Podcasts – the truth

I don’t very often get on my soap box but here we go.

The vast majority of podcasts avaiable from the iTunes store are not worth the server space they are stored on.

There, I’ve said it now.

There are just two exceptions, I’ve got over forty podcasts sitting on my iPod at the moment waiting for me to listen to, but apart from one, they are all produced by the BBC.  I’ve tried many other podcasts, including by people whose work I generally enjoy.  They tend to fall into four categories.

  1. The advert.  This is particularly true of any podcasts related to American shows.  The Simpsons podcast is a case in point.
  2. The fanboy.  There’s so many of these around.  I subscribed to a couple of Doctor Who podcasts during the season run (not the official BBC commentary podcast, that’s in a different league).  All they do is rehash the news, adding their own spin onto it and using Skype to interview other fanboys.  Of little interest to anyone who’s not in the cliqué.
  3. The tech show.  Oh boy, there are a lot of these, and I used to subscribe to a couple, including of course LugRadio which was unusal in being well produced and well written – the only problem I had was the potty mouths of the presenters (I’m no prude, but there’s gratuitous swearing and there’s really gratuitous swearing).
  4. The star, or stars.  These are the worst shows of all, with one exception (see below).  You like the work of someone on radio or tv, find their podcast online and subscribe.  You then find that without a script, or group of script writers that they really are just like you and I.  I’m a great one for overhearing coversations at coffee bars and in the pub, but these aren’t using my bandwidth.  Whilst hating to pick one out specifically, Armstrong and Miller’s podcast for the Times is a classic example of this, their podcast of their Christmas preparations stays with me still.

So which non-BBC podcast do I subscribe to?  It has to be Stephen Fry of course, who is as close to being the living embodiment of the best bits of the BBC that it can be.  The only shame is that his official podcasts on the iTunes store come out so infrequently, though there’s much, much more on his site.

OK, I’ll get off my soapbox now, it’s rare that I have a rant like this, but having spent half an hour last night trying to find any non-BBC podcasts that stirred my interest, and failing, I felt I had to share it.  I wonder if we’ll look back at podcasts in ten years time the same way that I look back on the audio tapes that as an eight year old I used to prepare in my bedroom with my new cassette recorder, then bore the rest of my family with by playing as we ate Sunday dinner.  Interesting, and creative, but ultimately embarassing.


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