dialog window > Publish! It mixes down all your tracks, compresses as mp3 (or what-have-you) and uploads the media file and pokes XML into your feed file. Maybe even a separate Podcast management module so you could edit/prune as you see fit.

As for managing/playing podcasts, I'm not sure I understand the difficulty. I use PocketCast and for the most part I can browse an extensive catalog of shows within the app itself and add them with a screen tap. If I want something more obscure, yes, I have to find a URL and key that in...but not beyond the grasp of most anything else on the Web. Everything is driven by the phone/app but that plugs into my 1990's era Kenwood receiver without issue for home, my car's audio jack when driving, or headphones everywhere else.

Maybe the problem is that podcasting is "good enough" for most of the people who would use it. Kind of how email is "good enough" despite its tremendous collection of flaws or Facebook is "good enough" for the masses who should be blogging and using xmlrpc + RSS, etc (get off my lawn!!!).

And podcasts save me on the daily commute slog. I know folks have it worse, but the 70 minutes a day I put in on the road would kill me if I didn't time-shift live radio like the good bits of Radio 4 and NPR. I can also call on storytelling or keep up on various sports rumor mills. When I make it to the gym or walk the dogs, that's another hour or so I can devote to this stuff. I've tried some of the more sit and chat type podcasts but, yeah, hearing a bunch of smug jackwagons jerk each other off for three hours just to get 10 minutes of decent content is too much. Yes, looking at you, Brewing Network. So it does require some effort to curate, but I do that with the WWW via RSS and even my television viewing. I don't know that I watch or listen to anything live these days unless I'm at the venue where it is taking place. And I'm always about a month or so behind on non-current events related podcasts so the social side of things would always be ahead of me.
posted by Fezboy! at 3:09 PM on December 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


I started out a fan, but, then, I was struck by the fact that Leo Laporte = Arthur Godfrey, and that life is, indeed, a circle. Oh, Chronosynclastic Infidibulum, where be thy sting?
posted by Chitownfats at 3:23 PM on December 22, 2014


I find Huffduffer very useful for podcasts: any audio around and about can be huffduffered and turns up on my feed along with things that people I've connected to have huffduffered. All sorts of interesting things have turned up unexpectedly because of it. It's a hobby of the great Jeremy Keith. What I'd really like is for a podcast app to integrate with Huffduffer somehow (though I'm sure there's not practical way to do that). Matt's certainly right that we do need a much more fluid way to subscribe. Also, it would be nice if there was a client that didn't slow to a glacial crawl as soon as I add more than a handful of feeds.

I find it interesting that despite the very low technical demands - all you really need is a microphone and a computer, though what you get with that might sound like arse - what people come up with does seem to be very conservative (essentially amateur radio shows, or what conforms very closely to our expectations for radio shows). But then the other problem of podcasts (finding stuff) means that I'm probably missing the radical, experimental stuff. Though there's rather more focus on monetisation than I think the actual content justifies, at least in the shows I've listened to.

That said, it does seem to be the one medium that I'm very critical of, and I'm incredibly ruthless with my feed. Also it's how I listen to actual radio (BBC stuff - Kermode & Mayo, In Our Time, The News Quiz, etc).

I find myself in full agreement with the issues that Matt raises, while at the same time having no idea how one might address them. Though I hope that someone far cleverer than me actually does.
posted by Grangousier at 4:21 PM on December 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


I feel like I need to either say EVERYTHING in response to Matt's great piece, or nothing.

As a podcaster, I welcome these changes! But I don't have the staff, time, or other resources to implement them right now, if ever.

As a listener, I welcome these changes! But save me from more social connectedness. I don't need more.

I find podcast discovery to be just fine on my phone.

Also: Pop Up Archive is solving some of the problems of transcriptions.
posted by Mo Nickels at 4:56 PM on December 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


They sure clutter up the Fanfare page, anyway.

Relevant to your interests: "Announcing My FanFare."
posted by ocherdraco at 6:09 PM on December 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


Oh my goodness yes Overcast. The Smart Speed feature that automatically cuts silence alone makes it worth using, along with everything else about it.

