July 28, 2005

"Unpolished and quirky, with plenty of dead air and 'ums.'"

What are we looking for in a podcast? The NYT writes:
But the real fun is finding the homemade ones, the amateur attempts made in somebody's basement with a laptop and a microphone. These can be unpolished and quirky, with plenty of dead air and "ums," but that's their charm. Podcasts, in other words, are the audio version of blogs - the Web logs, or daily text postings, that made up last year's hot dinnertime conversation.
Yeah, sure, it's the charming, fumbling writing style of blogs that we like so much. It seems to me that what we like about blogs is the pithy writing style -- how they cut right to the quick and tell the truth. By the same token, I think what we want in a podcast is to hear some people who are really good at talking, saying interesting things and saying them well. In other words, podcasting, like blogging, shouldn't be an amateurish, relaxed step down from MSM, but a freer, sharper alternative.


mzn said...

I don't know from podcasts, but you're spot-on when it comes to blogs. Sloppy writing is bad in any medium.

Rick Lee said...

I'd be interested if any Althouse readers have podcasts that they follow on a regular basis. I tried listening to them for a while and I actually enjoyed some of the techie ones. It's sometimes a lot of fun to listen to knowledgable people chat about tech subjects... sorta like channel surfing and landing on TechTV (RIP) to listen to a couple of guys expound on the newest video cards or some breakthrough in quantum physics. But these things were not produced on a reliable basis and some of the episodes were unlistenable. I listened to a couple of humor-based podcasts such as Dawn&Drew but I found it too creepy to listen to some married couple talk dirty for a half-hour.

There are sites which supposedly rate podcasts but they seem to be dominated by staff that are mainly interested in podcasts about podcasting and Mac computers. I like keeping a few podcasts handy to listen to on car trips or while doing household chores... but for now it's just too much trouble.

Ann Althouse said...

Rick: I'm launching a podcast project in a week or so.

Kenny H. said...

I disagree that the best Podcasts will be polished and done by folks who are well spoken.

Podcasts are delivering content that simply isn't available elsewhere and the people doing it today are still trying to figure out the technology and their place in the Podcast world. I regularly listen to a bunch of different Podcasts -- Dawn and Drew, Geek News Central, The Daily Source Code, Coverville, TWIT, and Reel Reviews. Spontaneity can be a good thing. I would rather hear Todd at Geek News Central talk about where he sees technology going or what cool new software tools he’s discovered instead of him spending time trying to polish a script or edit the audio.

In my opinion, the core of Podcasting is the content. The polish may come later as some of the pioneers become more practiced. It will be interesting to see what happens when ABC News or some other professional organization begins to provide Podcasts. I’ll bet I still see Dawn and Drew or TWIT in the Top 5.

Kenny H. said...

Ann: Good luck with the new podcast. Todd (the Geek News Central guy) has a book on how to Podcast that you may find helpful.


Ann Althouse said...

Kenny: "Well-spoken" is your term, not mine. I said "good at talking." I think Dawn and Drew are really good at talking.

Pre-written scripts tend to be bad. You do want to hear conversation, especially to gain entry into an intimate world of conversation that you are normally excluded from.

Like you, I care about content. Remember, I originally said, "I think what we want in a podcast is to hear some people who are really good at talking, saying interesting things and saying them well." Without the "interesting things" to say, it's not going to be good. You seem to be assuming there's a conflict between saying things well and being spontaneous. The good podcasts will be made by people for whom these two things don't conflict!

Kenny H. said...

Ann: I agree. I didn't get your point in the initial post. I assumed because you quoted the "unpolished and quirky..." line from the article you were arguing the counterpoint.

Ann Althouse said...

"Quirky" I like. I like digressions and free associations. As to "polished" -- there's more than one way to think about that. Some roughness is texture, some is boring. I've heard too many podcasts where people are just bumbling around and have nothing to say. By the same token, I've heard many speakers who are completely speaking spontaneously and being eloquent. Is that "polished" or not?

Christopher Smith said...

While I agree that "what we like about blogs is the pithy writing style -- how they cut right to the quick and tell the truth," I think part of the appeal of blogs is also the honest and personal voice they're written in. We like that they're "unpolished," not in the sense that they're poorly written, but that they haven't been reviewed by countless editors, layers, or PR folk.

Similarly, when we hear a podcast that is obviously amateurish, and not polished to maximize every second of airtime like professional recordings, we feel more inclined to trust its frankness.

Whether or not that trust is well placed, however, is another topic.

Anonymous said...

Slate has started podcasting:


"Introducing Slate Audio Tours:
The commentary museums don't want you to hear"

Unfortunately the commentary is by art critics. I prefer these sorts of things when done by amateur enthusiasts.

Ann Althouse said...

Chris: Yes, freedom from editors is a big part of blogging.

Spacemonkey said...

Ann, IMAO has a podcast.

Best of luck with yours.