6 Reasons I’m Not Hooked on Podcasts

    by Jennifer Woodard Maderazo
    December 7, 2007

    i-5f4c904c07a7031d771b5c2b06666210-Podcast_CTAP_small.jpgA year ago, Mark wrote about the factors that were limiting the growth of podcast adoption. Some of the problems include the difficulty in finding quality content, a lack of understanding of the medium, and a general impatience in getting podcasts to work. I can relate. Try as I might, I haven’t been able to make podcasts a part of my daily life, and have often asked myself why.

    After an initial false start with podcasts a couple of years ago, I recently decided to give them another shot. But after trying again, I just don’t feel like podcasts are my thing. Here are the six main reasons why:

    1. Podcasts go on too long. I admit that I’ve been impatient with podcasts in the past, so over the last several weeks I’ve been downloading ones related to my topics of interest — mostly technology — to try to integrate podcasts into my media diet. The problem I always encounter is my own impatience. The podcasts on topics that interest me are produced by people with a palpable passion for the subject matter, but a limited grasp of the limitations of the audio or video medium.


    On traditional radio, shows take special care to set a pace and create a rhythm that hooks in the listener. The average podcast (outside of the professional ones) seems to disregard all that. Time constraints aren’t an issue. I found that podcasts that could deliver value in 3 minutes languish on for 20. Some last up to an hour. At the risk of sounding like an impatient grouch, who has that much time to spare on just one podcast?

    2. They need to get to the point. I’ve found that in many of the podcasts I’ve tried out, hosts rarely cut to the chase. As a Mac user, I read several blog posts a day about Mac news, so I thought I might like a popular podcast, MacCast, around that topic. I was surprised to find that the host spent the first 3 minutes telling listeners why the current episode would be so great and stressing how much he hoped we would like it. The next 2 minutes or so were dedicated to mentioning several sponsored products, describing them in detail, and plugging an advertiser URL again and again.

    Not until several minutes into the podcast do we get to the real content, which would have been interesting if it were 6 and not 60 minutes long. The host’s penchant for beating around the bush made me tune out completely. I know podcasts give me the ability to skip through what I don’t want to hear, but there’s a risk I’ll miss what I actually do want to hear. I prefer blogs because clicking through RSS feeds, you see a headline, skim a few lines and you know whether it’s for you or not.


    3. Good content is tough to find. While I occasionally enjoy listening to news podcasts from traditional media companies, sifting through the amateur ones on topics of my interest is difficult. Apple’s iTunes suggests things I might like and I almost always don’t. Obviously podcasts are like anything else: There is the good and bad, the marginally decent and the terrible. But the accessibility of the medium to any and all — the spirit of the democratic web — might be podcasting’s downfall when it comes to quality content with solid production values.

    In a perfect world, great bloggers would also be amazing podcasters, and content would work well on all mediums, but it doesn’t. I know not everyone cares about how engaging a host is or how well organized a show is, but for me these elements are essential to keeping my attention.

    4. Some audio podcasts should be seen and not just heard. Some podcasting friends of mine defend the medium, saying it’s a great way to get information while you’re commuting. Admittedly I don’t commute nor do I have a car, but I’ve found that if you download a podcast to a portable audio MP3 player you might not have what you need to enjoy it.

    The other day I decided to subscribe to a popular podcast about Photoshop tips and take it along for a ride on public transportation. I was surprised that the tips — quite specific to the Photoshop tool palette — were presented only over audio. It just isn’t that useful to get software tips on your portable player while you’re not at your computer. And while I’ve called into question the value of doing video for the sake of doing it, there is subject matter that demands visuals.

    5. I want quick access to the info I want. Perhaps RSS feeds and blogs have spoiled me for quick, easy-access content that lets me control my time, but I don’t have many spare minutes for inefficient media these days. If I use RSS feed readers to be able to manage my time when consuming lots of different written media, why would I take the time with an experience that forces me to sit back and listen passively, with no indication of whether or not it will be useful or entertaining?

