Saturday 23 January 2010

Podcast listening - January 2010

Podcasts were so over-hyped by the media industry 3 or 4 years ago that it seems to me a perfect example of the old cliche: their importance was over emphasized in the short term, but under emphasized in the long term.

Nowadays some people in the industry seemed to have moved on and forgotten all about podcasts - they didn't kill radio/we can't make money from them so we can ignore them. This seems a mistake to me. Think of podcasts as portable, on demand, personalised audio (or radio), and they seem less like a mid-noughties fad and more like the future of personal media consumption. Don't tell the conference organisers though, or we'll end up with more sessions on how podcasting is the death knell of radio. Which it isn't, because live radio has a long life left in it. The biggest problem remaining is that many people still don't know what a podcast is or why they'd want one, which is a challenge we're tackling head on at the BBC this year.

More to the point, it's time for the annual podcast clear out: I've looked at what I'm subscribed to but in reality don't get round to listening to. Like most people I know who listen to podcasts, the temptation is always to subscribe to more, which means it's inevitable that you end up with a whole bunch which never get heard.

Having just been through this process, this is what I'm left with: some new, some old, all good.

Media Talk from the Guardian. Entertaining, informative and infuriating in equal measure, it's a must listen.

All Songs Considered from NPR. This is my favourite music related podcast. NPR presenter Bob Boilen offers his personal take on the most interesting new music of the week. His thoughtful, paced, intelligent presenting style makes this a laid back listen. The context he gives to the tracks he's chosen makes you listen to the music even if you don't initially like the sound of it. He's become one of my most trusted music guides. Really worth listening to his round up of 2009 with his producer and fellow NPR music folk.

Radio Talk from the Radio Academy. Trevor Dann turns out to be really quite a good host of this weekly half hour radio industry show. Trevor has - in my view - been heavily influenced stylistically by some excellent NPR presenters, which is a good thing. If you work in radio, this is a must.

The Word podcast, from The Word magazine. Most weeks, this is pure joy. Frankly, it shouldn't be, given that it's two or three middle aged men sat round an office who all like the sound of their own voice just a little too much, talking loosely about music matters. But it is. David Hepworth, Mark Ellen, Andrew Harrison and Fraser Lewry, with occasional guests such as Danny Baker or Steve Lamacq, have somehow conjured podcast magic. Addictive.

Car Talk from NPR. Two American brothers - Tom and Ray or Click and Clack - take phone calls from listeners about cars and car related issues. Not, I agree, on the face of it, a rivetting listen. But it is. I reckon this gives more of an insight into American life than any amount of US TV imports. Really quite addictive even if you have no interest in cars, which is quite a feat.

Tech Weekly from the Guardian. The audio counterpart to the paper's extensive technology journalism. It's not particularly professional sounding, mainly because the contributors - Charles Arthur, Bobbie Johnson and Jack Schofield and presenter Aleks Krotoski - have good tech knowledge but lack radio presenting skills. But still worth paying attention to.

Zane Lowe's Hottest Records. A music recommendations mini-podcast. Only about 6 minutes long, this weekly edit from his Radio 1 show is perfect for catching up with Zane's take on music. Yes it only has 30" music clips in, but it really doesn't matter in this context.

6 Music daily music news from BBC 6 Music. I like this principally because it's short - usually under 5 minutes - so fits in with those annoying times on public transport when you don't have time to listen to something longer. Also, it doesn't follow the standard press release driven music news agenda.

Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode from BBC Five Live. Now extended to two podcasts per week, due to the schedule change which means they have a weekly two hour show which soley focusses on film matters. Part two is what i listen to as it includes the film reviews; part one tends to be interviews which are more hit and miss for me. Simon and Mark's friendship spills out making this one of the warmest and wittiest pod listens.

Notable mention should also go to Adam & Joe, Desert Island Discs, Jazz Library, On The Media, Stephen Fry, Bending Corners, and The Bitterest Pill.

As you can see, I haven't made a distinction between podcasts that originate from broadcast radio and those created just for online.

Any recommendations for things I should be listening to?