Marvin’s Podcast Column #1

When I start talking about podcasts, I often get glassy eyes. “Something with an Adam Curry radio show that be can downloaded, or something?” Or: “Isn’t that obsolete?” As if I build model ships in a bottle: a fun hobby, but totally uninteresting.

In the US a true podcast revolution is started. New top series are launched with a weekly frequency. Podcasts that are as addictive as Netflix series. And they are just as well-produced, with sharply written scripts, atmospheric soundtracks and perfect edits.

One and a half hours a day I’m in the car, to get to work and home. Before I listened to mainstream news radio, but the endless rehashing of news, which often isn’t even real news, made the daily commute an even greater rut. Until the launch of the ‘Serial’ podcast, in 2014. What a discovery. From that moment my motto is: the traffic jam may not be heavy enough for me.

‘Serial’ made podcasts the water cooler talk in the United States. This series paved the way for many great podcasts. Once you start listening, you can not stop. Also I’m a binge listener. ‘Start-up’, ‘Someone knows Something’, ‘Criminal’, ‘Planet Money’, ‘S-Town’; during my drives I’m in the world of start-ups, and then settle down in rural Alabama.

“My motto: the traffic jam may not be heavy enough for me”

For six weeks Richard Simmons kept me busy while commuting. The 68-year-old fitness guru is an American celebrity, addicted to attention. Until he suddenly disappears from the radar in 2014. Documentary director Dan Taberski looks for answers and reports his quest in the podcast ‘Missing Richard Simmons’.

Taberski is very good in building tension. Step by step you’ll discover more about this peculiar character and his life. The series is at least as addictive as ‘Breaking Bad’ and ‘True Detective’. And whether you like it or not, you start speculating: is Simmons being transformed into a woman? Or is he taken hostage by his housekeeper?

Listeners want to know en masse why the fitness guru disappeared so suddenly. ‘Missing Richard Simmons’ is big news. The hunt for the fitness guru has unethical sides. He does not want to be found, but the reporter can not stop. I felt uncomfortable while listening, but stopping was not an option, the story was too intriguing.

“Listening to a podcast has something intimate”

Listening to a podcast has something intimate. It is as if the narrator whispers a secret in your ear that is for you. Your ears are on edge. You use the one sense and imagination do, like a good book, the rest.

In the limitation of the medium is the force. For a while no pop-up notifications, badges or banners. Away from smartphones, computers and TVs. Finally, a slow medium that does not overstimulates the senses. Books have the same effect, but you need your eyes for this. Not convenient when you’re in traffic, load the dishwasher or take a walk. Podcasts can be listened at the strangest moments, which makes it so nice.

Approximately fourteen years ago Adam Curry made the podcast famous worldwide. That is to his credit, but the radio approach – switch the microphone on and start talking – adds little. The medium offers many more possibilities. In the United States, listeners are convinced already. Now it’s time for The Netherlands.

Marvin Jacobs is Editorial Director for Born05.
This column is published in Dutch on Nederlands MediaNetwerk (Dutch)

21st Jun 2017

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