For someone who used to spend much of his working life producing reports for the wireless, I listen to almost zero radio nowadays, at least in the traditional sense. Instead, I’m totally hooked on podcasting (which can just be a glorified word for listening to radio programmes in a more flexibile way). Podcasting is something that doesn’t get the buzz it once got, and particularly in the African context I almost never see people discuss it, even though radio is such a successful medium on the continent. I’m really not sure what’s behind this – is it because iTunes is less popular (difficulty of credit card payments/popularity of Android/PCs)? Podcasting will probably always be something of a niche market for people who crave quality speech radio content and self-education.
For me it works like a dream. I’ve been listening a lot as I’ve been doing marathon training, and hopefully I’ll continue. My main listening times are during the commute to work and while doing exercise. Do I miss out on much by not listening to the radio? Not too much I think. I do miss hearing well-crafted radio news packages, which are a little appreciated art form. But perhaps being of a slightly elitist bent, I find the talkshow / chatty styles that seem to predominate now as less useful at getting you lots of quality information you can use. Too much chaff with the wheat.
Here are some of the broad brush strokes of my podcast listening. Looking down the list I think it’s a quite well rounded mix, and a good illustration of the strengthens of podcasting. You can cater for all your niche private interests, with high quality content automatically downloaded from sources all over the world.
BBC Radio Four – I get a selection of BBC documentaries, and some firm favourites; Start the Week (weekly intellectual discussion show), In Our Time (academic discussion on an intellectual theme e.g. The Medici, the Atom, Quantum physics), From Our Own Correspondent (colour from BBC reporters, and also good for keeping up to date on the news), More or Less (helps understand modern stats and excellent for good-to-know stuff) and Front Row Weekly (summary of the best bits of the weekly high-brow arts and culture show).
This all helps to keep me feel reasonably in touch with what’s going on in the UK, particularly culturally. Otherwise, my fear would be that in the future I return to the UK totally out of touch. I may not be able to go to the theatre, but at least I can know what’s on in the West End.
Sermons – I catch a few sermons – from St Helen’s Bishopsgate in London and from Mark Driscoll at Mars Hill. Podcasting has been a real asset for the modern church and you can now listen to the very best teaching anywhere in the world. This was particularly helpful in West Africa where church teaching was often tailored for people from a different background.
Photography – I’ve been listening to This Week in Photo for a couple of years now. It’s a good weekly update on the latest photo gear and developments. I feel guilty now about being one of those people who spend more time listening to talks about photography than taking pictures, but – at my most optimistic – I think it gives me regular info which is building a foundation for the day that I take photography more seriously.
Development – I subscribe to Owen Barder’s occasional longer development podcasts (Development Drums) and the shorter Wonkcast from the Centre for Global Development.
Finally, there’s a long-tail of podcasts on odd interests, or that aren’t always so regular. For the last few months I get the 15 minute weekly Writing Excuses podcast to help teach me more about fiction writing, the Longform podcast on longform journalism, an Advanced French podcast, the Accidental Creative self-help podcast, and plenty more.