Zia Hassan

Some Complaints About Podcasts

Podcasts are slowly becoming my favorite medium, and from talking to friends and family, it seems I’m not the only one. I started listening to podcasts back in the dark ages of 2010, before Serial. And I even spent time producing my own back in 2011, interviewing whomever I could, and telling whatever stories I could possibly come up with.

Then Serial came out, with its NPR sleekness and vocal fry, and what followed was somewhat of a podcasting revolution. Blogs fell out of fashion, and even videos (which at one point were seen as the new new hotness) were taking a backseat to podcasts.

Suddenly there were cool new apps to play podcasts, and there were podcasts about extremely nuanced and complex topics. There’s even one on fountain pens, if you can believe it.

This is pretty cool. When you hear someone talking about a subject you’re passionate about weekly, it can sometimes feel like you’ve gained a new, interesting and intellectual friend. It feels a bit like you know them. And the podcasts that are done exceedingly well are as addicting as anything else online, but they feel much more organic and less scripted.

But with that said, I have some complaints.

  1. Audio quality. Since it’s easy to get sound into a computer these days, many people think it’s okay to skimp on a quality system. People don’t worry about acoustics in the room, vocal tone, EQ, or even putting a goddamn pop filter on the microphone (the thing that stops your plosives from being so explosive).

  2. Too close to radio. There are some podcasts I’ve listened to that have crazy music playing in the background while the commentator shouts like it’s a monster truck rally. This may have been a good way to conduct business in the days of FM radio, where louder signaled more professional, but we live in a world of iPod earbuds and personal audio experiences. It’s safe to say that some of the best podcasts are the ones that feel like you’re sitting in a room and listening to someone have a conversation. Audience of one.

  3. Too much like a blog. Since we use feeds to get our latest fix of a podcast, it gets really annoying when podcasters post 4-5 episodes at a time (looking at you Dave Ramsey). This was fine when we had Tumblr blogs that we could skim through, but podcasts don’t skim quite as well.

  4. People who aren’t great speakers. It’s a skill that anyone can probably develop, but many podcasters haven’t yet. Just having interesting topics to discuss doesn’t mean that the podcast medium is right for you.

Podcasts are still probably the best medium right now and I fully support anyone wanting to create, well, anything. But I think we need to keep these things in mind as we move forward. It doesn’t cost a lot to get decent audio equipment, to get feedback on your vocal performance, and to be concise with your content.