There’s a podcast for that
Lately I’ve been listening to podcasts on a regular basis for the first time since I used to listened to Revenge of the Screensavers via Odeo darn near a decade ago.
It’s great that anyone can create and publish a podcast without anyone’s approval, but that results in a predictable range of production quality. The shows with public radio roots are on one end of the spectrum, with highly produced segments and radio-quality audio, but I’ve also heard compelling shows that sound like someone held a pocket recorder up to a telephone.
In thinking about what makes a good podcast, I took a look at the shows I listen to most-regularly, broken into categories.
- The Dinner Party Download from American Public Media
- This American Life from Chicago Public Media
- Freakonomics Radio from Stephen J. Dubner
- Wait Wait... Don’t Tell Me! from NPR
- Ask Me Another from NPR
- How to do Everything from NPR
- How Did This Get Made from Earwolf
- Scriptnotes Podcast from John August & Craig Mazin
- By the Way, in Conversation with Jeff Garlin from Earwolf
- Accidental Tech Podcast from Marco Arment, Casey Liss & John Siracusa
- Unprofessional from Mule Radio Syndicate
- The Big Web Show from Mule Radio Syndicate
- The New Disruptors from Glenn Fleishman
The only thing they all have in common seems to be sponsorship by Audible.
Most of the public radio shows are just more-convenient ways to listen to radio programs. And the ones that aren’t radio shows are still produced in radio facilities.
The tech podcasts all seem to follow a similar recording process, with discussions conducted on Skype, with participants each recording their own audio tracks, which are then combined in post-production. Accidental Tech Podcast also streams its recording sessions live.
The Hollywood group is a real grab-bag of formats. By the Way is recorded live with an audience1, Scriptnotes is Skype2 and How Did This Get Made is sometimes live, sometimes studio.
The obvious thread is that they all have content I find compelling, but also there’s a fairly high production quality threshold. I’ve given up on several podcasts because of poor audio, or because the host is a mumbler.
One thing I'd love to see is a greater variety of formats in the tech podcast space. Almost all the shows I've sampled have been either interviews or a group of people discussing tech news. I'd really like something more like an NPR show, but focused on tech topics.
- Correction: I just discovered that Garlin's show will primarily be studio-based now, owing to his TV schedule.
- Update 11-4: John August posted more information about how they record and edit Scripnotes.