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Separating the signal from the noise

Macworld logoSorry things have been so quiet around here lately. I've been caught up with relatives in town, creating and finishing my Macworld slides, and working through the first month of the Macworld transition (so far, so good, just lots of little things to work through).

Apple's recent release of iTunes 4.9 and the integration of podcasts into the Music Store got me thinking about the whole "podcast thing." I spent some time downloading, listening, and learning, and wrote about my experiences in a Macworld weblog. Hopefully people won't misinterpret my article as a slam on podcasting; that wasn't the intent. But clearly, I just don't get it ... so I asked folks to help me discover what it is I'm missing.

I'm still working on a couple other articles for here and/or the Macworld site, so hopefully the posting frequencey will pick up here in the near future -- but probably not until after Macworld Boston (July 11th through the 16th). Have a great holiday weekend everyone!



7 thoughts on “Separating the signal from the noise”

  1. I read your MacWorld opinion piece on podcasting. I feed similarly about them. Some of your points apply to blogs as well IMHO.

  2. I agree, I have heard a couple good podcasts (like the one from ITconversations that featured Wozniak)

    Other then that I kind of just picture it as a homely guy in his house with a microphone and recorder. They sound more like a conference call then a real radio. (as it is being marketed)

    However, now that it is more main stream, I look forward to some of News Broadcasts and TV shows. Overall, I think that a good interview comes across the best.

  3. I also read your piece at Macworld, and since you finish with a paragraph that basically states "What am I missing?", here is my answer: For you, probably nothing.

    It seems like you don't have the time to spend on it, nor an interest in the content.

    I listen to 20-30 hrs of podcasting a week. I have at least an hour of commuting (walking plus driving) per day along with a job where part of my time is mindless labor (bench biologist). I have basically stopped watching television.

    What don't I listen to? Info that is just as easily digested via RSS (your site, mac and tech news in general, world and national events).

    Podcasts for me are education and entertainment:

    I listen to ITconversations, Morning Coffee Notes, Engadget, and the MAKE podcast because I am interested in moving into an IT career, so I like to hear software developers talk.

    I listen to popular science podcasts Science Friday, Science at Nasa, and Quirks & Quarks (CBC) for entertainment.

    I listen to shows about topics I don't have time to read about: wine ( and, Music (Brad Sucks, Evil Genius Chronicles, Mashup of the week, Old Wave Radio, Acts of Volition), and politics (on the media, Le Show ).

    Then I listen to show that have interesting people: Bitterest Pill, Evil Genius chronicles, Rebel Dad, etc.

    If I didn't have hostage time, I would probably listen to fewer podcasts. Since my son was born, I have lost the time to read books, and felt a little disconnected from learning; automatically delivered podcasts synced to my iPod fills that void in my hostage time. This time was previously filled with music, but it turns out, I am more interested in the ITConversations-style content.

  4. Yeah, I'm with you. I poked around with them and came to the conclusion that I don't need them. I have the time to listen to them - I currently listen to audible books when I bike into work everyday, but I didn't find any content that was remotely interesting. For folks that like listening to NPR and whatnot, I could see it as a useful way to time shift the content, but otherwise it really is just an audio blog. Like normal blogs, there is the same signal to noise problem. Unlike blogs, as you mentioned, audio just isn't terribly useful as a way to distribute things like technical information.

    I'd be interested if someone started to create something radically different that really suited the medium. Something like the Goon show; something that would never be created for radio today...

  5. Hey Rob,

    Your Macworld podcast article was linked on the front page of Google News today.

    I personally am not too sure about podcasting either, though I did subscribe to KCRW's Le Show with Harry Shearer, because he knows Derek Smalls.

    Podcasting does seems like a good way to get to something that I've wished radio still had from back in the old days—DJ's who search out good new music to play so I don't have to. I'm going to hunt around for indy rock and other stuff that wouldn't see the light of day in the "infinite repeat" radio land currently choking the airwaves. Seems to me like podcasts will be able to focus on music for music's sake, instead of music as a way to get people to listen to advertising.

    Still, though, I think talk-radio fans will get the biggest boost from podcasting. No more making sure you're near a radio when your favorite show comes on.

    Seems to me that podcasting gives more control to the audience than traditional outlets have been able to provide. The biggest downside I see is trying to filter through all the stuff you don't want to hear to find the stuff you want. But as the idea catches on, I imagine the cream will float to the top.


  6. Although I agree that there are not many interesting Podcasts for me today, I do think that there is tremendous potential.

    With the virtually complete commercialization of the airwaves by too few a corporate entity, Podcasts have the potential to break this stranglehold and distribute alternative views and messages that would otherwise not see the light of day. After all, without free choice, what is there?

    I also think there are radio programs out there that are interesting but are only available locally. Once Apple has figured out a reasonable subscription model, owners of this type of material would be encouraged to try this "new" medium and reach a larger audience.

    The signal-to-noise problem is true of all broadcast mediums, it is certainly true of the web, yet somehow we manage to find web content and enjoy it despite the assumptions that web search engines have only cataloged 2% of the Internet.

    Apple has become the Google of the Podcast world.

  7. I totally agree with your article Rob. I honestly don't really have time to listen to Podcasts either. Although I am optimistic that some good ones will appear and will be worthwhile for me to give a listen to.

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