I consume a lot of audio. Podcasts, (some) music, and (some) public radio fill the cracks of distraction when what I need is a solid foundation of focus. Real mental work gets done in my routine when the ear buds go in. This great benefit of audio soon became only the first reason to listen in though.
Audio—particularly in podcast form—isn’t just a cold productivity tool. As media companies and my fellow consumers have known for a long time, what a person listens to is inevitably very personal. In the moments when I’m not at a desk, podcasts convert themselves from productivity tools into something more personal than simple entertainment. Having podcasters’ voices coming through my car speakers is now an essential part of driving to work, like checking my blind spot or sipping coffee from a to-go mug. The same goes for lunchtime walks or solo cooking. Sermons, feisty political pundit debates, rumorous speculations about new technology, and especially the voices carrying all these out are more than mere audio. They’re a part of my life.
With podcasts I’m subscribed to, I listen to the hosts’ voices about as often as I listen to the voices of my close friends who live in other cities. Downloading a new episode is like picking up the phone for a call to catch up. I’m filling otherwise mundane time with the engaging stories and opinions of a diverse range of individuals. Given—it’s a little bit different from catching up with a long-distance friend because my confidants don’t discuss whether or not the new iPhone will have an audio jack or fantastical strategies to keep Donald Trump out of office for hours.
Discounting the one-way nature of these conversations for a moment, I am beginning to understand what members of my grandparents’ generation have meant when saying their favorite radio broadcaster was a part of the family. A family gathering around a pre-television, Depression-era radio set to hear the evening news or a Roosevelt fireside chat would of course generate warm feelings toward the voices on the other end of the broadcast. After listening to ~1–1.5 hours of podcasts per weekday for almost a year now, I can fully empathize with that sentiment.
More of the fuzzy feelings
I recently noticed this humble informational status in my podcast app of choice.
“Smart Speed has saved you an extra 24 hours…” Wow. Well what does this mean?
First, what is Smart Speed? It’s a feature that’s unique to the iOS podcast app Overcast. Most, if not all, podcast apps offer some kind of speed adjustment feature (hardcore audio addicts listen at 2x). Overcast is the only app that is able to change the speed of audio while it’s playing. Here’s an explanation from The Sweet Setup’s review of Overcast.
Smart Speed shortens silences without any distortion. Instead of having to do a straight-up 1.5x or 2x playback across the board, Smart Speed speeds up shows more intelligently.
More intelligently indeed. Purely conversational shows (colloquially known as the Two Dudes Talking genre) with long pauses get their gaps of silence spliced, yet more fast-paced productions like NPR’s many, many shows remain basically unaffected.
Second, what does it mean that Smart Speed has “saved” me an “extra” 24 hours? An iOS app cannot add a day to my life, but what it can do is pack in more of what I love into the life I’m not able to extend. By cutting out inefficiencies of my listening, Overcast has not only shrewdly upped my productivity but also measurably increased my daily enjoyment. That’s not just intelligent; it’s game-changing.
Because of one software feature enabled in my routine a mere 365 days ago, I’ve spent an entire extra day with these “friends” of mine. I’ve spent 24 extra hours hearing the gospel, learning philosophy, and listening to stories.
To my fellow listeners, I give to you one simple example of this app’s benefit on a person’s life. Increase the amount of fuzzy feelings you have for your favorite podcasters by using Overcast. Read more about how to transfer your subscriptions between podcast clients here.
To people looking from the outside into the growing realm of podcasts, you do have the time and ability to enjoy some of these starter shows:
And to Marco Arment and other user-focused developers and designers, keep up the good work. Keep making choices that aren’t obvious or easy. Keep pushing the envelope.