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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

do you listen to audio (apart from music) online?


Digg ran an interesting long-read original piece recently that asked an intriguing question: Why doesn’t audio go viral on the web? Author Stan Alcorn offers lots of possible explanations. My favorite may be that porn doesn’t work in audio-only and so that’s why the medium hasn’t caught fire like online video has. The most reasonable might be this:

“The greatest reason is structural,” says Jesse Thorn, who hosts a public radio show called “Bullseye” and runs a podcast network called Maximum Fun. “Audio usage takes place while you’re doing something else.” You can listen while you drive or do the dishes, an insuperable competitive advantage over text or video, which transforms into a disadvantage when it comes to sharing the listening experience with anyone out of earshot. “When you’re driving a car, you’re not going to share anything,” says Thorn.

For me, audio online simply isn’t a thing on my radar at all. I know podcasts are out there, but I simply don’t listen to them. I don’t listen to radio at all. I’m not in a car on a regular basis, and my train time is strictly for reading (since it’s the only time I get to read for pleasure), so the places where audio gets listened to most, perhaps, are already spoken for.

And I wonder if that isn’t true for lots of people. Hence this week’s Question:

Do you listen to audio (apart from music) online? If not, why not? If so, what kind of audio, and how and where do you listen? As a corollary, why do you think audio doesn’t go viral?

I’m listening…

image from vladstudio at deviantArt

(If you have a suggestion for a Question, feel free to email me.)

  • RogerBW

    I’ve been podcasting for about a year now at tekeli.li (about role-playing games). I listen to one or two others, but it’s generally something I do offline, particularly while driving – or late at night when I’m going to sleep. Speech on its own, if I can’t interact with it and I’m not taking notes, isn’t really enough to hold my attention.

  • Bluejay

    Sure, lots. I often go to NPR.org or WNYC.org to catch up on stories I might have missed when they aired on the radio, and sometimes I prefer their audio livestream if our radio reception gets staticky (e.g. Brian Lehrer reporting on election nights). Usually I just listen on my desktop.

    I don’t know why audio doesn’t go viral. Maybe the stuff I tend to listen to — 40-minute Fresh Air author interviews and the like — is too long for the average attention span required for viral things?

    I think some audio certainly deserves to go viral. There’s a fantastic 1981 speech that Carl Sagan gave to the American Humanist Association, that I really think deserves much wider play. It used to be accessible on the AHA’s website but, sadly, doesn’t appear to be there anymore; I was able to transcribe some lengthy excerpts here, though you’ll just have to imagine Sagan’s distinctive voice as you read it.

  • When you say Audio, are you specifically talking about podcasts? Radio? Basically, anything without video? What if I go to youtube to find music video playlists, but only listen to them in the background of other programs, not watch them? I do this all the time.
    I listen to lots of podcasts, but rarely when sitting in front of the computer. I save them to my Nano, and listen while I garden, work around the house, etc. My truck doesn’t have a slot for an i device, or I would listen to pods in the car, too. Radio mostly sucks, so I can’t wait for my next vehicle.

  • PJK

    I only listen to the GameOfOwns podcast (Game Of Thrones related podcast) now and then on my computer. Most of my audio consumption takes place in the car on my way back from work. In the morning on my way to work I listen to the radio instead.

    I realize that radio is also audio, but I’m assuming that you meant Audio where you decide what you listen to, not some DJ.

  • RogerBW

    I haven’t listened to radio programmed by someone else since I got an MP3 player for the car.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    Same here. Podcasts and audio plays are fantastic for my commute but not really something I’d pay too much attention to while in front of the computer at home. Sorry Paul McGann!

  • My truck is a 2008 and sadly doesn’t have a hook up for my ipod. I can’t wait for the Fall when I go looking for a new vehicle. I can’t stand regular radio.

  • LaSargenta

    Yes. eastvillageradio.com and http://www.democracynow.org/ among others. I especially have evr on when I’m doing stuff around my house. When I can, I make sure to tune in to Delphine Blue on Wednesdays from 12 to 2 in the afternoon. Can’t usually do that. Work and all. (Except, of course, that’s music. But it is a radio show! With a DJ!)

  • Jonathan Roth

    Podcasts mostly. Nerdist, Rob Paulsen’s Talking Toons, and Quirks and Quarks are regular ones I listen to. I find it slightly easier to work with talking in the background than music.

    Hour long interviews tend not to “go viral” though.

    Some audio do though. Nicholas Pegg’s UKIP shipping forecast, for instance. This _may_ count as music, but someone managed to turn Frozen’s “Do you want to build a snowman” into the most horrifying thing ever.

  • cal

    911 (Emergency) calls and phone messages from drunk celebrites can go viral. I listen to some podcasts that aren’t about music and I listen to some NPR programs online. My favorite podcast is Radiolab, It’s a combination of science, storytelling, coincidence, history and mystery and I heartily recommend it. I also listen to terrestrial radio (my car was built in 1994) but my favorite station comes to me via the internet, though it is terrestrial in its native land, Minnesota.

  • Jim Mann

    Depends upon what you mean by listen online. I download podcasts of The Infinity Monkey Cage and listen to those.

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