    I’ve adopted efficient ways to find what I want when I’m online. With podcasts I can’t control the speed of delivery nor can I be sure of the nature of the information I’m about to consume. While some podcasts have blogs that lay out the content beforehand (and there are even the generous souls who give us time-stamp information so we can skip through what we don’t want to hear), that’s adding another step to the process. Compared to written media, podcasts seem slow.

    6. Managing podcasts on devices isn’t streamlined. I am fine with listening to certain podcasts on my home computer, where I have space to spare on my hard drive, or through a feed reader. But I can’t take the constant synching and deleting required to keep my MP3 player up to date. I still have some Ricky Gervais podcasts from 2006 on my player that I forgot to delete, eating up a bunch of disk space. It’s hard to keep up with what’s new and what’s old. Or I’m just too busy to constantly sync my player to my machine. Even though it seems as if podcasts were made for iPods, it isn’t convenient for me to put them on or get them off my iPod.

    Call me a podcast skeptic, but I’m not alone. Last year, research firm Forrester put podcast adoption at just 1% for North America. While that doesn’t necessarily mean podcasting doesn’t have potential, it does lead me to believe that either there is something innately unattractive about the medium to the average person or there is just a lack of understanding of it.

    I do believe there are great uses for podcasts, such as language learning or streaming university classes to those who don’t have access to them, or catching up on news when you have time to spare (like on a really long flight). But they don’t seem to fit easily into my daily routine, so I’m resigning myself to the fact that not every new medium is for every new media person. Everybody’s got their own media diet, and mine continues to be heavy on written media and weak in podcasts.

    What do you think? Do you like or dislike podcasts? Why or why don’t you listen to them? Which podcasts have great content and which ones disappoint? How do you fit podcasts into your daily life?

    Jennifer Woodard Maderazo is the associate editor of PBS MediaShift. She is a San Francisco-based writer, blogger and marketer, who covers Latino marketing at Latin-Know and Latino cultural issues at VivirLatino.

    Tagged: modern life personal podcasting
    • And I thought it was just me…
      I’ve tried to listen to both business and entertainment podcasts with no success.
      I think it boils down to a lack of preparation. Most seem to be either working entirely from a script or no script at all.
      Plus, as with vlogs, our expectations as consumers are high. We are used to high quality video with high production values and same with radio. (Thinking of nationally produced programs.)
      For high quality THE best vlogs is four-five minutes. http://wallstrip.com. Fridays are their weakest so check a couple in archives.
      I don’t have a long commute to make downloading to iPod attractive.
      I often wonder why more bloggers don’t integrate audio files with the blog.
      I don’t see much growth for podcasting.

    • I love the podcasts that I subscribe to. They get me to and from work each day (a thirty minute trip one way) and i travel 170 miles each weekend to be with family, so the podcasts get me through these trips as well. I have a variety of stuff, including professional material, fun stuff, and even religious material. I do not have to listen to awful advertising on radio stations and best, some of the old soap operas I have always watched are on my iPod SANS commercials. I can listen to the stories in half the time it takes to watch. I am subscribed to a couple of webcasts that I frequently login to live, but b/c I become so busy in those chatrooms, I’m glad I can relisten to the show via podcast. My iPod/iTunes is set up to only store the latest podcast, and when a new update is available, the old is removed, leaving a link to re-download if I want. I have been through two ipods already (broke the first one) and if I lost the current one today, I’d go straight to the store to get a new one. I have video capability on my iPod but rarely “watch” thoe. I find that I’m okay just listening to those, and only every once in a while go back and watch the accompanying video. Thanks to the podcasts put up by Wes Fryer and Bob Sprankle, I’ve been able to “virtually” attend many conferences and enjoy hearing many dynamic keynote speakers or conference session presenters. So what if I’m a minority b/c I enjoy this. It is so much BETTER than radio or TV and my knowledge has grown TREMENDOUSLY from JUST what I’v heard on my iPod. You just need to really examine your needs and interests, and then research to find podcasts that match your interests and needs. I don’t think you’ve really given it a chance. Yes, it takes a little time to find ones you like, but in the end, they are well worth the time to figure out how to manage the subscriptions.

