Are Podcasts a Waste of Time?

Jun 26th, 2006 | By | Category: Audio Podcasting, Commentary

Peter Davis, via Scoble, asks “Why listen to a podcast when you can get ten times the content when you read?”

Davis questions the growing popularity of podcasts. “This is an inefficient means of receiving information. In the time I can listen to an average podcast, I could have caught up on my 50 favorite blogs, or read a chapter in a book, or read the latest issue of Red Herring magazine. ”

This idea, that listening to a podcast is a waste of time when you can read things so easily on the Web, is one that people have raised since the early days of podcasting. When people ask this, they aren’t really questioning the idea of podcasting so much as they are questioning the perspective of those that do like podcasts.

In many ways, podcasts may be an inefficient way of getting information. But books are an inefficient way to find out a story when you can watch the movie version. And watching the movie is inefficient when you can read a professional review and find out what the movie’s about and what to think about it.

For that matter, meeting someone and falling in love is an inefficient way to procreate.

There’s more to reading, listening, watching and life than “getting content.” Podcasting is growing rapidly not because it’s an efficient way to get numbers or facts, but because it’s an efficient way of delivering content and ideas can’t be reduced to a blurb, a summary or a blog post.

Podcasting can deliver ideas, emotions and feelings as rich as the human experience. People can lose themselves or discover themselves in music, and podcasts already offer a wealth of music that was hidden to many before. Audio podcasts also can offer a rich sense of place, giving you an aural sense of place.But, even disregarding music and sounds, podcasts can offer a richer experience than text on a page. The sound of someone’s voice can tell you if they are young or old, quick-thinking or reflective, appealing or obnoxious, passionate or bored. Podcasts can offer a richer experience of who a speaker is than can easily be conveyed in text.

Podcasts also offer web publishers and surfers alike something very important: they extend the reach of the Internet to your entire day, no matter where you go. Someday, the Internet will truly be everywhere. Right now, though, most people use Web content for the fraction of the day that they are at their PC.

Podcasts let you take Web content with you on the bus or train or car, and they let you use Web content when you’re jogging or going to bed or riding your bike.

Podcasting is important because it expands the boundaries the Internet, to the benefit of publishers and podcast users alike.

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