I do listen to everything at 2x speed, though,* and I've gotten used to it to the point where listening to anything at actual speed makes everyone sound all despondent. Josh and Chuck, I'm looking at you, even if it is just because you're from the South.

*except Merlin Mann, who comes with that built in as a standard feature
posted by DoctorFedora at 6:21 PM on December 22, 2014


I listen to most podcasts at 1.8x, some at 2x. (I use VLC, which lets you adjust the rate in fine increments of 0.1.) I consider that a feature I can't live without. The nice thing about this setup is that you can use it for any video at all, in conjunction with youtube-dl. Any kind of lecture or presentation is much better at 1.8x. Speech is just so full of redundancies and blank space. If you've been listening to someone at 2.0x and you come down to 1.0x, it sounds like they have some kind of speech pathology related to poor control of their facial and neck muscles, as it seems so painfully drawn out. However, the way I listen to these things, I devote my full attention to them. It does take somewhat more concentration. If you're the kind of person that wants to listen to a podcast in the background, it's probably not for you; or at least you should experiment with slower speeds. Even 1.2x would save you a lot of time and doesn't sound hardly any different.
posted by Rhomboid at 6:48 PM on December 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


I agree with everything mathowie says in that piece. I was glad to read it too, because I thought I was the only one who finds podcasts weird and un-user-friendly and kind of hard to integrate into my life. But then, I don't listen to radio either. The point about the antisocial nature of them too was interesting. And yeah, why is it that we don't gather round to listen to stuff together any more, even though most of the time we still see TV watching as a social thing?
posted by lollusc at 7:40 PM on December 22, 2014


I don't WANT most podcasts to be "social." Must EVERYTHING be social media'd and "a COMMUNITY" any more? Serial is the only podcast I've ever wanted to chat about after the fact, and I haven't even done all that much of that. I may like listening to Judge John Hodgman, but I haven't been able to think of much to say about it afterwards, for example.

There is....well, I'll leave it anonymous, but let's just say there are some folks who did a podcast and then they have suddenly gotten Patreon and are now doing so many podcasts a week, for hours at a time, that I can't keep up any more. The shows are good, but man, I'm overwhelmed trying to keep up. And they're always going on and on about "the COMMUNITY" and all these shoutouts to THE COMMUNITY on Twitter and quoting tons of folks on Twitter and.... I just want to say, let's get back to the commentary a bit. I suppose it's fun for them, but I find it exhausting. Not everything has to have discussion about it afterwards, especially about something that usually runs 2 hours long and I don't have a transcript to look up what I wanted to talk about afterwards.

Really, my one beef on podcasts is I wish there were more transcripts, because as someone else pointed out, I read a billion times faster than I can listen. But hey, they entertain me at work, so generally speaking I like them.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:15 PM on December 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


I use Downcast because the iTunes setup wouldn't let me have different podcasts on my computer and my phone; I have a few shows where I like to keep them all because I like to re-listen, but most are fairly ephemeral.

My two "drop everything and listen" podcasts are Rachel and Miles X-Plain the X-Men and Isometric. I like both of them for the energy and chemistry between the people first, and any content second; both make me feel happy. A close third and forth are the SF Squeecast and Tea & Jeopardy, and then the Read. I probably have a couple dozen podcasts on my list with a chunk of them set to only keep three episodes. Mine only download over wifi.

Social aspects are fairly academic for me because I largely listen to podcasts while I drive, and any ideas for a response I might have are gone by the time I could type them in. I would like a way to share my favorites, though.
posted by Deoridhe at 10:51 PM on December 22, 2014


Wow, cranky people who don't like podcasts are cranky. The same arguments come up almost anytime somebody mentions online video. "It takes too long, I can read a thousand times faster!" Presumably you guys also watch movies by turning on subtitles and fast forwarding to just read the text at high speed, and read books by way of Cliffs Notes or plot summaries on wikipedia.