    • I can agree to a point that a lot of podcasts need to work on brevity and some take too long to advertise. I love Pixel Perfect by Bert Monroy but I think at least a quarter of his podcast is devoted to his advertiser (who I will not name). Needless to say I have gotten in the habit of fast forwarding past his plug for the advertiser. Cali Lewis of Geek Brief TV however takes a lot less time and saves the ad for the end of her podcast whereas Bert does the plug at the beginning.

      One of my favorite podcasts is PhotoshopUserTV and it’s extremely focused on my interest and a lot of their product plugs (some their own products) are contextual.

      All that being said Podcasts are still head and shoulders above the repetitive political drivel that has all but taken over talk radio. I used to be a talk radio listener but when every single show got to be a Clinton or other democrat bash I was so relieved when podcasting came into it’s own. Ironically this is a statement coming from some who is conservative but I’d much rather listen to a few extra minutes of podcasters talk about what they are passionate about that to listen to the talking heads on traditional talk radio.

      One of my favorite podcasters is Leo Laporte who also has had many years of tradition broadcast experience. Have you heard of Mac OS Ken? He sounds exactly like what you are looking for. I listen to him first thing in the morning in my podcast listening.

      Yes, you will hear a lot of people not exactly meeting high broadcast standards but that’s what the core of podcasting is. A chance for the regular joe to have a voice who otherwise may have never had an audience. Oh yeah, keep an eye out on Cliff Ravenscraft of Bitcast Media/Generally Speaking Production Network (gspn.tv). He recently quit is long term insurance job to go into podcasting and other new media full-time and you can tell he really has a passion for podcasting.


      I also had a false start a couple years ago and I didn’t find anything that would hold my interest. Then I started listening to marketing podcasts such as Mitch Joel’s amazing community podcast The Six Pixels of Separation, Joe Jaffe’s Jaffe Juice, That Affiliate Thing, For Immediate Release and New Comm Road. It’s a bit weird, but I can listen to my own 10 Golden Rules of Internet Marketing Podcast to re-listen to an interview with web design guru Steve Krug or Google Engineer Matt Cutts.

      Now I’m hooked.

      I have to commute 45-50 minutes 3-4 times per week, I listen to a show each way. I listen when I walk my dog and I listen when I work out. Now boring time is amazing time. Mitch Joel will blow me away with an amazing interview with Google’s Avinash Kaushik, or Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson will unveil a new-media pr tactic I hadn’t thought of, or the Electronic Groove podcast will turn a rainy afternoon into an amazing trance getaway. I laugh out loud every time I listen to Grapevine with hockey coach/icon Don Cherry.

      There are great podcasts in every niche, search your favorite subject on the iTunes store and find something in your passion area, you may fall in love with a show!

    • Two years ago, when I was commuting into Chicago, I listened and synced up to a few news and tech poddies nearly ever day – it was ideal and made the commute much more enjoyable and productive for my news meetings.

      Perhaps as a stand-alone channel, podcast subscriptions are not for everyone. But there are more ways to use audio reports. As an adjunct to a news web site or blog, they can be invaluable.

      Here’s a recent example:
      I have been following the ARC 2007 regatta through the photos, text and podcasts filed by a newspaper reporter who is also sailing the longest transocean race from Las Palmas to St. Lucia.

      The reporter is doing all the multimedia filing with an Iridium satellite phone – which is really not that great quality – but it does not matter.

      The context matters. Here, take a look at what Berlin’s de Welt has done online in packaging the reports – the daily podcasts filed from the middle of the Atlantic add a dimension to the storytelling that is greater than if they were pushed out there on their own.


    • js

      Saying “I don’t like podcasts” is about as specific as “I don’t like blogs” or “I don’t like newspapers.” Podcasting is just a publication and distribution platform. I can make a podcast. But NPR’s Diane Rehm show can make one, too.

      I think the podcasts to which you are referring are those that are poorly produced, probably because they are done by people who aren’t broadcast or radio professionals. Fair enough. But writing an article suggesting that you don’t like podcasts when they are poorly produced is not that interesting of a statement. So, you don’t like bad podcasts. Of course you don’t: they’re bad!

