Podcasts Have Always Sucked

Wed, 11 May 2022

WARNING: This is a rant. Read at your own risk.

Are you sure you want to read this?

Becca Butcher writes on Rephonic’s blog about how podcasts are apparently getting worse because it’s easier to make them, the biggest ones tend to have more ads, and many podcasts deal in political topics that provoke listeners’ psychosomatic hemorrhoids.

I disagree with Ms. Butcher. I don’t think podcasts are getting worse. I think podcasts have always sucked. Podcasts were shit in 2005. They are shit today. And if they exist in 2105 they will still be shit.

Podcasting is inherently shitty for the following reasons:

Incidentally, we used to call podcasting “audioblogging”, and it was shit then, too.

Am I just being an old man yelling at a cloud? Perhaps, but let’s be honest here: informational podcasts are nothing but blogs for the aliterate. They cater to the lazy, people who can read but prefer not to1. Political podcasts, left and right alike, are nothing but AM talk radio migrated to the internet; never mind that AM talk radio in the US is mainly dominated by right-wing cranks and has been since the Federal Communications Commission dropped the Fairness Doctrine in 19872. They do not serve their listeners; they serve only as a medium for unblockable, unskippable advertisements. That they inflate their creators’ egos is merely an ancillary benefit.

While we’re at it, let’s talk about images and video, too. Images and video are lousy at presenting information and ideas at any worthwhile length or depth for the same reason audio is unfit for this purpose. Their utility lies in emotional manipulation and their ability to prompt the viewer to feel instead of thinking. (This is what makes “memes” so insidious.)

Don’t tell me a picture is worth a thousand words. A thousand words doesn’t take up anywhere near as much space as a picture does, even if you compress it with modern algorithms like WEBP or AVIF. If you’ve got something worth saying you can damned well say it in plain goddamn text, preferably Unicode but if you’re writing on an old computer that does’t do Unicode I can probably convert whatever encoding you’re using.

Why? Any computer can handle plain text, even a fucking PDP-11. (Did you think that Ken Thompson and rest of the gang at Bell Labs created Unix on a Cuisinart?)

Now get off my lawn, and go read some books.


  1. Yes, I am somewhat judgmental toward people who do not like to read. Yes, this is unfair of me for an array of reasons beyond the scope of this rant. Deal with it.↩︎

  2. You can thank (or blame) former FCC chairman Mark S. Fowler. As a matter of fact, he is a Republican. No, it probably isn’t a coincidence that a Republican led efforts to deregulate telecommunications in a manner that enabled the unchecked spread of right-wing populist propaganda, starting with that demagogue Rush Limbaugh.↩︎