The value of the medium to other people is not affected by your dislike of it. My advice is to just relax and appreciate that preferences in methods of communication is a land of contrasts.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 10:54 PM on December 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


I find podcasts a little contrived - I much prefer the serendipity of radio.

Except Paul F. Tompkins is almost never on the radio, and he's all over comedy podcasts. So... there's no way around that. Transcribing Comedy Bang! Bang! wouldn't really work either.

I dunno. Listening to podcasts is such an ingrained part of my life now that turning on the radio seems so pointless and anachronistic. Everything I would want to hear that might be on the radio has a podcast as well.

It's dead simple technology. Search, download &/or subscribe, hit play. It's easier on a phone type device, but regardless it's far simpler than programming a VCR.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:08 AM on December 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Many though not all of the problems brought up by Mats article could (will) be solved by someone inventing ad sense / the deck network for audio. Right now each advertiser has to broker a different deal with the broadcaster or network. Imagine if you could drop essentially something like a widget into your audio file that would play whatever 15 second clip from a. A coffeeshop you're driving by b. A different podcast similar to the one you're listening to. C. Audible or Stamps.com or Toyota or Image Comics or whatevs but geared to the niche audience that the broadcaster identifies with copy read by, if not the staff of the podcast, something with a similar sensibility (PFT would be a billionaire in this scenario from all the VO).

It's not any more crass than having the podcaster read a 150$ ad for somebody's designer socks business, and it would make starting and professionalizing a cast way easier. Instead of working on a kickstarter or courting Squarespace you could just buy new mics and hire an editor, knowing that based on X listenership you will be able to see Y income from ads.

May never happen because it may be technically impossible (unless Apple invents it and allows/forces you to insert these ads into feeds). But it would allow for a brief period of incredible creativity and widespread appeal in the medium (while probably trampling on some of the free for all aspects of the current landscape.)
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:59 AM on December 23, 2014


The same arguments come up almost anytime somebody mentions online video. "It takes too long, I can read a thousand times faster!" Presumably you guys also watch movies by turning on subtitles and fast forwarding to just read the text at high speed, and read books by way of Cliffs Notes or plot summaries on wikipedia.

I adore podcasts, but you're talking apples and oranges here. Yes, Sturgeon's Law, but I'd argue text and audio are inherently more forgiving formats. Video requires one's full attention (or it should, because why aren't you just audiocasting then?) and audio does not. Text can be read at one's own pace.

The problem is a lot of (I daresay most) online videos are somebody's poorly edited rambling by a not particularly telegenic person in their messy suburban bedroom filmed by a lousy camera with not much regard for framing . If you're going to demand my full attention while you communicate at YOUR speed, it better be compelling.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:09 AM on December 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


Podcasting ad networks exist; Midroll, Podlexing and RadioTail being the 3 at the top of my Google search.

Midroll actually has such a calculator on their podcasters page (no affiliation, just found em via Google). You plug in your downloads, number of ads you're willing to have, and they give you some sort of estimate for how much you could make.

The A. and B. aren't done but if I were Midroll and had the resources I write mobile apps to implement them and start there. (Wouldn't be too hard to embed a custom frame into MP3 and then have your mobile app read those and request an ad from your ad-server based on rough location). Embed an Audible/MailChimp/Stamps.com for if there's no internet connection or the user is not using the Midroll player.

Another angle would be if a podcasting ad-network also offered editing services, so they didn't have to take any money from the podcaster up-front, but simply take it out of the advertising pay-out.
posted by fragmede at 11:36 AM on December 23, 2014


ocherdraco: " I find that 1.5x is very easy to get used to, and that 2x is only comfortable for the rare podcast that is truly glacially paced (it often works well for podcasts of academic lectures, because professors have a tendency to speak excessively slowly)."

Just wanted to come back in to thank you for this. I knew Downcast had a variable speed option but I'd never explored it. 1.25x makes some of the long, chatty podcasts I've been putting off listening to so much more enjoyable!
posted by Lexica at 5:34 PM on December 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


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