      As with any medium, the common denominator is mediocre. Again, not an interesting observation. If all the podcasts you listen to suck, my response is that you aren’t listening to the right podcasts.

    • Thanks to everyone for your comments, especially the ones pointing towards the podcasts that you like, and why you listen to them.

      Linkerjpatrick, thanks for those Mac and Photoshop-related recommendations. I’ll check them out.

      Jay, your experience is encouraging. I was actually ready to “fall in love” with some shows, but it hasn’t quite worked out that way…yet.

      JS, the premise isn’t that “I don’t like podcasts” but the reasons why I haven’t been able to make them work for me. I mention that I do listen to a few traditional media podcasts (they are easy to find and I’m sure of the quality before I listen) but the process involved in finding good content beyond those, filtering out the bad and keeping them up to date hasn’t been an easy fit into my daily life. Though I agree that if I were listening to podcasts that dazzled me, I’d probably try to make it work out. So far that hasn’t happened.

    • I love podcasts, yet agree with every single point you make. In fact, I am guilty of committing some of these in the podcasting I have done myself here and there. I’m tagging this post and will refer back to it before my next foray – I have a lot of room for improvement! Thanks for sharing!

    • I agree with a lot of what you write in this post. I have never been able to get into podcasts as a regular part of my aural diet. Just today, however, I was listening to several episodes of a podcast by violinist Rachel Barton Pine, which covers various topics related to classical music and the violin. Her podcast seems to really get it right – most episodes are between 10 and 20 minutes long, they’ve got great content and a very clear structure to them, and she is eloquent without sounding like she is reading off of a script. Plus, she usually has her violin on hand to demonstrate what she is discussing.

      Here’s a link to the podcast if you’d like to check it out:

      I still don’t listen to the podcast right when each episode comes out, but I find it to be great listening for those (rare) lazy Sunday mornings.

    • What began as a book, a simple pocket guide of selling tips, ultimately became a series of short audio Podcasts. No more than 5 minutes (or less) in length, the straightforward and seasoned advice found a medium (in a Podcast) that could be downloaded, placed on a variety of listening platforms, and combined with an RSS feed, easily distributed to others.

      This has been my experience as the author (and voice) of the One Goal – Revenue Generation series. Based on the growing subscriber base, it would appear that it has been well received and accepted by a diverse audience worldwide. You can find the series in the Podcast category as part of the blog at: http://salesbarriers.typepad.com

      Even though I may wish to read magazines, newspapers, online articles, and even write blog posts and serve as editor for our email newsletter, I think Podcasts offer a new communication opportunity that may otherwise never have been read (or heard) in print form.

    • Gerald

      Have you heard the halfcast podcast?
      it’s nothing like what you’ve described above… honest!


    • Funny you pointed out the MacCast since I’ve found that as a general rule that show does get to the point pretty well (except for the advertising, of course).

      Maybe you got a bad show. It does seem to me that the critique of advertising is a big harsh, since advertising is pervasive on TV, movie theatres, web pages, etc.

      I do agee with many of the points in the article, for sure.

    • Chris Knowles

      It’s not content that holds podcasting back it’s access. And this will change.

      The inclusion of Wifi in media devices will help free us form our computers but this will pale into insignificance when mobile internet becomes standard.

      Then media can be delivered directly to where we want to use it, be it on our internet connected car radio or on the one media device many of us already own – our phone.

      It’ll be time-shifted but just as easy as switching on the radio.

    • I think you will like this free Internet Fitness & Wellness Talk Show (www.designerhealthnet.com)
      This Weeks Topic… Runner, Austin “Ozzy” Townsend, joins Kriste’ to talk about Short and Long distance running. Ozzy began running later in life and has accomplished many, many feats as a Marathon runner here and abroad. Listen for good tips and great laughs as these two runners talk about their passion for the sport of running! ENJOY

    • Luckily it’s been two years since this post and podcasts have improved dramatically! This one is my favorite: http://feeds2.feedburner.com/themovingartsfilmcast

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