Perhaps the term “podcasting” isn’t the best way to describe these audio shows that run the gamut from talk to music. First of all, you can listen to podcasts on your home or work computer, or on any portable MP3 player you choose and not just an Apple iPod. Plus, you can listen on your car radio with the MP3 player plugged in through a converter.
So “podcasts” don’t require iPods and they aren’t really broadcast as you can listen at the time of your choosing. The best thing about podcasts is that you can subscribe to them so they upload easily to your portable devices. Maybe a better description for podcasts would be on-demand audio shows.
Terms aside, when I asked you when you listen to podcasts, your answers showed a variety of listening habits. In my very unscientific survey, eight of you listened on a portable device (some via car radios) and five listened on desktop computers. Five of you listened during commutes either by car or bike, while two of you listened to podcasts while exercising.
Malcolm Thomson also thought the term “podcast” was a bit misleading.
“I am not a friend of the term ‘podcast,’ since personal media devices such as the iPod are only one of the several available platforms giving access to ‘webcasts,’ both ‘audiocasts’ and ‘videocasts,’” he wrote. “My own platform of choice is my office computer. The ‘audiocasts’ simply run in the background while I work, just like old-fashioned steam radio. I reckon I’ll remain computer-centric. A video iPod is not the gadget of choice for a grandfather who uses reading glasses!”
Mike Moran splits his podcasts between work-related ones and personal interest — and listens to them in different ways as well.
“Work-related podcasts are picked up by my news aggregator (FeedDemon) and played back on computer at work,” Moran said. “Personal interest podcasts all go through iTunes on the home computer and straight to the iPod which I listen to while commuting or doing yardwork or pacing the floor with a cranky baby.”
Moran also provided valuable insight into which podcasts he actually listens to among all the ones he subscribes to and downloads.
“Since there are so many personal interest podcasts, I buffer the last 10 podcasts and cherry-pick from those based on subjects,” he said. “Probably only listen to 40% of all podcasts that cycle through the iPod, though rates vary widely by podcast. This gives a distinct advantage to the podcasts that include good descriptions of episodes (C-SPAN, Ad Age) versus those that only bother to list dates (ABC’s ‘This Week’).”
So any podcasters reading this should take that to heart — be sure your descriptions help listeners to know what’s in the audio file they’ve downloaded. On the commuting front, many of you noted how podcasts were replacing your previous radio fodder. Chris Knight explains how podcasts have replaced talk radio.
“I download my podcasts on Monday morning and listen to them during my 30-minute commutes to and from work through my car stereo (which I purchased specifically due to its AUX input right on the front),” Knight says. “I listen to them in place of the talk radio that filled my drive time previously. I choose mostly tech podcasts (TWIT, the Digital Story, DiggNation along with a couple new music shows).”
Not all commutes are the same for you. Jordan listens to podcasts while biking to work, though it might be hazardous to his health.
“I usually listen (Mom don’t read this) while on my bike,” Jordan said. “If I still took the subway to work I would listen then, but the bike has now filled that role in my life. I also listen to them on my computer if I’m working from home once NPR and C-SPAN switch from the morning shows to their daytime programming which usually doesn’t hold my interest as much.”
Ross Karchner said he listens mostly on his computer through iTunes. “I have a car adapter for my iPod, but my commute is so short that firing up a podcast is kind of pointless — by the time I get to work, Steve Gillmor would still be in commercials,” he quipped.
One of the more unusual responses came from Peter Svarre, who considers himself a seasonal listener.
“I almost always listen to podcasts in my car,” he said. “As I am primarily using my car in the summertime (for sports), I am what you could call a seasonal podcast-listener. I almost never listen to podcasts during the wintertime, where I primarily use my cars for shorter trips.”
The best way to sum up your listening habits around podcasts is to say that they largely fill in for time previously spent listening to the radio — either in the car, at work, at home or while exercising. Thanks to the digital format, your options for listening could grow in the future, perhaps with smart phones or personal digital assistants (PDAs) that let you subscribe to podcasts and listen at the time and place that’s convenient to you.