The podcast format seesaw

I was just reflecting on how my podcast listening habits swing from one extreme to the other, in terms of the types of stuff I’m listening to. I seem to be unable to find a happy medium. This isn’t (necessarily) bad, but it feels kind of strange…

I started with podcasts when I got my first iPod, around the time TWiT got going (hi @leo!). So that “talking head” format is what pulled me in. But before too long, I discovered This American Life and went deep on that more edited, narrative style. Planet Money was another favorite back then.

For some reason I no longer remember, I listened to one or two episodes of Alison Rosen Is Your New Best Friend and got sucked into not only subscribing, but listening to a lot of the back catalog, and then similar or related podcasts like CarCast, Dr Drew, etc.

I still dipped in and out of This American Life and Planet Money, but the vast majority of my listening was in the talking heads format at that point. It all changed when I heard about Startup on TAL one day. I was immediately hooked, and then followed that with an obsession with almost all of the Gimlet podcasts. Startup and Reply All were, and remain, my absolute favorites.

But something funny happened maybe a year and a half ago. I was working on some iOS programming stuff, and I think I’d seen @marco (who I mostly knew about because I was an Overcast user) Tweet about his podcast Under the Radar. I tried one out, really liked it, and went back to listen to all of them from the beginning. From there, I was interested enough to finally try ATP which I had long dismissed because I really didn’t think I had time for a weekly multi-hour talking heads podcast in my queue. But I ended up really liking it, and it became a staple in my podcast regimen.

Once I was hooked on ATP (and already listening to Under the Radar), I guess it was inevitable that I would make my way to Reconcilable Differences and Analog(ue). Now I find myself with an Overcast queue completely filled with the back catalog of those two podcasts, interrupted by the occasional new ATP, Startup, or Reply All, and my mix is probably 95% “talking heads.” (And nearly entirely made up of @liss, @marco, and @siracusa).

All that is a very long way of saying, I think I have a podcast problem… If anyone else actually read this far, I’d love to hear how (or if) you balance narrative vs. talking heads podcasts. Do you like only one type, or both? If both, what’s your ratio?

Sean Harding @sharding