The Subtler Side of Podcasting

The CBC has been offering podcasts of their most popular radio shows, and discovered some interesting things about their listeners. For example:

From that survey we learned that most podcasters are men under 40 who have high levels of education and work full-time. Interesting information to be sure, but with so much room to grow! CBC Radio is enjoyed by all kinds of age groups, and by people of diverse backgrounds – what the survey told us is that there is an untapped audience out there who might become podcast users if we provided the content they already enjoy.

One of my favorite CBC podcasts is “Shelagh Talks Podcasting.” ‘Shelagh’ is Shelagh Rogers from CBC Radio One’s Sounds Like Canada. She says that people usually hear a sound broadcast as individuals, not as part of a group. (She gives the example of sitting in a bathtub listening to a radio broadcaster who is talking as if he/she is in a classroom — a fairly uncomfortable experience).  Podcasting is perhaps even moreso, since I imagine people are listening to mp3 players with headphones, and perhaps doing all sorts of private things at the same time.

Sound information ought to tell stories.   Straight-forward, direct, and often personal ones.  No baloney.  No lessons or instructions.   Just one to one.
So that leads me to believe that libraries need to understand that people will not listen to podcasts of someone citing the latest DVD arrivals. Although it is cool that libraries are doing podcasts, I wonder if we might be doing ourselves a diservice by entering into the podcast world with marginal content.

But it is not fair to complain about library podcasts and not share ideas about how they could be better.  Here are some podcast ideas I would like to try.

  • A bookclub for guys hosted by a librarian, but in a local pub. The books are on whatever and definitely not Oprah or Canada Reads. Non-fiction should be encouraged. The discussion should definitely not be focussed on the book, but a 5 question multiple-choice quiz each person has to answer before the discussion. At the end, a prize goes to the person with the highest score. The series ends with a podcasted interview with the winner, maybe hosted by a famous interviewer (like Shelagh Rogers, say).
  • A “library stories” campaign would work with a podcast. Interviews encouraging people to tell their library stories. Maybe even call Madeleine Lefebvre and get her to advice on a podcast about love in the library.
  • A Community Tour would be an interesting thing as well. Each week or so, have someone travel into the community with stories about what they do, how they do it, and where the library fits into their work.    Even cooler would be something for small business, as in ask business folks “how did the library help you get started with your business?”
  • Open Mic nights could be a great source for podcasting or even videocasting information to customers. It could highlight youth achievement and show the library’s value in the community.

I assume that there are more ideas out there as well, but the bigger point is that, in the long run, podcasting is only as cool as the content. Better not to podcast than to podcast something we would rather not listen to ourselves.


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