Podcasts Shouldn't Work

I was transcribing an interview the other day. I kept hearing myself hesitate and fumble uncomfortably through my questions. I cringe at the sound of my voice and wonder what the famous person on the other end of the line, who could not see me, is wondering what is going on.

Ten years ago, this situation would've been much worse. I distinctly recall frantically writing down the answers to my poorly worded questions as I interviewed a prominent 80's musician. Nothing about the conversation flowed and I felt like I was wasting this celebrity's time. This was before podcasts. This was before I knew about the dulcet tones of Terry Gross and her NPR radio show Fresh Air. This was before comedians like Chris Hardwick and Marc Maron would rise to fame by recording conversations with famous people.

I have no idea why podcasts work. When they're not trying to solve 15 year old murders, podcasts are the equivalent of interviews I've recorded but with better sound quality. They're essentially people sitting in a garage or studio having a conversation, making dick jokes, and helping their guest plug their latest project. And somehow, they're becoming a viable and popular format. They're shared amongst friends like a bootleg copy of Evil Dead and responsible for creating a community of listeners that I feel connected to.

I listen to podcasts everyday now. They help me get through the menial tasks of my day job, but most importantly, digesting WTF and The Nerdist have given me the skills and the confidence needed to carry on conversations with the creative types whose brains I occasionally have to pick. Maron has a true knack for holding a conversation (and admits he does so with little research, which astounds and frustrates me at the same time). Hardwick's non-confrontational approach tends to bring out the best in guests because the host's real goal is to inspire listeners, not bring down a famous person.

A folk musician once told me, and I'm paraphrasing here, that by speaking quietly, you can put the listener's heart in a receptive place. I've discovered listening to podcasts that through conversation, not confrontation, people will open up and tell you things about themselves. Maybe that's why podcasts do work.