“Peak Podcast?”

There’s been a good bit of conversation around John Landgraf’s “Peak TV” quote:

“My sense is that 2015 or 2016 will represent peak TV in America and that we’ll begin to see decline coming the year after that and beyond,” John Landgraf, the president of FX Networks

The idea, of course, is that there are so many channels and so many talented creators that there’s almost too much good TV to watch. Anecdotally, that rings true for me. I’ve not watched The Americans. I’m only a couple of episodes into Mr. Robot. I’m a season behind on Halt and Catch Fire. There’s an entire cohort of Comedy Central shows that are acclaimed that I’ve not seen a lick of (other than Review, which everyone should watch).

I wonder if we’re also approaching “Peak Podcast”. There’s an overwhelming number of podcasts out there, with every major media entity adding their own podcasts to the already overflowing amateur, semi-pro, and newly professional podcaster ranks.

Looking at my podcast app, I’m subscribed to 38 podcasts. Most of which produce at podcast weekly, if not multiple times per week. And there’s a bunch of podcasts that I’ve never added to my list purely because I know I’ll never have a chance to listen to them. Most of my podcast listening is done during my commutes (let’s say 5 hours a week), at bed time (maybe another hour or two), and then doing errands on weekends. The podcasts in my queue tend to already overrun the time I have to give them.

Given that, much like I’d do with television, I’m taking a close look at the podcasts that I’d think about dropping from my subscriptions to free up time for some of the better ones (or maybe to watch The Americans.)

On the chopping block …

  • This Week in Tech: The venerable tech podcast recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. And, in doing so, I think highlighted what may have gone wrong with the show. It continually runs past 2 hours, which is a long time for a movie or sporting event, let alone a tech podcast. Looking back at the early episodes, it normally ran somewhere between an hour and hour and a half, a much more palatable runtime. In the early days, this was the tech podcast. They got guests that didn’t go on ten other podcasts, and it really felt like it was a bunch of nerds talking tech. These days it’s tech pundits, a lot of bloviating, and rehashing of things that were often covered in depth by the rest of the tech news media. Really, this is just a sign of how far the tech media has come. TWiT used to be the place you’d hear the tech news discussed. 10 years later, it feels like the dated weekly news shows that can’t keep up with the 24 hour news cycle. Dropping back to the hour to 90 minute length would likely keep it on my list. As it stands, I’ll probably be moving this to the “only listen when something really interesting comes on” bucket (or dump it all together).

  • ESPN Fantasy Focus Baseball: A daily podcast covering fantasy baseball. This year is the first year with new hosts (Tristan Cockroft and Eric Karabell). Cockroft and Karabell are good, but they just lack the dynamic that the former hosts Matthew Berry and Nate Ravitz had. The running gags that the original crew created don’t fit the new team, and when they’re used, it’s often just frustrating to hear them. With the offseason coming up, I’m hoping the current crew will think about retooling the show around their dynamic: being incredibly sharp analytically.

  • The Ihnatko Almanac: A sort of general purpose tech podcast that features the genial tech industry expert Andy Ihnatko. It’s really not a bad podcast, and it’s something that, when I listen to it, I mostly enjoy it. But it feels so terribly inessential. Rather than unsubscribing, this feels like a podcast that heads into a bucket that I peek into once in a while to see if there’s a really interesting topic to explore (like the recent episode covering Project Runway.)

Must listens …

  • Harmontown: A podcast I’ve mentioned before that you must be listening to is Harmontown. It runs nearly 2 hours each week, but it’s worth it. The last few weeks have been amazing listening, with one week talking about the absurdity of the movie Boat Trip, to having Horatio Sanz on to discuss it the next week. Recently, they accidentally had Bobcat Goldthwait and Curtis Armstrong on, not realizing they’d starred in One Crazy Summer together. It lead to a long discussion of the exploits making that movie. It’s occasionally offensive, occasionally hard to listen to, but almost always incredibly funny and though-provoking.

  • The Incomparable Network: What started with the namesake podcast, a nerd-leaning pop culture podcast, has expanded to a number. The one that I think is, surprisingly, my favorite: Game Show, a podcast of people playing odd game show-type games. Balderdash, 70s Family Feud, Trivial Pursuit. It’s oddly entertaining, especially once you understand the personality of the various participants.

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