Purpose driven podcasts

I listen to a lot of podcasts. My categories of choice for my broad-reach podcasts are web / WordPress, media / journalism, startup / tech, politics, and more web.

I’m subscribed to over 30 podcast feeds right now, so I typically have more to listen to than I have time for.

Some of these podcasts are long. Others are short. Some are expertly edited. Others are quite raw. But none of that matters too much (though basic sound quality does).

Of those podcasts that I always tend to make time for, one characteristic stands out: they are purposeful.

Things I don’t like:

  • A 10 minute introduction of fluff or talking about your latest conference appearance and what famous people you saw there.
  • To know every detail of your personal life.
  • Your guest’s life story (unless that’s the only point of the podcast).
  • Constant self-promotion or only talking about your own projects.
  • In the tech world: constant talk about Apple / Microsoft / Google / Facebook / Twitter is nauseating. There are so many more interesting companies and stories, but they all talk about the same companies.

Things I do like:

  • A narrow subject for the episode (or even podcast as a whole). I don’t need to hear about Apple news on a WordPress podcast, for example.
  • When the host gets me interested in something I didn’t even know I’d be interested in, versus just opining on what the entire rest of the world is talking about.
  • Podcasts that teach me something.
  • Podcasts that expand my horizons.
  • Podcasts that discover new and interesting interview guests and stories.
  • Podcasts that don’t take themselves too seriously.
  • Podcasts that are purposeful.

But more than anything, I just wish podcasts would stop with the constant waffle and personal junk and get to the point. I’d like to encourage podcasters to question what their value per minute is. Long podcasts are awesome if they are providing great value for those minutes.

To me, there is a very clear difference between radio and podcasts.

It’s similar to watching cable TV versus watching streaming television. When I’m watching cable, I’m just watching what’s on, and my expectations are low. If I choose something that is available via streaming, I expect it to be good, because I chose it over other options and other activities.

The same goes for (talk) radio versus a podcast. The radio is just on, and my demands are low. But with a podcast, I’m making a choice to listen; and I don’t like making bad choices.



12 thoughts on “Purpose driven podcasts

  1. Are you and Curtis McHale the same person?


    I get what you’re saying but my first reaction is that you’re not the listener I’m after. In fact, I’m not even sure which listeners I’m after. My podcast has for the most part always been a way to satisfy my curiosity and desire to talk about WordPress. There was a point where I tried to be professional, taking cues from talk radio which I listen to a lot, but I eventually said to hell with it.

    There are a variety of different ways I could improve the show but they all require work and effort and for the most part, I’m pretty content with the way the show is now. Unlike talk radio who has a supporting cast of engineers, board ops etc, I gotta do everything myself and I’m busy enough as it is 🙂

    1. I think you do a good job. I like when you dig into a topic or product (like you did with the customizer last week) and dig deep. I think it works. And you keep the “news” to the first few minutes, and it’s always WP focused. It’s a good (and even better, consistent) podcast.

  2. Something I’m *very* aware of.

    It’s something I’m trying to become more focused on, especially when WordPress folks like to WordCamp-it on the show.

    Give us your pitch, tell us what you’re working on and what success and failures brought you to this point.

    I hope MR makes the list 🙂

  3. Mostly I agree with you on the above points, but I love the personal information about guests. You can read all about his/her work online, but it’s those personal bits that give you a more well-rounded understanding of a person. I think it’s especially important with guests who everyone admires, those people who you secretly wonder whether or not he/she might be a machine. 😉 Then again, I truly enjoy looking at people’s lunch and dinner and pet pictures on Instagram, whereas that annoys many people. The more personal stuff in the podcast, the more I want to listen to it.

    1. I agree, if the purpose of the show is the interview of that person. For instance, I love Jeffrey Zeldman’s interviews on The Big Web Show (I hope that podcast shows up somewhere soon). To me, it’s more when the host or panel is always talking about themselves that I’m less interested; I know about them already, I listen to their podcast!

      I like looking at personal things too. But for my friends 🙂 Maybe I just treat most podcasts I listen to as more “business” than as if I’m listening to a friend. Friendship is two ways. Like on Instagram, I look at your food, you look at mine 🙂

    2. I’m down for the personal stuff AFTER I know how awesome the person is.

      For example, I want to know all about the childhood of Steve Jobs. I’m not interested in the the average guy in front of me in the supermarket line though.

  4. Great post. I value my time too much to listen to most podcasts – I’d rather do actual “work” – but I always know I’m missing out on some good tidbits of information that I won’t pick up without listening to the podcast.

    There’s nothing I like more in a podcast than concise, actionable information, and no filler.

  5. I couldn’t agree more with you Brian! If I am going to invest an hour of my valuable time to download and listen to your podcast – I damn well better get something of value out of it to justify the 45 or 60 minutes I paid you with my time.

    I’m curious, what are some of the specific WordPress, Startup/Tech podcasts in your feed currently?

  6. Brian, your “Value Per Minute” idea really struck me. The more I think about it, the more I like it. It’s a great way to begin thinking about the value a podcast is or isn’t providing! I’ll be chewing on this idea for the week.

    And I echo Chad! Care to share your list? Or some on your list?

  7. I like podcasts much the same way you do. I like being able to go out for a walk/jog or workout and being able to learn without looking. I think Poststat.us needs a podcast!

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