Most Podcasts Are Rubbish

OK, maybe that's a bit too sweeping a generalisation, but I listened to three different well-known podcasts over the weekend and two more on the way to the office this morning and I am seriously underwhelmed. Perhaps I'm just going through a cynical patch here.

If you were to strip out all the extraneous self-serving layers -- the kissyfest "love the show" comments from loyal listeners, and the hosts' obsequious thanks and "shout outs" to their buddies in the podosphere -- most of the shows I've just been listening to would collapse down to perhaps ten minutes of truly useful content.

This is not to say that podcasting per se is rubbish. I'm still a true believer in the form and recognise that there is a great deal of value in podcasting as an evolving communications medium. But I think it's time for many podcasters to get over themselves, stop prattling on about the wonders of the medium, get outside the echo chamber, and settle in to providing some better reasons to subscribe and listen.

I was reminded this morning of the first time I saw a presenter using a laser pointer on stage. More than 12 years ago, I took a group of US software company executives on a speaking tour of the UK and Ireland. One member of the group had acquired a pen-sized laser pointer, and made a big show of using it in every session. He'd bring up a slide, wave the red dot around on the screen, then pause and grin goofily at the audience with a "pretty cool, huh?" expression on his face. He seemed so keen to draw attention to his new "presentation aid" that the entire message of his actual presentation was lost.

Many podcasters, it seems, are still stuck at that stage of being in love with the coolness factor. There's too much self-referential discussion of the phenomenon of podcasting; not enough content of lasting value. Enough already - we get that it's easy to do; now do something with it.

There are notable exceptions, of course. Leo Laporte's This Week In Tech manages to be entertaining, informative, and eminently listenable - even at over an hour long most weeks. It helps that Leo's been doing great tech radio since the early 90's, long before he turned to podcasting. He knows how to create terrific audio content. With many of the other former favourites in my iTunes list, I'm afraid I'm about reaching podcast burnout.

I'm half tempted to launch my own mini-podcast - sans kissyfest, sans shoutouts; just a weekly 15 minute rant about the latest inanities in the PR world (or the world in general - why limit myself?). Feeling kind of like doing an audio version of the Loren Feldman thing (but without the ad hominems).

Grrrrrr. Cranky and short-tempered this morning. Need more caffeine.