Why I Enjoy Podcasting

I was home with a sick child yesterday, which meant rescheduling a few things at work. None of that reshuffling was too hard, but I was surprised just how disappointed I was at having to put off recording the third episode of The 252, my new sports history podcast with Sam Mulberry and Chris Moore.

That feeling got me thinking about why I enjoy podcasting so much — given that I don’t actually listen to all that many podcasts. First, some historical background…

I started podcasting five years before this blog began. In the summer of 2006, Sam and I joined political scientist Stacey Hunter Hecht to launch CWC: The Radio Show, a spinoff of Bethel’s venerable Christianity and Western Culture class. (The first season is archived at Bethel’s Digital Library, if you want to give a listen.) In many ways, The 252 is a sports-centered reboot of CWC: The Radio Show — three Christian scholars talking about current events, history, and popular culture for about 45 minutes, with two less-serious segments bracketing an in-depth conversation amongst ourselves or with a guest.

The following two years, I tried my hand at a different kind of podcast, replacing eleven face-to-face classes in my 300-level modern European history survey with 70-minute episodes of Radio Modern Europe. Mixing mini-lectures with interviews, “news” (and even “weather”) updates, comedy bits, and music clips, RME was easily the most ambitious podcasting I’ve done, and far too much more work ever to try again.

Since then, I’ve been a more itinerant podcaster, recording a political affairs show with Stacey or Chris during the 2008 and 2012 election seasons, four dissimilar seasons of a podcast named after this blog, a few episodes of something called Nothing Rhymes With Gehrz, and sundry appearances on other podcasts hosted by Sam’s Live from AC2nd network and our friends at The Christian Humanist.

And I’ve listened to maybe 5% of all that material, and scarcely anything else in the medium.

In part, that’s because I truly hate listening to the sound of my own nasally voice. (Better than watching video of myself, though!) But if I’m being honest, it’s mostly because I’m impatient.

As a function of blogging so often, I’ve become increasingly accustomed to ignoring any medium that I can’t read quickly or search through. So I rarely watch speeches or listen to sermons unless there’s a transcript. I’d rather read a short post from someone than sit down for a whole podcast of theirs.

All of which just points to something I’ve rediscovered by doing so much podcasting recently. (Not just The 252, but a couple of “live” podcasts from London and Paris that Sam and I recorded during our World War I travel course for Bethel.) I’ve long since accepted that the blog is a monologue — at best, like a lecture, an “implied conversation.” But podcasts, as Sam has convinced me to view them, are conversations that take time to unfold: within a single episode, and across a season or more. They require you to listen to different voices, and they connect you with a wider cast of characters.

And they tend to flow more freely than written communication — at least in my experience, since even my blog posts and rare tweets tend to go through ample drafting before I dare expose them to the world. While podcasts can produce a more spontaneous, less predictable, more polyphonous version of the “thinking in public” that I’ve come to recognize as the primary goal of this blog.

So if it seems like I’m investing a bit less time in this blog this semester, just know that it’s because I’m having a blast with The 252 and other podcasts. Give a listen — you might enjoy them, too.