September 11, 2005


I'm quite absorbed in my little podcasting project, Audible Althouse. I was thinking of doing one a week and thinking the ideal length was 25 minutes. But a week is too long to wait to do another one, because, as I said, I'm quite absorbed in it. And 25 minutes isn't long enough if it's only going to be one a week. So I'm thinking maybe two a week, going 25 minutes (or one a week, going an hour). Which days are best for a two-a-week schedule? Tuesday and Thursday? Wednesday and Saturday? Are people listening to podcasts during their work/school commutes or what? And should a podcaster try to stick to a particular length — like the way a professor hits 55 minutes on the dot or like a regular MSM radio show? Or are varying lengths good, depending on how you feel and what you've got to say, like a real-world conversation?

I would have thought having a set length was better, but then I thought about why we have set lengths for things like radio shows and classes: it's because they need to fit into a schedule. Things that are not slotted into schedules tend not to have set lengths: songs, plays, movies, books. Isn't variable length the norm when you don't need to be slotted in? The main reason to make a podcast a set length is if you want to maximize the "radio" feel of it. A factor to consider is that I'm not podcasting in my radio voice. On the radio, you have to stay on topic and sound on and crisp and professional. On the podcast, I'm thinking out loud and free associating and using an intimate, personal tone. Still, I think having an end point in mind has a good effect, both on the speaker and the listener.

UPDATE: You can subscribe to my podcast through iTunes. Just go to the iTunes Music Store and search for "Althouse," then hit subscribe.


shrinkette said...

I think you should do what works for you. We can choose when and how we will listen. (So far, I'm halfway through your first podcast.) When will we have audible comments for you?

P.S., I'm supposed to be interviewed for a podcast soon. I've never done one. Do you have any advice for me?

Ann Althouse said...

Hi, Shrinkette. Nice to see you over here. I think podcasts, like radio, can have all different styles and tones. I'd take my cue from the podcaster. If the interviewer is acting like a radio host, you want to be professional and give crisp, clear answers, and try to be composed and friendly.

Mark Daniels said...

I listened to your premiere podcast last evening and enjoyed it, perhaps in part, for the newness of it. (It was the first podcast to which I had listened.) My feeling is that it ran a bit long.

I think that you should also decide whether the podcast is going to be a digest of what you've been posting, with reactions to comments and additional thoughts you have. Or, will it be an entirely different product featuring "journaling" you deem peculiarly suited to the podcast format.

If your goal is to do the former, I would say two podcasts of about five minutes each would be good.

If the former, I would say ten minutes once per week.

Of course, I could be completely wrong.

OctaneBoy said...

I liked the opening act, and agree with shrinkette that you should do what feels right versus what might have the widest pedestrian appeal. You think Mozart had focus groups? Anyway, don't make it an audio clone of the blog.

Did it drift toward rambling? Sure. So what. I say go with it. Stream of consciousness is a great window to the real person.

I also like that you painted near-proximity visuals; the cars parked for the Camp Randall tilt, the anit-Robets protest on campus, etc.

XWL said...

I agree with everyone who says do what you feel is right rather than what any audience expects of you, the beauty of the new media is that casting need no longer be broad, indeed it would seem the narrower the cast the greater its appeal to those that find it appealing and I think that can be a very good thing.

What I would like to hear, though I don't know what the legalities of it would be, is podcasting of some of your lectures (or parts of, at least) that might be comprehensible to non law students.

Hearing experts speak about the basics of their area of expertise can be very enlightening and most classes no matter how specialized begin with an overview lecture that an interested lay person can appreciate, so why not have those out there for the world to enjoy.

John R Henry said...

re scheduling, do whatever feels best to you.

I just downloaded your first podcast and find that I have trouble hearing it. I have the various volume controls cranked to the max and you still come through too soft.

I am right now trying to listen on my PC. Perhaps my IPod will be better on my car radio.

In any event, could you turn up your recording volume?

Congrats on th epodcast, what I can make out sounds interesting and I look forward to more.

John Henry

Paul said...

I'm with John Henry on the volume problem.
I enjoy listening to you. I've heard so many, or should I say tried so many from the popular but really stupid and profane Dawn & Drew to an all too short NASA pod. Almost all of them are boring and/or foul.
Yours I'll keep, what a mind. Anyway, I go with what time makes it right, nothing set necessarily.
Where do you find the time?
And no exams please.

k said...

I liked what you put down on ... bits? ... how do you say that in the Digital Age? But I would echo (if I may use an audio metaphor) John Henry. The volume was way too low for my little speakers, and I really don't use headphones. I love to have talk radio on during the day, and prefer talk to music anytime (I know. Spare me the artsy lectures! It's just me!), so I am really not into the whole stereophile, audiophile way of listening to things. However, that having been said, I really like your style, AA!!

Monty Loree said...

The consideration for a 50 minutes of your podcast would be bandwidth charge.

I don't know if you're getting charged by data downloaded. When your podcast gets popular, it might cost quite a bit in download /bandwidth charges.

Meade said...

Like I need another gateway drug.

