In this post I muse on how my listening habits changed over the years.
How To Not Fall In Love
Speaking for myself, I didn’t know for a long time what I wanted out of podcasts in general. My scope was limited: (1) I only subscribed to a few selected Apple tech podcasts and (2) I primary wanted to gain knowledge. This was my sole motivation for listening to them.
With a few years distance I can now say that what I did was like a Safari hunt. My ears functioned like an archaic muzzleloader, always aiming for the hidden gems in an episode – be it a useful Hazel rule I didn’t know of, or, an interesting use of TextExpander I haven’t thought of myself. Being in an all ears mode for 80 minutes just to get one geeky tip that might boost my productivity - or makes my nerd heart jump - was I admit it “a tad exhausting”.
Being a geeky fellow my loot after such a treasure hunt usually consist of zero to one cool tip in average. In general, the listening experience with this approach didn’t feel (too) enjoyable, nor efficient.
Getting To The Bottom Of My Listening Habits
Still, I couldn’t just dismiss podcasts. So what was it with me and them that didn’t work? Although I was fascinated by them, it’s fair to say that we didn’t exactly hit it off. The obvious thing to do was blaming the counter-party. I went on questioning podcasts for being a useful source of information more than once over the last years. The result: in a way I was wrong and right at the same time with this assumption. Hence, the answer is two-folded (at least for me), and I’m going the explain what I believe were the two major mistakes I made.
Sniper vision, Adieu!
The first point is a focus issue: I listened to podcasts for the wrong reasons.
Let’s take David Sparks and Katie Floyds excellent tech podcast Mac Power Users as an example. I listened religiously to that show. It’s a great show, but being a power user myself it felt like reading my own diary over and over again. It was equally hard or rather impossible for David and Katie to find me a holy grail in each episode.1
To tackle my focus problem, part of the solution was to stop going on a treasure hunt. Nowadays, I listen to podcasts because I enjoy how the hosts communicate with each other. I’m a bit of a Paparazzi in that I like getting a glimpse of their private lives, witnessing how they mock each other and have a good time.2 It’s infectious, makes me smile; for me is the magic behind podcasts. It is precisely what makes them such a charming medium.
Conclusion number one is that podcasts mainly aim to entertain you. If you’re main reason is to tune in for the hard facts, you’re better off reading a more in-depth article on the internet or going to the library.
Being More Random
The other part of the solution was to broaden my horizon and not limiting myself to the Apple tech scene. Naturally its such an obvious point that it took me a while to figure this out… I’m wired that way – sometimes I take my precious amount of time to get to the bottom of even the simplest thing in the world. Variety is key, after all I don’t want to eat lentils all day.
With 18 podcast subscriptions I still don’t exactly blow the roof off subscription-wise. Aside from the shows I regularly listen to, services like Huffduffer allow me to bookmark episodes that interest me and discover new featured content or picks from other users. I also welcome the fact that apps like Overcast try to make exploring the variety in the podcasting landscape easier. Now, instead of just Apple-centric podcasts, I’m also subscribed to some psychology, science and comedy related shows.
Conclusion number two is a simple one: Like in agriculture, the soil of your fields will stay fertile longer if you mix things up and plant different seeds every now and then. After all, the great benefit of podcasts – and the number one reason why they are so hugely popular – is the healthy variety of topics and interesting people. If you have thought about it, there’s probably a show for exactly that topic.3
Thanks to these two small adjustments there is a happy end and I managed to fall in love again with podcasts.
Yes, I really know most of the magic tricks to make my invisible unicorn jump through hoops. I still listen to them, but only selected shows make it to my queue. MPU is still the show I recommend to new Mac users. ↩
Finding a subscription-worthy show on the other hand can be a bit harder. ↩