Podcasts Suck—So Why Are You Listening?


"The quality of podcasts these days is truly remarkable," starts off this piece dubbed "The Podcasting State of the Union" on the website The Daily Dot. I'm not so sure about that. Ever have difficulty falling asleep and find that you are fresh out of Nyquil, bourbon and Seconal? A tip: Go to the iTunes store and download the latest podcast from American Psycho author Bret Easton Ellis. I think the writer of that Daily Dot piece is confusing quality with quantity—the line should be: "The quality of podcasts these days is truly terrible." Serial, which was downloaded 100 million times and helped spawn a category that will generate $200 million in advertising business this year, has led to the inevitable: a big, smelly garbage dump of content. Yes, people like Malcolm Gladwell have podcasts and there are a few decent ones, but others who've been invited to populate this medium include reality TV stars (Heather Dubrow and Brandi Glanville from the Real Housewives franchise, speaking of garbage dumps), professional wrestler Chris Jericho, the horrific Ross Matthews—and journalists. Lots and lots of journalists. (Now there's a group that never seems to tire of listening to itself talk—take it from me.) The question: Why are you listening to them? I think I know why. It's the result of too many media and entertainment options, and a consequent lowering of our collective taste level. And it's not just podcasts. I am routinely depressed by what's hailed as a great creative achievement across all media today. Remember when books, movies, TV shows, radio programs, magazine pieces, fashion, photography, art—whatever—really were great? ("Make Entertainment Great Again!") To satisfy our primal need for something that's truly remarkable and meaningful in this cesspool, our standards have gotten exceptionally low. (Hence, La La Land.) This isn't a new phenomenon: I personally am still struggling to reconcile how Dances With Wolves beat out Goodfellas for the Best Picture of 1990. Corollary (coronary?): We have a basic desire to find greatness, beauty, exceptionalism, cleverness, smartness in that which we read, watch, listen to (maybe out of narcissism, because we need to feel our generation is producing something worthwhile?). So when some piece of content that just covers the basics but holds some glimmer of specialness about it hits, we have a tendency to hype it—first up there in our heads, and then suddenly everybody's talking about this little trifle and mass marketing it as some noble and rare creation. C'mon, when is the last time you were blown away by anything—I mean seriously blown away? Maybe I'm ready for the dotage, but I honestly cannot remember. I do feel that at this point, I have seen every genre exercised (exorcised?), that everything's been done to death, and here I sit with my arms crossed, waiting to be impressed. I don't expect to be. House of Cards is a fine piece of entertainment, to use one example—but a POTUS who stops short of nothing (lying whenever his mouth's open, framing his enemies, abusing his loved ones, even murder) in realizing his ambitions? Not that much of a stretch in these times, now, is it?

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