In praise of podcasting

18th December 2014

16 months ago I got rid of TV. Well, not exactly. The physical machine is still attached to the wall, but I have no channels whatsoever. None. I use the TV to watch Netflix (an internet-based subscription), DVD box sets and to mirror whatever happens to be on my Apple devices, via Apple TV.

I have, thus, escaped the tyranny of scheduling. I consume media when, and in the sequence, I choose. Ridding myself of TV was no big decision. You see, I’ve been listening to podcasts since 2007. And podcasts have raised my standards, and given me the whiff of good-quality media, and the guts to say good riddance to crap TV.

Podcasts are, effectively, curated radio.

They are free, and can be self-selected from a global banquet of radio content, available for listening at the press of a button.

Podcasting is the principal way I consume media now – more than papers, more than newsfeeds, more than real-time radio, and most assuredly more than TV. They perfectly fit our mobile, densely-lived lives. Podcasting streams without a problem, it’s available while you commute, and it’s the way to enjoy the very best content from Perth to Parknasilla.

Filling up my podcast app reminds me of that perennial Thought Experiment: if you could invite anyone to dinner, who would your ideal dinner party guests be?

I have had hors d’œuvres with a French crime obsessive, starters with a smart amateur gal called Ginger who carries out expert psychology interviews, a main course of culture gabfesting that keeps me abreast of what’s cool State-side, dessert consisting of wonderful history dissections by Patrick Geoheghan, and a cheese plate of smelly, one-off delights covering topics from film, to comedy, politics and, most recently, Tibetan burial rituals.

The big enabler of podcasting has been the smartphone. With the downloading of a podcasting app (think of it as a DVD shelf which constantly has the most up to date movies from your favourite directors), this is a one-click affair. All of the friction (as economists term it) has been taken out of podcasting, and I am free to curate endless top quality radio at will.

As someone whose play-style is of the shotgun variety – I have read both the Warren commission and the 9-11 commission reports, and I’m not even a conspiracist – podcasting allows me to indulge in the long tail of radio content available across our universe.

In a sense, the one itch that podcasting scratches best is curiosity itself.

Clearly, the podcast is not all-powerful. By its nature, it is not live and it’s not visual.

No. Podcasts are proudly and unequivocally aural. They harken to a more wondrous time, perhaps in the early 1900s, when families gathered around the gramophone. From that rotating box emerged music and voices of the world’s most talented artists in a manner so intoxicating that one had the sense of living on the very edge of life itself.

Hush!, they would cry, as you entered that Edwardian drawing room. Hush, lest a word or lilting note be lost.


© Brian McIntyre. 2014.

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