I have a very long commute to Tucows every weekday. I generally spend two and a half to three hours in the car each day. Crazy, I know. But my family loves our little village (as do I) and the commute is just a fact of life.
Rather than resign myself to losing 10 to 15 hours every week to mindless FM radio, I decided I’d use the time a little more constructively. For the first year and a half of commuting I listened pretty much exclusively to podcasts in the car. This was great. I listened to Across The Sound, For Immediate Release, Daily Searchcast, Six Pixels of Separation, Marketing Martini and several podcasts each from CBC, New York Times, and Slate. I highly recommend all of them.
But after a while I realized the the signal to noise ratio on podcasts was leaving me frustrated. To much “welcome from…” and “here’s how you can subscribe…” and “to recap last week…”, and “here’s what I’m doing/did/won’t do…”. It was information for sure, but not information that was useful or enriching — and that was kind of the whole point.
I also found that most podcasts suffer from diminishing returns. Once I’m inside the head of a podcaster and understand their world-view I get less and less from each new podcast. But finding new podcasts is a daunting task that can’t be done in the car, so I kept listening to the same podcasts despite the decline in useful insights per hour in the car.
Then a few months ago I basically flipped a switch and decided my commute would be filled with audiobooks and it has been a wonderful, revelatory experience. I’m now consuming one or two books a week. I’m tackling business, science, modern fiction, and classics.
Essentially audiobooks act are incredibly high signal-to-noise podcasts. Or maybe more accurately, books are like really poorly written and produced audiobooks.
So sorry podcasters, until you figure out how to compete with Harper Lee, Walter Isaacson, Cormac McCarthy, Haruki Murakami, Bill Bryson, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, and Chip & Dan Heath I don’t think I’ll be listening anymore.