If you aren’t listening to podcasts you’re missing out

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It dawned on me yesterday that my radio talk show and music listening have largely been replaced by listening to podcasts.

One definition of podcast is: “a digital audio file made available on the Internet for downloading to a computer or mobile device, …which can be received by subscribers automatically.”

I think of podcasts as independent radio shows. As an adult, my radio listening happened mostly while driving, mostly listening to talk radio. Especially to and from work every day.

If I wanted to hear music while driving, I listened to my own cassettes, CDs, and MP3s. But I rarely listen to music while driving. I enjoy focused listening to music, and there are more important things to focus on while I’m driving. Like, the road, for example.

A few years back I lost interest in political talk radio shows, with the commercial interrupting of conversations, by advertisements of no interest. By the time I stopped listening altogether, my turning the car radio sound off right before commercial breaks, and back on right after commercial breaks, was an automatic reflex.

Network talk radio is also geared to audiences that rotate out every 20 minutes or so. The subsequent repetition of news and opinion got old, too. I stopped listening.

First I replaced radio listening with audiobooks. Those were great, but a good audiobook is often hours long. Reading a hardcover version of, say, David McCullough’s “The Wright Brothers,” I can pick the book up and put it down when I want. Listening in the car to audio versions of books like “The Wright Brothers,” it was hours, sometimes days, between listenings.

Enter the podcasts.

The first podcast I remember hearing was an interview with Seth Godin. According to his bio, Mr. Godin “is the author of 18 books.., bestsellers around the world…. He writes about the post-industrial revolution, the way ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership and…changing everything.”

I bought and listened to two Godin audiobooks. Not having money to buy a third Godin audiobook, I went online to see if he had some YouTube interviews. I found none, but I did find free Seth Godin podcast interviews on iTunes.

The podcast audio quality was not great, more like remote AM radio. But, the content and format were refreshing and informative: a conversation between a well-informed host and guest. The podcast “commercials,” as such, were simply the host telling listeners about any available products (books, swag), and how to get them if you wanted to. No hard sell.

I am now a regular listener, a subscriber, to three podcasts, all hosted by former Navy SEALS.

1. “Jocko Podcast” with Jocko Willink and Echo Charles.
2. “Cleared Hot” with Andy Stumpf.
3. “Team Never Quit” with Dave Rutherford and Marcus Luttrell.

Again, the hosts are smart, experienced, funny, confident, humble. Each of these podcasts is a learning experience about history, literature, the military, the spirit, and ”never quit” principles that apply to life across the board.

I listen to podcasts on my MP3 player at my convenience: driving, resting, shaving in the morning, in bed. The podcast shows are one hour to three hours long. And through social media it is simple and common for podcast listeners and show hosts to maintain instant two-way communication.

“Hot Pod: A Newsletter About Podcasts” tells us 57 million people a month listen to podcasts. Last year podcast advertising was “projected” to be $200 million. And in 2016, on iTunes alone, people downloaded and streamed “more than 10 billion” podcasts.

Let’s see what happens with podcast popularity. The competition for an audience is very tough. But for entities who succeed at it, podcasts offer a valuable, take-me-anywhere format for communicating with people.

Scott K. Fish has served as a communications staffer for Maine Senate and House Republican caucuses, and was communications director for Senate President Kevin Raye. He founded and edited and served as director of communications/public relations for Maine’s Department of Corrections until 2015. He is now using his communications skills to serve clients in the private sector.

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