Monday, January 13, 2014

The voices in my head

I am not at work this week.

There is a LONG list of tasks, domestic and creative, to accomplish.

One thing on that list is both a task itself, and a task that will help me accomplish the other tasks.


Podcasts are my entertainment medium of choice.  I currently have about 8 days' worth loaded to an iPhone3 which does duty as an iPod. I won't get through them all this week, but I will give it a good nudge.  Even if I can catch up with some of my favourite Radio National podcasts before they come of summer break in February, I will be happy.

It started with knitting, this fascination, but has extended into further fibre podcasts and to other areas of interest.  I have a many hours a week habit encompassing fibre crafts, books and writing, history and biography, food and current affairs.

When I come across a new-to-me podcast I tend to download the back catalogue.  This may not be the most efficient way of doing it but it works for me.  If I don't enjoy the podcast and choose not to continue the subscription then I've only lost a few mb of download and if I really enjoy it, I'm not waiting until there is time to download the rest.

What makes a good podcast for me?

Production values
Good production values are important.   A decent microphone, pop filter etc seem to be mandatory equipment.  There are one or two very popular fibre podcasts I can't listen to because the presenter sounds like she is recording at a distance or through water.  I am often listening through earbuds or in a car with competing sources of noise around me.  I almost never listen through a computer in a silent house.  I need to be able to hear without squinting, so to speak 

Recording through the internal microphone of your computer usually guarantees a switch off from me, as does trying to record on a crappy portable device in a car or other noisy environment. I have noticed, though, that a decent quality is possible using an iPhone microphone or similar, but the best quality comes from a decent external mic in a controlled environment.

File naming
Consistent naming of files for the podcatchers is really important.  I don't care about branding logos etc (although the podcasters might), but I do care about being able to arrange the files on my listening device.  My device is on old iPhone 3 but previously I was using my Android phone and consistent naming and numbering to be able to listen in order was essential.

mp3 is fine, although the mp4 functionality to divide into "chapters"to enable easy fast-forwarding etc is a nice thing to have.

I cannot be doing with video podcasts.  Quality is usually woeful and editing almost non-existent.  Having someone wave their knitting at a poor quality webcam doesn't enhance my appreciation of the knitting or the podcast.  Also, they take forever to download and don't fit in with my life.  I listen to podcasts on the go.  For me, they are not TV substitutes and just listening to them is not enjoyable.

I respond well to a predictable length.  I don't really mind how long the podcast is if it is informative/entertaining/not painful to listen to, but I like to know that it will be a similar length each episode. That being said, if a podcast is more than about 50 minutes, I reckon it's generally self-indulgent and needs editing, but there are exceptions.  I really appreciate the podcasts that come it about the 30 minute mark.  Yes, I know I have a stop button but I prefer to listen to an episode in one sitting/standing/shopping expedition/journey or very close to it.  I can efficiently do this if I've got a fair idea of how long standard episodes are.  Some devices don't tell you how long a podcast is until it is playing, by which time I've lost valuable time selecting a podcast for my activity if the timing is wrong.  I know a typical journey between my workplace and central office is 25 minutes.  Radio National's Conversations with Richard Fidler are about 50 minutes, so a trip to and from is one episode, or two episodes if I listen at double speed. I like to allocate my time efficiently

A predictable schedule is great.  It helps me organise my listening and also gives me something to look forward to during stressful weeks.  Also, I miss my favourite podcasters when I don't hear from them regularly.  I also appreciate knowing if there will be a haitus or if the podcast is winding up.  Podfading is disappointing and a bit rude.

These are rarely of importance to me, but the best ones I've seen lately are on the iMake and the Knitmore Girls podcasts.  Very useful.

Point Of Difference 
I really don't care about your cats or your kids. I prefer their contact with the podcast to be limited.  Louise at Caithness Craft Collective handles this with style, by having her kids recorded to introduce regular segments with an occasional short, separate podcast of the kids.  I can chose to listen or not.  As her children are charming and don't play a musical instrument with limited skill, I usually choose to listen.

Knowledge of presenter
I like a knowledgeable presenter.  I don't mind learning along with the presenter if it's a more advanced skill.  I don't need to listen to you learn to knit.  Similarly, if you know a lot about your subject but are unable to convey it well, I'm not going to invest my time.

I have cancelled several podcasts that are all about what they bought recently or what they think I should buy (often what they are selling). Sure, some podcasts are attached to businesses and are part of the business communication of the presenter. That's fine, but I like to know that up front, not have it sneak up and then have a whingy podcaster complaining that no-one appreciates how hard she works for us for no return.

I have no problem with sponsorship announcements/advertisements.  They are usually annoying but short and  I ackowledge they are necessary for some podcasts to keep going.

Related to this, reviews.  When conducting review, please be honest.  Don't just tell me how wonderful everything is, I want to know your experience of the product and its problems as well as its good qualities.  And while we are on it, a review is not looking at a magazine's website and describing what you see - I can do that for myself, thanks. That is lazy content and drives me crazy.

Communication skills
Educators make good amateur podcasters.  They are used to imparting information in a logical and disciplined fashion.  A lot of knowledge does not make up for good communication skills. Excellent examples are Happy Spider Knits and Tales From the Plain.

Lots of podcasters do interviews.  Not all succeed.  Want to know how to interview someone, listen to Margaret Throsby or Richard Fidler.  I know they are professional broadcasters, but they are brilliant.  There are some professional broadcasters who don't do it well. I am very intolerant of gigglers and those that insert themselves into the interview. I am primarily interested in the interviewee and appreciate a well-researched and interviewee-focussed interview.

Personality of presenter/relationship
Personal charm is equally important.  I do feel that I build a relationship with the podcaster.  Usually this is very one-way, in that they don't know I listen and don't engage in any other communication with me, and that's fine.  If I'm going to regularly have you in my intimate space for 30-90 minutes, I need to like you or at least respect you.  I don't think you can do anything about that - the ways of human attraction are a mystery to me.

Just as I tolerate annoying things in my friends and loved ones, I will put up with a fair few of my "don't likes" if I find the podcaster enjoyable to be with. 

And the above are all reasons why, despite thinking about it and planning for a couple of years, I don't podcast.  I couldn't meet my own high expectations.

1 comment:

2paw said...

I am not a podcast listener, I am pretty sure I would like some podcasts, but I tend to use the saved programmes on RN. They are kind of podcasts!! I love the reason why you don't podcast!!!