Chapters and the Beautiful Modularity of Podcasts

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 2 min read

Ben Brooks had some choice words for chapters in podcasts in his post today about Castro 3.0.

Listeners (and this was literally news to me today) also use chapters to jump about in the podcasts to skip over the boring bits.

Isn’t the entire point of a podcast that the entire podcast is relevant and entertaining?

Yeah, that’s exactly what we do 😊. With a few exceptions, podcasts are not like movies or books. For podcasts like Serial or The Habitat, then sure I’ll listen to every word and slow down playback. But most podcasts are not like that. Very few podcasts are scripted out and edited, re-edited, and edited 10 more times like a novel, they’re recorded live and then posted a few hours later. Or they’re shows that cover many topics, not all of which everyone in interested in.

If Ben doesn’t like to play podcasts at 1.5x speed, trim silence, or skip over bits he’s not interested in, then that’s totally cool, I pass no judgement on how he listens to podcasts. But I will continue to skip chapters when I’m not into the topic1. Life is short, and listening to conversations slightly faster than real time is a damn miracle that I adore. Being able to easily skip a few minutes ahead to get to the next topic is a wildly useful.

Because of tools like these I have been able to enjoy more shows than I ever would have been able to otherwise. Yes, we should ask for podcast creators to edit their shows well so that I don’t want to skip anything, but that’s not realistic for every show.

One could even argue that the fact that podcasts are so modular, in that you can listen to bits and pieces from an ocean of voices. In fact, isn’t that exactly what we’re all doing with blogs? If anyone reading this has read every word I have published since you subscribed, then more power to you, but I would guess that the only human being who has read every word on this site is me. I’m not offended when people skip blog posts of mine, I’m not offended with they read in Pocket instead of on the site, and I’m not offended when they skip a podcast episode they don’t think they’ll be interested in. The odds of my tastes and interests lining up 100% with yours is basically zero, so please keep picking and choosing.

All this said, I’m really happy with the new Castro update and you should definitely get it. Whether you pay for these time-saving features is up to you.

  1. I love The Talk Show with John Gruber, but I can’t manage to care about baseball, whisky, or news about Apple’s campus, so I skip those chapters.