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The Net Takeaway: New Media on Radio?


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New Media on Radio? · 01/04/2006 04:27 PM, Trivial

I find podcasts to be one of the biggest waste of time, right up there with standing in line at the bank and sitting in traffic. These recordings of people babbling from their car, cell phone, or cheap microphone are completely synchronous: you have to listen to it in serial order, you have to be present from beginning to end, and if its 30 minutes, then you have to take 30 minutes to experience.

Compare that to a blog: I can read faster than most people, so I can fly through content at my own speed, scanning and skipping to what I want, in the order I want. It’s a control thing, I guess.

And its unfair to point out the low production quality, poor voice and acting ability, and plain boring nature of most of the podcasts out there. Even the most popular ones, done by “professionals”, tend to be eye-glazers. Yes, some have music snippets or intros, some are like radio shows, and a rare few manage to make me lose track of time while listening… but most are just ignorable.

So, should we be happy that people are creating their own media? The fact is, when its good, yes, by all means… but just because its user created doesn’t make it good. I am getting bored of this aura or halo around user created work. Yes, we can lower our expectations, and “appreciate the gritty nature of the back-to-basics production experience” as one critic said, but let’s get real: even if my kid spent hours drawing a picture of a horse with his crayon, the Met isn’t going to treat it as art. It may be good for a kid, but you aren’t going to frame it in your house.

Similarly, so someone makes a recording of their thoughts. Great. If the content is there, if the voice has modulation, if the user elminates wind noise, if they interview someone interesting, all of these can make a good podcast. But without it, just because its user created, its no big deal. If this is the future of audio media, we are all in trouble.

So, we look back to the “real” media of FM radio… and it turns out that it sucks as well (but we knew that) Expectations (and revenue) are higher for this format, so its even more disappointing how unlistenable it is. Howard Stern has left the building, and in the Northeast US, we now get to hear David Lee Roth (yes, former lead singer of Van Halen and recently EMT around NYC). And yes, its like listening to a bad podcast. Stern wasn’t always great, but there was a palpable sense of energy, of tension from the unexpected. Roth’s show is a buzzkill; his downbeat tone and lack of excitement are like wrapping your head in cotton… and then hitting it against a wall, just to feel something.

So, what to do? User created audio media tends to stink. Now, “professional” radio is continuing its decline. Will I now have to pay an additional fee just to listen to interesting new music over satellite? Will I be forced to listen to AM talk radio just to keep my ears from bleeding?

Perhaps you know of a podcast which disproves my broad generalization. Post it here. If I’m wrong, I’ll gladly eat crow here… and I’ll podcast it.

In the meantime, any recommendations for a good Sirius receiver?

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