The other day I realized that although I was skeptical of podcasting going all the way back to 2004, I have to admit that now in 2008, I vastly prefer the experience of listening to a podcast, when compared to listening to the radio (say, NPR as I am comparing voice podcasts vs. talk radio).
In my early college years, I delivered pizza and drove around for hours a day in my car, listening to mostly talk radio (KFI in Southern California) to keep myself from being bored. When I had a long commute in college for a few years, I started listening to NPR. I would drift in and out of stories and reports as I dropped off a pizza or had to run to class from the parking lot and I never really got the hang of the broadcast schedules. I haven’t had to commute by car regularly for over five years so I don’t have 5-10 hours to kill every week in a car and I listen to NPR much less.
So the other day I was running errands around town like I usually do. This entails driving a couple miles to my bank, a couple more miles to a downtown shop, and a few more miles to the grocery store. It’s a series of stops and starts and I have to pick up my mail down the street from my house and sometimes I get hot chocolate or food in a drive-thru and I realized the user experience of radio sucks for this. There are nothing but interruptions as I go about my day. I know I’m spoiled by having the internet around for so long and having a TiVo for the past 8 years. Everything remotely entertaining and informative in my life is completely on-demand for me — I can watch, read, or listen to anything I want, whenever I want, wherever I want.
Except Radio. With radio, I can’t follow every episode and I can’t even remember when stuff is on. While I long wanted to have a “TiVo for radio” what I really wanted was a On Demand radio service with pause capability, and that’s pretty much what podcasting gives you.
I know it’s still a pain in the butt to download and run iTunes, then sync to a device like an iPod/iPhone, then it’s a whole can of worms to get it playing back in your car, but once you’ve done the legwork, it’s a pretty amazing thing. I find in my regular in-town driving for common errands I have about 2-4 hours a week to kill in the car listening to music or podcasts. Currently, this lets me dutifully follow every show that I’m a fan of, and I can hear every segment of every episode without missing a beat (thanks to the mighty pause button) and it doesn’t entail sitting in a parking lot for 15 minutes waiting for an amazing interview to conclude. Over the course of the past year, I’ve worked through almost the entire back catalog at MaximumFun.org and I follow a couple of NPR’s podcasted shows, listening a little each time when I’m out driving around.
My truck came with XM radio and I get several NPR stations where I live, but ever since I started listening to podcasts on my iPhone in the car, I noticed I really don’t turn on the radio anymore, and it’s not because of the program quality. It’s all about the user experience.