Podcast Overload

Marco Arment recently tweeted about his view on podcasters who don’t have (or make) the time to listen to many other podcasts.

Podcasters who never listen to podcasts usually don’t make very good podcasts.

And I don’t know why they’d ever brag about that publicly.

He then follows it up with a good comparison:

“I write for a living, but I never read anyone else’s writing.”

Should you wish to master your craft then the best way is to see/hear/read how others do it. If not, how do you learn, grow or, in some cases, adapt? If your podcast is your profession, there’s no excuse.

However, if you’re like many podcasters that I listen to and do this in addition to working a 9-5 job as well as any family committments, it’s a little unerasonable to complain they don’t listen to other podcasts, or at least tar everyone with the same brush.

The comparion between writer and podcaster is somewhat unfair, as well. Most tech sites / blogs / whatever you wish to call them publish articles that can take just minutes to read. Indeed, looking through my Instapaper queue, most of the articles I have are averaging at only a few minutes each.

Podcasts, on the other hand, can be long. Marco’s own Accidental Tech Podcast usually has a runtime of around two hours. Miss three episodes and that’s nearly a full work day. If you’re working a 9-5 and want to spend time in the evenings with your family, it can be difficult to catch up when you’ve got four or five podcasts in this state.

It is especially difficult when many the podcasts we’re interested in revolve around the fast-paced world of technology. Not everyone wants to listen to a podcast episode from three weeks ago that discusses the imminent launch of a new iPhone if it’s already been out for two weeks.

As a former podcaster and someone who excitedly consumes podcasts, there are so many good podcasts to listen to that it would be impossible to find time to catch up with them, day to day. My Instacast unplayed list has at least two episodes of each podcast I’m subscribed to, simply because I don’t have enough time to listen to them all. Now that I commute to work instead of working from home1, I’ve found it is actually harder to keep up with podcasts than ever before2 and I’ve had to be fairly ruthless with the subscriptions I have. While my commute is about 60-90 minutes each way, sometimes I’m just not in the mood to listen, preferring to zone out to some music.

Because of this, I’m often reminded of Marco’s piece about using RSS in a sane way, without being overloaded:

You should be able to go on a disconnected vacation for three days, come back, and be able to skim most of your RSS-item titles reasonably without just giving up and marking all as read. You shouldn’t come back to hundreds or thousands of unread articles.

While you can skim-read articles, it’s a lot harder to skim through a podcast in much the same way as skimming through a movie.

  1. I spent two years working for myself from home before going back to a 9-5 job. 

  2. While the car is many people’s method of commuting, that isn’t always the case. My commute usually involves the London Underground and it can be loud, noisy and a generally claustrophobic environment where it can be difficult to simply sit and enjoy a podcast.