Podcasting or Text?

Post Image“Why listen to a podcast when you can get ten times the content when you read?” That’s the question Peter Davis recently asked, and I’d like to attempt to answer it. Scoble chimed in with his response, essentially saying with communication, you should use the right tool for the job. Maybe that’s text, but in other cases, it might be audio or video.

Here’s why I think you should listen to or watch a podcast, even if you can get ten times the content when you read:

  • The Right Tool For The Job
    Like Scoble, I think that sometimes audio or video is better suited to the job than text. I’ll just cite his example too – I’d much rather watch a short video about Halo 3 than read an essay on it. It really depends on what you’re trying to communicate.
  • Mobility
    Can you read an email or the newspaper while you’re driving your car? I certainly can’t. But I can listen to a podcast. Do you carry all your books and magazines with you everywhere? Probably not, but I’ll bet you carry an MP3 player! There are a lot of scenarios where podcasting on the go works and text simply doesn’t.
  • Show Some Emotion!
    Try to write a really emotional blog post. Or a post that is sarcastic. It’s not as easy as you’d like to believe! Most times, your emotion or sarcasm will be misinterpreted. Audio and video allow you to convey emotion, sarcasm, and other things using tone of voice and body language. Sometimes it’s not what you say, but how you say it.
  • Ease of Creation
    You’re probably thinking I’m nuts, saying that it’s easier to create a podcast than write a blog post, but in some cases it’s true. The tools to create a podcast will soon be as easy to use as blogging tools, and when that happens, the creation time really depends simply on the content. Most people can talk a heck of a lot faster than they can type, and with regards to video, a picture really is worth a thousand words! Sometimes it might be easier to get your message across in a podcast. Heck, I should be podcasting this post!
  • Multitasking!
    I’ve always got some sort of background noise going on, as it helps me concentrate. Sometimes I just block it out, while other times I’ll sort of half listen and if I hear something interesting, I’ll pay attention. The idea here is that I can play a podcast in the background and continue working, and if something being said catches my interest, I might pay a little more attention. Can’t do that with text. I’ve called this multitasking, but you can think of it as passive podcasting consumption!

Don’t be fooled by the comments on Peter’s post and elsewhere – this discussion is about more than just those who listen in the car and those who don’t. Podcasting is an extremely viable communications technology, for a wide variety of scenarios.

To be clear, I’m not saying one should always use podcasting. The most important of the reasons above is to use the right tool for the job. Developers are told this all the time – use the right programming language for the task at hand! Same holds true with communication. If you can communicate something better using text, go for it. If some sound or a short video is better, maybe podcasting will work for you.

Peter is correct in stating that podcasting is not as efficient at delivering information as text is. However, if you consider the amount of overlap that exists in text (look at Google News for a news story, or the hundreds of blog posts on a given topic) it might start to even out. At least for the time being, podcasting does not suffer from the same “echo chamber” as text does.

Now hopefully I’ve offered some good reasons for why you might use podcasting over text. There are many more reasons that podcasting is great, but they go beyond a comparison with text, so I’ll save them for another post. There’s still a long way to go to make podcasting incredibly useful, but it definitely has some inherent properties that make it pretty attractive.

Read: Peter Davis

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