What is it that makes podcasts so compelling?
Many point to the fact that podcasts (for the most part) are free. Many point to the very niche-driven content (the fact that there are now podcasts on very specific topics that cater to that specific type of fan). Many point to the fact that they still have an indie quality about them, while boasting high production value. Those are all important realities of podcasting today, and why it has become so dominant in the past short while. That’s not the main reason why podcasts are so compelling (from my own perspective). My perch is a little bit different. Since 2003, I have recorded a weekly, long-form conversation-based podcast (Six Pixels of Separation). Beyond those 650 episodes, I have also recorded another long-form, conversation podcast where I am trying to build the largest oral history of electric bass players (Groove – The No Treble Podcast). In between that, I have been a guest on countless shows and have tinkered with other formats in the medium. Along with being an avid listener of other podcasts, there is one very unique thing about podcasting (when they’re done well/right) that you just don’t get in any other format.
The one thing about podcasts: true conversation.
People confuse the word “conversation.” When I don’t understand something (it could be a topic like blockchain or a specific issue like brand safety), there is no better resource to understand the intricacies and complexities of these topics than listening to a podcast, because it’s usually one smart person on the topic speaking to another smart person about the topic. It’s not a journalist trying to understand it. It’s not a TV segment trying to inform an audience. It’s not a one-sided article (like this is). It’s a legitimate conversation (not bound by time limits and commercial interruptions) that has a lot of discourse, back and forth and new thoughts that are brought to life. As someone who consumes a ton of media (I’m an Infovore), it’s usually a podcast that has me scrambling for a pen and paper to take notes.
Powerful conversation are gold. It also feels like so much of this long-form content gets consumed, but it is fleeting (or listened to more in the background). Next week, there may be another/new episode, and by next week, most people’s podcasting app is now stacked with a ton of newer content. This creates a scenario where the active listener really does feel like they are a fly on the wall of a very powerful conversation that most other people are probably not listening to or simply glanced over. There’s real magic in that. Still, not all podcasts are created equal. Many podcasts simply try to mimic traditional media formats. Some of those are still enjoyable, but they’re standard fare. The listener must dig… and dig deeper. Because if you can find the types of podcasts where two smart people are having a true conversation (and it’s not just an interview), that’s “the one thing” that makes podcasting so unique, interesting and a media format that can continually provide value. That’s the one thing that makes podcasting the most exciting medium out there today.
Search for those great conversations on the topics that challenge you. It will make you better. It will keep podcasting unique and interesting.