Why I won't Podcast
Mike Zornek recently started his own Podcast. It's a really nifty tech thing, and of course it's "hip" in geek circles to have a Podcast these days, so I was severely tempted to do a Podcast of my own. Then I listened to Mike's further Podcasts, and I realized why I will probably not start Podcasting anytime soon:
Many people think: Cool, I'm gonna do a Podcast! I'm just gonna sit down with my mic, record what's on my mind, and I won't have to spell-check like I would have to do with a blog, and I can even slap some nifty music behind it and make it sound cool. But there's a problem with that: For the general populace of your listeners, this will be a useless Podcast:
As the name implies, a Podcast is typically listened to using some sort of MP3 player, during a commute or a lunch break. There will be lots of other people around, or loud bus, train or car engines. Lots of talk or noise that gets in the way of understanding what you're talking about. So, forget background music. In addition, a good Podcast is easy to understand. You need to have a lot of discipline (and ideally took a class on speaking) to avoid swallowing the ends of words. If your pronunciation isn't much clearer than it would be in conversation, chances are people will have a hard time understanding it. The worst thing you can do to your listeners is not to have a consistent volume level throughout your cast.
Another aspect is that Podcasts take time to consume, and more so than regular blog postings. While I can easily skip a boring paragraph in a blog, or decide to only "scan" certain spots that reiterate stuff I'm familiar with, and while I can read a lot faster than most people can speak, I'm at the Podcaster's mercy regarding the length of time it takes to hear their cast. While fast-forwarding through or even speeding up a podcast is possible, it is very awkward, and few Podcasts are broken into chapters sufficiently so I can just skip a boring news item and get on to the next one.
And it gets worse with independent Podcasts, where you sometimes have to wait for the author to shake off a coughing fit, or have a specially lengthy drink from their beverage of choice (which often sounds like that scene in "The Naked gun" where Frank Drebin took the wireless mic to the toilet). In the old days of analog radio, there was a harumphing switch that speakers would push to momentarily mute the mic so they could cough. A single harumph isn't a problem, but if you have huge pauses or find yourself aborting a long line of thought and restarting at the beginning, it's easy to use the built-in sound editing facilities of Audacity (or, surprisingly, even GarageBand!) to cut out that bit. That way, you're not wasting your listeners' time. Because once they get the impression that all the time you're wasting outweighs what they get when listening to your content, they'll just pick a better Podcast.
And that's just the formal aspects. I haven't even yet come to the actual content. If you look at my blog postings, they're usually linkblogs, or small "papers" on a particular topic. Linkblogs are completely impractical for a Podcast. Links in a regular blog can just be clicked. In a Podcast, you'd have to spell out the URL so people know what to type (including any spaces, dashes, or whether several words are just strung together). Worse, they won't be able to visit the URL while they're listening to your cast, and they'll have to listen to your spelling and type the URL back in later.
The paper-like stuff is also not quite ideal: When I write down my thoughts for my blog, I usually reorder certain paragraphs, rewrite parts, and even revise my opinion as I'm writing the text simply due to the structure imposed upon me by writing it down. You get a much clearer, much more concise text than what was on my mind when I sat down to write it. This doesn't work in an audio recording. It's awkward to replace a word or a paragraph in a sound file.
While I did actually receive some speaking education as part of several choir and theatre performances (and the rehearsals that go with it), and I actually managed to use GarageBand and the mic on my sister's WebCam to pretty easily record a fairly decent Podcast, I just don't have anything to say that would fit the format. I could of course read some blog postings into a sound file, but that would simply mean additional work. Work I'd much rather spend on writing programs or passing Uni exams (or getting through Myst IV, for that matter...).