21 April 2009

Betraying the Indie Podcasting Ethos

A Twitter friend and I had a brief discussion about what podcasts we still enjoy after all these years, and it occurred to me that my taste in shows has changed. If you looked at the list of shows on my Zune right now, there is only one show there that I have listened to consistently since 2004.

When I first discovered podcasts, I was fascinated by the idea that I was listening to a show that was recorded by someone like me. I thought it was so cool that the person who created the show wasn't famous and wasn't recording in a fancy studio somewhere. The intimacy of it made it easier for me to overlook poor production quality and hosts that rambled.

Here it five years later, and my playlist is a lot more polished. Out of 40 shows, only three or four of them are of the indie variety that is recorded in someone's living room. The rest are recordings of shows from traditional radio outlets or that new hybrid, the serious hobbyist. If you've listened to podcasts for a long time, you know who I'm talking about. The serious hobbyist invests in professional recording equipment and produces a high-quality show that rivals the output of traditional radio, all while working a day job.

I almost wish I didn't prefer the professional shows. The Wild West days of podcasting were exciting. Yes, there were some awful shows but when I found a gem, it was exhilarating. Also, there was the feeling that I could just hook up a microphone and broadcast my feelings to the world, no training necessary. Sadly, it isn't that easy these days. If you haven't invested a couple hundred dollars in equipment and hours upon hours learning fancy editing tricks, it is unlikely that anyone will listen to you -- including me.
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