Are You Listening?

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Stay with me and I promise this photo will make sense…

I was late to the smartphone game.  In fact, I bought my first smartphone last April, just ten short months ago.  Before that I was the proud owner of dumb phone with a slide-out keyboard that couldn’t receive group texts.

I miss that keyboard.

I’ve always been skeptical that carrying the internet around in my purse would improve my life.  It made a lot of sense to let Steve Jobs put a thousand songs in my pocket, but I’m not so sure about a thousand time-wasting apps.

I remain ambivalent about smartphones overall.  But there’s one reason you’ll have to pry the thing from my cold, dead hands.

Podcasts.

For the uninitiated, podcasts are essentially radio shows you download onto your phone.  You can find most traditional radio shows in podcast form—everything from NPR’s All Things Considered to ESPN’s Mike and Mike sports show.

The ability to listen to your favorite shows on demand is convenient, but is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to podcasts.

In podcasts like The West Wing Weekly and Gilmore Guys, the hosts revisit each episode of cherished shows that have been off the air for a decade.  In politics, there’s Ricochet to listen in on what the right is thinking, and Slate’s Political Gabfest for the left.  Note to Self is a fascinating look at how technology impacts our lives.  Happier with Gretchen Rubin gives you simple tips on how to improve your life.  Death, Sex & Money speaks for itself.

I could go on and on—there are literally thousands.

To my mind, podcasts represent the internet at its best.  (As opposed to the YouTube comments section, which we can all agree represents not just the worst of the internet but humanity.)  Podcasting in the ultimate meritocracy.  You don’t need expensive equipment or a famous name to start a podcast.  In fact, I’d argue that the slick overproduced podcasts are the worst of the form.  Podcasting is best when the listener is eavesdropping on two or more people speaking at length on topics they’re passionate about.

I’ve been listening to podcasts for years, long before I had a smartphone.  But I had to download them onto my hard drive and transfer them my MP3 player.  Smartphones shorten that process to a few swipes.

The first podcast I ever discovered is Rob Cesternino’s Rob Has a Podcast (RHAP).  Any reality TV fan worth his salt will remember Rob’s deliciously devious run on Survivor:  The Amazon.  Rob has parlayed his Survivor fame into a literal reality TV podcasting empire.  He and a cadre of co-hosts do in-depth analysis of all the major reality shows.  They interview the cast, break down strategy, and engage in nonsense that will make your commute or work day fly by.

As an unabashed Survivor fanatic, I can’t get enough.

And you never know who you’re going to meet in the podcast comments section.  I was scrolling through the comments on a particularly hilarious episode when I recognized one of the avatar photos.  I did a double-take and realized that yes, I had indeed just found one of my favorite romance writers, Tessa Dare, in a RHAP comment section.  I responded to her comment and it led to a brief back and forth about our shared love of romance novels and Survivor.

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Tessa Dare and I geeking out over Survivor…at a romance convention.

Epilogue:  when I met Tessa Dare last July at the Romance Writer’s of America conference, the line at her signing table backed up while we gabbed not about romance novels, but our thoughts on the upcoming Survivor season.  It was an awesome collision of two of my favorite things.

So if you’ve never listened to a podcast, give it a try.  I guarantee you’ll find a show you love.  And If you’re lucky, you might meet one of your heroes in the comment section.

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