karl taylor

3 minute read

A Suggestion From Someone Who Listens To Way Too Many Podcasts

In the past week, I’ve listened to seven different podcasters lament changes in audiences, downloads or support metrics. The anguish reminded me of the way I felt when, after salivating over Jesse Freund’sThe MP3 Players,” and finally saving up over what had felt like an entire three lifetimes enough hard-earned cash to pick up my very first, I discovered most audio files were lousy fits.

(I should note here by way of tangent that Andrew Williams recently tried to resurrect one of these in an piece I wish had been called “The Diamond In The Rough.”)

I wanted to listen, but in 1999 fiddling around on my Compaq computer, it meant I had to start learning about audio file compression.

So I did.

It was a lot easier than I expected it to have been. Everywhere I looked online, the same people who were making the shows I wanted to listen to could be found talking about how they did it.

If you were quick with a search engine, you could find the specific tool or apparatus they were talking about, and more often than not start playing with it yourself.

IRC channels sprung up, there were blogs. I remember there being more to read than anyone could, and there being real feeling of excitement around the idea of what I think people were calling downloadable Internet Radio.

(For the record, yes this is a horribly revisionist history and yes there are great archival efforts like All Of The Podcasts that are amazing and worth checking out.)

That culture of sharing persists to today.

It isn’t unique to podcasters by any means, but of all of the different communities of content producers online, I’ve got to admit that I’ve always noticed that when I make a list of “best person to listen to about X,” a lot of the time, it’s a podcaster.

That’s why as I was hearing the very real anguish that surround the contemporary peculiarities of podcasting, I couldn’t help but remember a story I had read a long time ago.

I am in the uncomfortable position of needing to evoke an idea from one history’s best spoken lesser beings, through it should be noted “The Finest Story In The World,” is most often rightly avoided for its problematic account of a reincarnation of sorts. Nevertheless, I afford myself a bit of authorial luxury to highlight:

I think this portion gets missed.

“I don’t care about writing things any more. I want to read.”

In the story, the more Charlie reads the less he’s able to tell his own story.

Life intervenes, things come up and he always seem have an interest in chasing the best the world has to offer.

When you’re building content it’s natural to look at what everyone else is doing. You try to out-engineer their successes. You try to learn from their failures.

But before too long, you end up producing content that you really can’t tell apart.

Trying to keep what you consume from influencing your work is a losing battle, but making sure you work in silos can help you short circuit the inevitable bias towards what already exists.

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