I Used to Hate Podcasts — Now I Think I Understand What Makes Podcasting Such a Powerful Platform
A long time ago, in an overcaffeinated galaxy far, far away, I hated podcasts.
I guess maybe I just didn’t get them — which is strange, because I’m an avid radio listener. My car always tuned to my local NPR station, with any deviation met with complaints. (See also: “outright bitching and complaining.”)
But for awhile there, podcasts just seemed like yet another thing hipsters talked about and ruined for everyone —like craft beer — while twirling their finally manicured mustaches and sipping on fair trade coffee or kombucha at a local coffee shop in Brooklyn.
Now here I am, one year later, ready to call myself a big, fat hypocrite.
Not only do I obsessively listen to and seek out new podcasts, I’m also a podcaster myself on the Creator’s Block podcast. (For those who are curious, it’s a podcast about inbound marketing, design, content and agency life that I co-host with Jessie-Lee Nichols, who works with me at Quintain Marketing.)
“And What’s the Deal with Podcasts?”
I’m a big fan of analysis paralysis and have still yet to outgrow the “Why?” phase most people shelve after the age of five. So once I realized I loved podcasts, I immediately had to figure out why.
Seriously, what makes podcasts so special?
I’m an only child, so I’m going to talk about myself first. Personally, I am not a fan of listening to music to begin with — unless it’s old-timey jazz or classical music, which drives most of my coworkers and my husband completely bonkers. (Although, like any woman, I can and will totally get down to some Beyoncé.)
Even with my love of music — my mother was actually a classical music major in college — it still sometimes makes me anxious. In those moments when it should soothe me, I’m constantly wondering, “Am I listening to the best playlist possible? I like this song, but maybe I’d like a different one better. Ugh, this is my favorite song in the world, but I’m already bored of it. Time to move on.”
I want to be one of those power bitches with a power bitch playlist to boot, but I’m defective. I can’t just “lean in” to music.
Radio, on the other hand, stimulates me. For some reason I don’t get that same kind of anxiety. I get to learn stuff, and it keeps my ADD-brain hooked.
Podcasts slipped seamlessly into this position, enabling me to spend otherwise idle time — commuting or picking things up and putting them back down again at the gym — learning something or being entertained.
Are Podcasts the Final Frontier of Authentic Content?
Here’s the thing about being a content creator and marketer by trade. (Whoops, I guess I forgot to mention I’m the content manager at Quintain.) It totally clues you into how much terrible content is out there, floating around.
Seriously, once people figured out inbound marketing wasn’t some fad destined for the one-hit-wonder pile, the internet became bloated with so much garbage. Suddenly everyone and their mother was vying to be a “thought leader” or a “guru” or some other bullshit label.
Heck, they still are.
When they’re done well — a podcast can break through all of that noise. When it’s just you, your headphones and a podcast, it’s strangely intimate. You don’t interact with the people who created the podcast, of course, but it feels strangely conversational.
More than that, it feels authentic.
As an editor, I used to feel most comfortable with others knowing my thoughts only after they had been through three or four rounds of revisions. So when I started podcasting, it took me awhile to get used to the fact that I would fuck up. A lot.
For example, there was one episode where I kept saying the word “magical,” like it was some sort of compulsion.
This is where the authenticity comes in. Content — especially for businesses — has become a bit of a commodity. Blogs, eBooks, you name it. You have a process for each, you have an editor, you have your branded style guides. Lather, rise, repeat.
Podcasts, on the other hand, are very, very human. Even with the best editing, I’ve noticed that the podcasts I love the most showcase their people (both hosts and guests), their stories, their quirks and their mistakes.
I want to keep listening, not just because I’m learning something, but also because I like them. I want them to grab a beer with them. I relate to them. Or at the very least, they have attained some level of “awesome” that I aspire to myself.
What’s funny is that one of the first pieces of feedback Jessie-Lee and I received from a friend of ours about our own podcast is that it was like sitting down with us over drinks and chatting — the only exception being that she couldn’t chime in.
This kind of connection matters, because whether you’re talking about a business deal, building relationships with customers or establishing your own personal brand, at the end of the day, people will always connect best with other people.
That’s where the true power of podcasting lies for me.
What I’ve Learned as a Podcaster
Beyond what it’s done for giving some much-needed dimension to the idea of online content, I am selfishly thankful for bringing podcasts into my life — both as a listener and a host of one. Especially the latter bit.
When Jessie-Lee looked across the lunch table a few months ago with this bold idea to start a podcast together, I was all-in. I have no idea why, because historically I am not someone who is 100 percent comfortable with putting myself out there in a way that I cannot take back or fix later.
In fact, I’ve come to realize in hindsight that it’s one of the reasons I took to writing professionally. It was the best way to have a one-way conversation, where I was entirely in control of the narrative, as well as how and when my ideas were disseminated.
Put another way, I can be a total coward. I like to hide behind my keyboard and under my headphones, while listening to ambient noise.
But podcasting has forced me to become more comfortable with myself, with my ideas and what I bring to the table. It’s also made me more comfortable with my own quirks and idiosyncrasies — especially of the verbal variety. I’m still not perfect, but I think I’ve undone some of the bad control freak-like habits editing instilled in me.