Peak Podcasting (And Why It Sucks)

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I love podcasting.

Look no further than Six Pixels of Separation or Groove – The No Treble Podcast. I love podcasting because it offered me the freedom to have the kind of conversations that I could not find in traditional media. It didn’t have to look or sound or feel like traditional radio. The shows could be published as desired… and they could be as long as I liked. “How long does the podcast recording last,” a potential guest would ask, and my standard response would always be the same: “as long as it’s interesting?” I meant it. I meant back in 2006 when I first got started, and I mean it today (after recording over 700 episodes). It’s that freedom to experiment with audio that I love so much.

I am not alone. You love podcasting too.

The numbers don’t lie. People love listening to podcasts (well, downloading them at least)… and, it turns out that people like hosting and producing podcasts too. I saw this post on The Onion (the parody site): Report: 250 Million Americans Still Need Guests On Their Podcasts This Week. It made me LOL (like for real). When it gets covered in The Onion, it’s a mass cultural phenomena kind of thing. And, what always makes The Onion so funny is the underlying truth in the absurdity of it all. Everybody (and their cat) has a podcast these days. And, if they don’t, they’re planning one. I get bombarded with these strange email requests from people who are both asking to be a guest on my show, while offering me a slot as a guest on their show in return. It begs the question: if all we’re all doing is making podcasts, is anybody really listening to them?

We’ve hit peak podcasting (or we’re getting close to it).

This does not mean that you should not start a podcast. This does not mean that your brand should not think about podcasting. This does mean that you need to decide what kind of show you might make… and what kind of shows you’re really willing to tolerate as a listener. When explaining my eclectic taste in music to friends, I often steal a line I heard Sarah Silverman once say: “I don’t judge my earholes,” so what works for your brain may not work for mine, but I do take issue with a certain type of show (and a certain type of host) that seems to be gaining traction and mass audience.

What really grinds my gears when it comes to podcasting?

Over the past few years, I’ve noticed a tone and theme in shows that turn me off. Again, as Seth Godin (who, by the way, has an amazing podcast called, Akimbo) likes to say, “your mileage may vary,” but I can’t stand podcasts with hosts that have one sole purpose: to make the host look smart, or (even worse) when the host makes it all about them. Maybe it’s the journalist in me… maybe I’m just too Canadian… I don’t know. I believe that a great show is about the guest and their content. It’s fine – as the host – to challenge them on this content (I do this all of the time). It’s fine to demand that they “show your work,” but there is a growing trend in podcasts (and podcast hosts) where the content’s sole purpose is to further illuminate just how smart that host thinks that they are. It’s exhausting. Maybe not to these hosts, but it has to be to the audience. Or, maybe, we’ve shifted to a world where the content (and the guests) are playing second fiddle to the self-indulgent hosts, whose sole podcasting strategy is to inflate their own tires? Like I said, it really grinds my gears (and your mileage may vary).

What kind of podcasts do we want?

Sometimes you have to dig for the gold. Something you have to dig deep, but the gold is there. Intelligent content, intelligent hosts, healthy debates and a celebration of the guest and their content. That’s the kind of podcasts that I tend to lean towards. Shows about hosts who are simply trying to amp up their friends, followers, likes, clicks, subscribers, and downloads have become a massive turnoff to me. I feel alone. I feel like their numbers and their growth is making a statement against my little rant here. Listeners are obviously attracted to these shows, but it irks me.

Does it bother you? Have you even noticed this trend?