Magazine article The Spectator

Radio: Podcasts and Listeners

Magazine article The Spectator

Radio: Podcasts and Listeners

Article excerpt

'Do you ever imagine your audience?' was a question thrown at James Ward, creator and presenter of The Boring Talks podcast, at a recent seminar on podcasting organised by the BBC. 'I try not to,' Ward replied.'I wouldn't want to meet them.'

Such antipathy is all part of Ward's alternative persona. The Boring Talks's USP is to explore those topics usually considered too dull to explore, let alone talk about for half an hour. It's become very popular, emerging from the Boring Talks conferences that have been held annually now for eight years. But his comment was very revealing. You can really tell when listening to his show that he doesn't care about us. There's no real effort to draw us in or convince us that the subject (be it wooden pallets, double-yellow lines or Bekonscot Model Village) is worth spending time with.

He's not alone. A lot of podcasts are basically just a group of people chatting together with very little attention paid to those who might be listening. It's as if we're not there but are just eavesdropping, like being in a café or on the bus, except that if we were in a café or on a bus there would be the added frisson of trying not to look as though we're listening, of only catching every other word and having to make up the rest of the conversation ourselves. Even with a relatively sophisticated podcast such as GrownUpLand (part of the BBC's new stable of audio content prepared for podcast output only) after about 15 minutes it's as if the presenters, Mae Martin, Bisha K. Ali and Ned Sedgwick, have forgotten we're still out there, wanting but failing to get any attention.

Their podcast is a clever conceit on the Reithian mantra, twentysomethings looking to 'the grown-up world' of Radio 4 for advice on how to navigate through to their thirties and beyond. They're articulate and are willing to do the research (using clips from the Radio 4 archive, such as Thinking Aloud and Lyse Doucet talking to the first elected female head of state in Africa, plus Sedgwick's own interview with an inspiring activist from Ukraine). But without a proper structure the pace flags and their failure to engage with us means that no real connection is made.

Perhaps ironically the first-ever BBC podcast, almost 15 years ago, was In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg, back in the days when a BBC podcast simply meant a programme that could be listened to again long after the 30-day cut-off point on iPlayer. How much things have changed since then. Now amid the growing number of BBC podcasts (and soon to become even bigger with the appointment of a specialist podcast commissioner, Jason Phipps) there's No Country for Young Women, whichI really wanted to like. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.