People on podcasts versus articulate articles

I rarely listen to podcasts. They are hard to discover in web and app searches. Articles are much easier to find, even good ones. There are four more aspects where I find podcasts to be lacking against articles.

Links: Podcasts typically don’t provide sources for whenever guests or hosts say interesting or important things that could use citations. Just the same, podcasts don’t—and can’t—have inline links to immediately allow exploring things that peak my interest while listening. Some good podcasts do provide some references but even then it means I need to hunt those links myself, or at least browse away and identify their correct places in the description. For information-dense consumptions, in-line linking within web text is supremely efficient.

Pauses: I tend to take frequent pauses while reading to think, look up things, make notes, etc. When listening to a podcast, you need to manually pause and play. When reading, your mind does it for you. This makes my pauses seamless and engaging rather than one of interference.

Browsing: When I come across a podcast episode that may or may not have something of my interest, I can’t do a “Find on Page” equivalent to know the same. Unless it comes with a reliable transcript. With articles, getting past this decision point is a cakewalk. But with podcasts, even with powerful AI abilities now in the mix, you need to ask a bot if the audio or video in the link talks about the specific thing you’re looking for or not. And then you need to trust it.

Archiving: On the rare occasion that I do subscribe to a podcast show, it’s because it offers transcripts. I add such podcasts to my RSS reader, where other than being able to scan or read transcripts of new episodes, I can do future searches and discovery since their text is now archived. For podcast shows that don’t offer transcripts, I’d like to see podcast apps and feed readers offer automated AI transcripts as “better than nothing” starting points. In the absence of such options, the value of most podcast episodes swiftly dwindles over time for me.

Of course, there are other reasons to listen to podcasts instead of reading articles. Sometimes you just want to hear a human voice. And take in all that comes with it. In the conversation that partly sparked this blog post, a friend who is a voracious reader said she likes that podcasts and audiobooks convey the speaker’s pitches and inflections. Podcasts are great to hear straight from a source. They’re also most practical when you’re time-strapped to read a screen, like when doing chores or commuting. They’re good for people who have dyslexia. What are some other reasons podcasts are great? Let me know!

At the same time, there’s something else about podcasts that doesn’t sit well with me. They are verbose. That’s just how humans talk. Some say a podcast feels like a conversation. I say it feels too much like a conversation.

From a publishing perspective, editing a podcast is less about attaining a certain economy of words, as is so satisfyingly the case with writing, but about ensuring the episode sounds good. Combine the verbosity of podcasts with the aforementioned points, and I hope you see why I feel a little disjointed when listening to them.

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