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No More Podcasts, Please!

Thinking about starting a podcast? Here’s why you shouldn’t

Illustration depicting large earbuds on each side of an icon of man covering his ears with frusrated facial expression
Dave Weissberg

“Podcasts: There are a million of them,” Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari) declared on an episode of Parks and Recreation back in 2012. “And they’re all amazing.”

It was meant as a joke, obviously. But apparently, some of us decided to take it as a challenge. Eleven years later, there are more than 5 million podcasts, according to audience measurement company Triton Digital, that have (as of this writing) generated more than 70 million episodes.

Unfortunately, no human can make a Haverfordian value judgment of the quality of all the podcasts. To do so — assuming an average podcast length of 30 minutes, which is conservative — would require 20,000 years of listening. Then that 20,050-year-old human would need to start over and listen to all the podcasts that got made during the time they spent listening to the first batch.

Have we reached peak podcasting? Is it maybe time to put a kibosh on the whole thing? Do we actually need more podcasts? The answers are yes, yes, and good Lord, no.

On Parks and Rec, Tom cohosts a podcast called Nacho Average Podcast, in which he and a buddy rate nachos. That was satire. It was meant to spotlight the vapidity of these characters, that their yearning for fame and attention didn’t match their abilities. But fast-forward a decade, and there are not one but three different podcasts about rating nachos, all with that exact same title. 

Starting a podcast has become the new “I’m going to write the Great American Novel.” But at least with novels, 90 percent of people failed before finishing their first chapter. Even those who made it to the end never found a publisher, much less friends willing to read the damn thing.

Remember when blogs were a big deal? Everybody seemed to have one for a few years in the early aughts. Most fizzled after people realized that writing is hard and not everybody with a blog was guaranteed a TV or book deal.

You don’t need talent to create your own podcast, or even an especially good idea. Fart Sounds is an actual podcast on which host John Choura asks his guests to describe and perform their favorite flatulence sounds. On Ruminate with the Wise, host Jake Schick poorly impersonates the guests he fails to land an interview with. “Mommy Teresa” is one.

You know what I miss? Barriers to entry. With podcasts, failing is literally not an option. As soon as an aspiring podcaster uploads a podcast somewhere, they’re a podcaster. All they need is a microphone, not even two turntables, and BAM! — they’ve got an occupation to claim on their LinkedIn page and show their naysaying parents they were totally wrong about dental school.

Whatever happened to having an opinion and keeping it to yourself? Or having a conversation with friends and NOT RECORDING IT?

I haven’t listened to producer Matt Gourley’s new podcast, Mallwalkin’, but I really feel like I don’t have to. He discussed it on another podcast, Conan O’Brien Needs A Friend, in which even he seemed to realize that he should have known better. 

“This is a poor excuse for a podcast,” Gourley told Conan. “If you listen, you listen at your own risk. It’s stupid, it’s dumb, it’ll probably rarely come out. Check it out on Spotify and Stitcher.“

Actually, I might listen to it now. Self-awareness is something that needs to be rewarded more often. But in general, we don’t need more podcasts. And the solution starts with you.

If you have a podcast, stop making it. Ask yourself, “Does the world need this? Am I providing a service? If I was having this conversation at a dinner party, would the other guests start muttering about needing to leave soon because of the babysitter?” If you haven’t started a podcast, don’t. “But wait, I have this great idea for — ” Shhh. No. No, you don’t. Save it for a friend. If a funny observation gets mentioned to a pal over beers, and there’s nobody there to record it, not only does it still exist, it’s how human beings are supposed to interact.

Follow Article Topics: Money-&-Career