Some thoughts on public radio and podcast listings

Yelena Kalinsky's picture

Nick Quah, author of the always informative Hot Pod newsletter, recently wrote a thoughtful piece considering the consequences of the White House's proposed elimination of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Of interest to H-Podcast's subscribers is his observation that "a weaker public radio system is a weaker podcast ecosystem":

Regardless of your feelings about public radio unfairly dominating the podcast narrative — and it has been pretty unfair, I’ll admit — it absolutely cannot be denied that the public radio contingent has represented a strong, validating pillar of an industry that often looks and feels like a chaotic mess.

Hard to argue with that.

And yet, while I love my public radio, I feel the need to defend podcasts that don't fit into the public radio format. To my mind, viva podcast diversity! It's what distinguishes this medium from public radio: even more than the most local station, podcasts are able to deliver content for every audience and interest. As I've complained elsewhere, the real chaotic mess is in the podcast listings, like the iTunes store, which fail to account for all this quirky diversity and make it very difficult to drill down to the subjects you really want to hear about or discover niche shows. The Education category may be the worst: second language learning alongside weight loss how-tos alongside the history of the British empire alongside public radio shows like Radiolab. Good lord. (It's why we created the Academic Podcast Roundup.) Still, it's surprising that podcast discovery continues to follow the mass model of broad format categories and word-of-mouth recommendations. I'm personally over the Top Ten Podcasts for Women Who Like to Ride their Bicycles Just in Time for Valentine's Day listicles that invariably pop up every couple of weeks. Wouldn't it be cool if there were a podcast discovery guide, like they have for trees? Or some better version. Anyone have any ideas?

Categories: Podcast