Goodbye, Podcasts

Our time in life is very much finite, and our free time even more so, making the decision for how to spend it nontrivial. It is with this in mind that I have come to the conclusion that I’d like to stop listening to podcasts. Between the direction the industry is heading in, my personal choice in podcasts, and the alternatives out there to listening to podcasts, I feel my time would be better spent elsewhere. Here are my thoughts on the matter.

Looking back at the last couple of years in the podcasting industry, there are some worrying trends. A startup called Luminary came onto the scene offering original podcasts that are only accessible via a paid subscription to their service. That same article references Spotify’s acquisition of several podcast-related business, namely Gimlet and Anchor. This was all back in 2019 though, and little had happened in the intervening years (though the pandemic likely had something to do with that.) Earlier this year, however, Apple announced that they too will begin offering podcasts subscriptions, though as far as I know they don’t offer any exclusive podcasts. Not yet, at least. The existence of Apple Arcade tells me that exclusive podcasts are likely soon to follow. This is a far-cry from the historically open, RSS-driven podcasting ecosystem I was welcomed with, and I unfortunately believe it’s only the beginning. It would seem that Big Tech and venture capitalist money have decided that podcasting is a largely untapped oil well that can’t continue to be ignored. What do they have to gain from this? I’d guess targeted advertising and yet another monthly subscription offering. Count me out. Luckily for me, the types of podcasts I usually listen to are more independent, less produced, and thus less likely to end up on some exclusive platform like these. After all, blogging isn’t (yet) locked behind a small set of companies with exclusivity and subscription fees, so perhaps there’s still hope for some shows. The shows I tend to follow do tend to cause me other issues though.

In an effort to avoid slandering them, I won’t name-drop any of the shows I listen to. After all, you could easily argue that my next reasons for dropping podcasts from my mental inventory of things to do are completely intrinsic and have little-to-nothing to do with the podcasts themselves. I’ll vaguely describe them though. Pretty much all of them are related to tech, though not developer-focused podcasts like you might expect from reading the rest of my blog. No, I tend to gravitate towards more consumer tech podcasts, the type of podcasts that talk about the latest gadgets and news about the companies creating them. The problem I have with these shows is that they promote consumerism by constantly shoving the newest gadgets in your face, combined with an unrelenting flow of “deals” to help you blow your money on expensive tech that’s only marginally better than the stuff from last year or even the year before. There’s certainly plenty of interesting information to be gleaned from these podcasts as well, in their defense, but I think these types of shows are best listened to for a couple of episodes at most every couple of years or so, just to catch up on the current yay-or-nay’s of the tech world. Consistent listening, as I have done, has only led me to be constantly discontent with tech that is perfectly fine and functional, and waste hundreds of dollars in the process. Instead of filling my head with the reviews of tech I’ll never own or care about, I’ve found that there are other, better alternatives for me to listen to.

Going cold turkey on a habit you’d like to break without replacing it with another is a recipe for failure. I almost always listen to podcasts while driving or doing chores, so for these times, I’ve recently started listening to audiobooks instead. While neither as free nor as open as podcasts, audiobooks offer me far more meaningful content. I tend to gravitate towards psychology-, leadership-, or computer science-related titles. I just finished listening to The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, by Mark Manson. I really enjoyed it (and recommend it if you haven’t read/listened to it already), and feel like I got a lot more out of it than I otherwise would have from the 5 or so consumer tech podcast episodes I would’ve had to listen to in order to occupy the same amount of time. I signed up for a monthly Audible subscription, so while I’m paying for the content instead of getting it for free, I no longer have to deal with advertisements, and if for whatever reason I decided I didn’t want to pay anymore but still wanted to keep my books, there’s always OpenAudible.

I’m not sure if this change will be permanent, or forever remain as extreme, I’m content with the choice. There’s already an existing business model around audiobooks, so I’m not too concerned about the future of them. I get better content that’s likely had more preparation and research put into it, and is far less likely to provoke consumeristic urges in me. The best part is, audiobooks fill the hole in my routine that podcasts used to occupy, so I’m fairly confident in believing that this change will last. Here’s to hoping that it’ll be a change for the better.