Podcasts, Books, and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 2 min read

When you add up house work, dog walking, and some busy work during my day job, I have quite a bit of time to devote to audio entertainment, and my time is split between podcasts and audiobooks. If you ask me what of those two mediums I get more value from, which enriches me more, it would be audiobooks. I learn about topics I've previously known nothing about. I get transported to incredible worlds with interesting characters. I can research my profession and gain actionable ideas I can implement at work the next day.

I love books, but I spend way more time listening to podcasts. Why is that?

One thing that should not be discounted is the delivery mechanism. While I have to go out and look for my next book, I'm getting podcasts automatically delivered to my inbox every day. Why go find a book when the new ATP, Cortex, and We Have Concerns episodes were already downloaded and ready to go?

But more substantially for me is the fact that podcasts are smaller, more manageable chunks of entertainment. While I could listen to a book for 2 hours straight and make it a fraction of the way through it, 2 hours could mean anywhere from 1-5 podcast episodes start to finish!

Intellectually I know that quality is more important than quantity, but there’s a weird dopamine hit I get when I clear out my podcast queue. It’s similar to how I feel when I clear out my task manager, which is kind of weird, but it is exactly how I feel. So when I have a little time to devote to listening to something, the draw of a podcast I can start and finish all at once draws me in more than an audiobook that I may only advance 2% in the same time.

From this perspective, I think of podcasts as candy and audiobooks as some general, healthier food. I feel better when I eat more of the healthy stuff, and it’s better for me in the long run, but if you keep putting Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups in front of me, I’m going to eat those first every time. You know, unless I exhibit some self-control.

This isn’t to discount podcasts, by the way. Podcasts are often more current and address things going on in the world right now that I’m already thinking about and would like additional ideas on the matter. Podcasts are more intimate and allow you to enjoy relationships between hosts. Many podcasts even make people feel like they have a relationships with the hosts even though they’ve never spoken, the show just creates such an atmosphere that the listener feels like they’re a part of these conversations. Hell, I’ve been lucky enough to even go on some of my favorite shows and talk to the hosts…some of them have become friends in real life! This isn’t going to happen with the authors of the science books I read, and it’s certainly not going to happen with the fictional characters in other books.

Podcasts are wonderful, and they’re the best new form of media since video games hit the scene in the 1970s. I adore them, and I hope they remain the wonderful landscape that they are today for the rest of my life. That said I would like to get some more balance in my life this year.

If you have any suggestions for books I could read, I’d love to hear them on Twitter!