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Merlin’s weekly podcast with Dan Benjamin. We talk about creativity, independence, and making things you love.

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43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.

Flash: "Podfading" ravages the landscape of logorrheic bloggers

Wired News: Podfading Takes Its Toll

The phenomenon has earned its own label, "podfading," coined by podcaster Scott Fletcher in February 2005 when he gave up on two podcasts of his own.

"I liken it to losing interest in a hobby and then coming up with the reasons you don't have time anymore," said Fletcher, a Peoria, Illinois, computer-program analyst who has since returned to the scene with his monthly Podcheck, a discussion of podcasting news.

I don't doubt that people give up doing podcasts everyday, but I suspect it's not simply because they're a huge pain to make (which they certainly are, compared to typical text blogging). I think the problem is the expectations podcasters may have created for themselves and for their audience -- being cleft to this 1st Generation notion of podcasting as "regularly-scheduled MP3 Radio Show."

There's nothing wrong with this, of course, and a lot of folks have done yeoman's work churning out (sometimes really long) shows on a (sometimes nauseatingly) regular basis. But it's also daunting and backward to decide first that you're "doing an hour-long podcast" and second that it will be about....uh...what? Yeah, exactly. That's a lot of air to fill each (day | week | month). If you can pull it off with elan, more power to you.

Me? I like the idea that a podcast is simply another way to post. Nothing more. Same way that Flickr and del.icio.us -- to name just a couple -- let me share something in a way that isn't a traditional blog post, recording audio lets me (try to) make a certain point in my own way and with tone (and, one hopes, personality) that are a contrast with typically dry blog writing. But maybe that's just me.

I understand it's useful to look back toward what new technologies remind us of, but you won't tease out the more novel uses of something until you let it just be what it is, allowing it to evolve without all the herding and expectations. In the fifties, the future always looked like TVs, and in the sixties it all looked like rocket ships. And so, today, podcasts look like relatively easy-to-produce (usually long-ass) radio shows, and that's cool, I suppose.

But if we are to be stuck with this radio mindset for now, I do wish more of the many talented podcasters out there would aspire toward making a series of brilliant poppy '45s -- rather than manufacturing these hour. long. news. casts. Seriously. Just do 3 fun minutes every couple weeks, and then stop for a while. I want "Love Me Do," not "The Ring Cycle."

Raise your bar for quality and way lower your bar for frequency, and I promise you the whole thing will be much more fun for everyone.

Alexandre's picture

Isn't the coolest thing about...

Isn't the coolest thing about podcasting the fact that it can be different things to different people? Several comments here allude to that. The fact that podcasting can be hard to describe without references to things people know (blogging, radio, MP3 players...). After all, you can podcast PDF files as well as video and audio. But people do tend to think from what they know.

Longer podcasts can be really nice. Even some fairly dry ones. Some quick and witty ones are also cool. And holding a strict schedule is difficult to do, for a lot of people (including bloggers). Cool thing is, there's room for all of this. What is podcasting likely to achieve if it comes to the point at which 95% of podcast listeners only listen to two or three main regularly-produced podcasts? Now, something which seems to be missing from podcast directories (haven't looked specifically, but didn't notice this yet) is a way to sort and search for podcasts by types. You mostly want short, infrequent, blog-like podcasts? There should be an easy way to find them. You only want podcast versions of professionally produced radio-like shows? That list should include non-mainstream shows. In fact, we should be able to have different podcast subscriptions for different situations. Don't know about you but I have a hard time listening to people talk when I write. Music podcasts can be cool but most of them have sections of talking. Kind of distracting. On the other hand, it's fun to listen to talk-intensive podcasts while walking or commuting. It'd be useful to have different playlists for different activities. Actually, same holds true for music. Not everyone listens to the same music while doing the dishes or taking a shower.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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