I am not a Pod Person

Sarah O'Keefe / Opinion5 Comments

Confession time: I don’t like podcasts.

And I think I know why.

I am a voracious reader. And by voracious, I mean that I often cook with a stirring spoon in one hand and a book in the other. I go through at least a dozen books a months (booksfree is my friend).

So why don’t I like podcasts?

  1. They’re inconvenient. I don’t have a lot of interrupted listening time, other than at the gym. And frankly, there’s a bizarre cognitive dissonance listening to Tom Johnson interview Bogo Vatovec while I’m lifting weights. I tried listening to a crafting podcast, but that was worse — my brain can’t handle auditory input describing crocheting techniques while simultaneously operating an elliptical machine. So I went back to Dr. Phil on the gym TV. It may rot my brain, but at least it doesn’t hurt.
  2. They’re inefficient. I can listen to a 30-minute podcast, or I can skim the equivalent text in 90 seconds.

I’ve been thinking about what would make a podcast more appealing to me, and realized that it’s not really the medium I object to, it’s my inability to control the delivery.

I’ll become a podcasting proponent when I perceive these properties:

  1. Better navigation. Podcasts, like other content, need to be divided into logical chunks. These chunks should be accessible via a table of contents and an index.
  2. Ability to skim. Podcasts need to provide the audio equivalent of flipping pages in a book or scrolling through a document while only reading the headings.

Depending on the software you use to consume podcasts, you may already have some of the features. For instance, a colleague told me that he listened to my recent DITA webinar at five times the normal speed:

I wanted to let you know about something in particular. I listened to it at 5x fast fwd in Windows Media Player while drinking a coke. My heart is still racing. You should try it. :o)

Do you enjoy podcasts? Do you have any special techniques for managing them efficiently?

About the Author

Sarah O'Keefe


Content strategy consultant and founder of Scriptorium Publishing. Bilingual English-German, voracious reader, water sports, knitting, and college basketball (go Blue Devils!). Aversions to raw tomatoes, eggplant, and checked baggage.

5 Comments on “I am not a Pod Person”

  1. I can’t do podcasts either, for the same reasons you describe. I think they’re best fit for entertainment, not learning. If everything in them, even if technical in subject, is anecdotal, they would work for casual listening. But if I’m learning, I need some kind of visual element, whether it be text, a PPT, a live human gesturing… I can’t learn via audio only. Even on the phone for long durations, I need some kind of visual stimulus to keep me focused. If I have nothing, I take notes and branch my thoughts out on paper while listening. You can’t do that easily in the gym, in the car, or any other place where I’d have the time to focus on a lengthy audio chat about a subject. And then yes, you would want to pause, rewind, revisit sections… And a single recording doesn’t allow a lot of skipping around as I would with a document. The same issue arises with how-to training videos, which is why a rule of thumb of using short, concise, specific presentations is now being used for recorded video training.

  2. Have you tried listening to podcasts while driving? Not using headphones, but rather using a wireless FM transmitter that projects it through your car’s speakers. For long drives (of 30 min. or more), it can be the optimal environment for listening to podcasts.

  3. Hi Tom,
    Incidentally, I should have mentioned that I do like your podcasts — when I get to them!
    I don’t actually spend much time in my car — my commute is pretty short and on longer trips, I usually have a four-year-old onboard, who is not-so-much into podcasts…

  4. Well, I only just got my first iPod for Christmas last year, and my rationale to the giver was “so I can listen to Tom’s idratherbewriting.com podcasts”. 😉
    I’m an audio person, so am easily distracted when there’s mutliple auditory inputs. I mainly listen to podcasts at the gym, and generally prefer it to the music (not because I dislike the music, rather because I’m able to use my brain during this time – although depending on the cardio equipment I’m using, I’m better off NOT listening to something that requires my brain).
    My commute is also pretty short, and includes a 2yo and spouse, both of whom would not be inerested in the content of my tech comm podcasts.
    I’ve gotten a lot out of some of the podcasts I’ve listened to – probably not as much as if I’d been in a quieter environment, able to take notes, able to focus more and not be wiping the sweat off my brow – but more than I would otherwise have gotten, because I’m just not getting much time to read anymore. The most enticing thing about the 30-plus hour travel time to the STC conference for me? Being able to read! And read content that needs my brain (I hope to pick up “The Stuff of Thought” by Pinker, where I left it off after my last business trip last year). At home, I’m just too tired/busy/whatever other excuses I have for this kind of reading, but podcasts I can manage.

  5. No, I don’t like listening to podcasts. I listen to very few. I have the same problem you do. And I don’t have a hookup in my car with which to listen to them. Besides, I’d rather listen to my Led Leppelin CDs.

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