On Podcast Rambling

Yesterday, Ben Brooks wrote about his issues with most podcasts nowadays, and offers some advice:

“So here’s my proposal for making podcasts better: if you want me to spend 1-2 hours a week listening to your show, then you better spend at least that much time preparing for each show. Reading your RSS/Twitter feeds doesn’t count as preparation.”

This caused a bit of a stir with people. Now, I don't have any particular problems with those kinds of shows (in fact, I happily listen to several of them), but I think Ben has a point.

I've often wondered why certain shows just seem to slap together an outline of what they want to talk about, then meander around those topics at length rather than keeping the show tight and focused. It's not that I think every podcast needs to sound super-produced the way This American Life and 99% Invisible do, but I can think of very few shows that wouldn't benefit from a bit more care and editing.

Don't get me wrong, some shows are actually at their most entertaining while rambling a bit. Bionic and The Prompt are good examples of this, because the hosts are hilarious and have good chemistry. And my god, Merlin Mann has made a career of rambling (no offense to Merlin — I think he's very good at what he does).

But for most other shows, think about it this way: would you want to read an article that had very little thought or editing put into it? One that wastes your time and attention with needless repetition rather than getting to the point? I doubt it.

Why not apply the same thinking to podcasting? Food for thought.