If you put a 25 minute podcast up every day, free associating with lots of references to your blog, I'm sure I'd become hopelessly addicted, listening on my ipod while walking the dog. So maybe you shouldn't - I already spend way too much time at your blog.

If you truly care, you'll nip it in the bud.

leeontheroad said...

I liked that the structure was a blog review, yet the digressions were the most interesting to me (in this case, the light conditions most conducive to thinking).

Thanks for tasking the time and effort to do that; and I hope you continue.

Pete said...

Looks like I get to play the role of contrarian on this topic:

1.) I only listened to a snippet of your first podcast. You had to make it worth my while to stick around for 26 minutes. Alas, you didn’t. While your voice was pleasant and soothing enough, I found an annoying tic: your pitch tended to raise at the end of each sentence. I couldn’t overcome it, you weren't saying anything that would make it worth my while to try for 26 minutes, so pulled the plug. Sorry. (And it looks like I'm the only one who noticed so the problem may only be with me.)

2.) Twenty-five minutes is a lifetime in audio. Radio program segments seldom last that long, due to commercial breaks, and the threat that I might turn the dial makes it imperative they be interesting. While your lectures may certainly last much longer, I’m not paying tuition for your wisdom and I have no grade which depends on me hanging on your every word. I vote for shorter, more frequent segments.

3.) Songs, plays, movies, books, all certainly DO have set lengths, though I’ll concede there are no written-in-stone rules. You won’t listen to a 4 hour pop song, sit through a 27 act play, view a 3.5 minute movie or read a 3500 page novel. Good works of art of these types are all roughly the same length, usually defined by the audience, which is who I think you’re forgetting in all of this. Audiences notice dull, not length. Lord of the Rings is riveting at three hours; a bad Woody Allen movie is interminable at half that length.

4.) Back to my point about your audience. Your impulse to write your blog, and record your podcast, is to please yourself. That’s certainly admirable, if that’s all you want to do. But come on, be honest: somewhere in your impulse to create is the hope you’ll gather an appreciative audience. Your originality will take you some distance, but alienate your audience, either through form or content, you’ll soon find you don’t have one. (You can be darn sure that Mozart, while he may not have had a focus group as we know it, wouldn’t put out a work that was intentionally offensive. Surely he listened to constructive criticism. Serious artists hope to learn from their audiences, not spurn them.) By all means, please yourself, but don’t forget the pleasure your work brings to your audience. Without them, your work exists in a vacuum. If that’s your goal, then keep it to yourself.

5.) Art requires discipline, though I’m sure you’ll counter with a fine roster of undisciplined artists. Those are, of course, the exception, and while we all like to believe we’re the exceptions, unfortunately, most of us aren’t. And, no, stream of consciousness isn’t a great window to the real person. It’s an artifice used by the likes of Joyce and Faulkner to arguable success but they live really only in academia, despite Oprah’s recent attempt to tackle Faulkner. (When was the last time you saw someone purchasing or checking out Finnegan’s Wake? I mean, someone who wasn’t required to read it for a grade? Yeah, I thought so.) I’m not sure you want to be the Joyce/Faulkner of the podcasting set. Your blog entries reveal a disciplined mind; your podcasts, if you want them to be good, will reflect the same, because that’s who you are. And, after all, isn’t that why your visitors are stopping by?

Meade said...

Pete: I found an annoying tic in your second paragraph and quit reading right there. Sorry, I couldn't overcome it.

grumpyTA said...


I really liked your podcast - and I wanted you to talk longer. Your voice has a strange saddness to it - I once heard Don Roos say that Lisa Kudrow's voice has a "wonderful saddness"; I heard that in your voice.

Maybe it's because I'm a grad student at a big 10 in the midwest, or perhaps because I'm an artist/academic of sorts, but I really enjoy what you have to say and how you say it.

I have no comments or criticisms - just keep up the good work.

grumpyTA said...

One more thing (I guess I do have a comment): Yes, people like myself (who use public transportation or walk to school/work/shopping/etc) listen to podcasts on their commutes. If I have to drive, then I'll listen to podcasts in my car. So the answer is yes: podcasts are great for the commute.

Ann Althouse said...

Thanks for all the comments.

I agree about the low volume. Will troubleshoot that.

Ann Althouse said...

Monte: The service I'm using only charges by the size of the upload. I don't pay more for getting popular. It's really cheap too. Not as cheap as Blogger, but cheap. I love that.

Simon said...

I think this is kinda neat, in the sense that I find that it's very frustrating sitting in a car - which I spend far too much time doing - when I could be finding useful information. Obviously you can't read in a car. The solution should be audio versions of newspapers and blogs that we can download and listen to while in transit. :)

Contra Pete, I'm not much concerned about the length. I'm a prog rock fan; brevity is not a virtue to which we subscribe. As long as there's a point on its way, I'll wait. ;)

RGirl said...

You seemed very thoughtful and a bit distracted, in a good way - as if you were trying to hold on to the string of thoughts that compelled you to talk in the first place. I did enjoy it, and it would be interesting to sit in on one of your classes and compare/contrast the speaking voice you have in that environment with the one you have in a podcast.