Tuesday, September 26, 2017


Image courtesy of Westwood One
You know, there is only so much time in a day.  If you are a frequent podcast listener, you probably have a lot of shows you want hear in your Que.

So maybe the best solution is to “speed listen.”

Speed Listening does not require any pharmaceuticals. 

Instead, it involves an application that changes the speed at which a program is played without making major changes in the pitch or tone of the content.

Industry observers are wondering whether listening to a podcast at a two times (2x) the normal speed affects the aesthetic experience. Ads are also played at 2x. Does it degrade the sales value of the ad?

Ever since time shifting was invented, people have been zapping ad messages. According to industry sources, there are an average six commercial units in a 60-minute podcast. Of course, most listeners would rather not hear them.

One of the things you can do with certain software is zap commercial messages.  Since time shifting was invented, people have been cutting out ads and now you can do it with podcasts. If a large number of podcast listeners are skipping ads, there will be less ad revenue. If there is less ad revenue, it could hurt the financial viability of podcasting.

Already Google provides an extensive control panel that lets you block certain ad categories such as gambling drugs and weapons.

One vendor, AdBlock, markets apps that zap ads from YouTube, Facebook and many other sites.  Check out a video on AdBlock’s website [link] to see how it works. AdBlock says there have been over 200 millions downloads of the app.


One of the most popular Speed Listening apps is Overcast’s Smart Speed [link].  It works by shortening the silences between words. One reviewer wrote that it made a 53-minute podcast into a 34-minute podcast. The reviewer added this about the resulting fidelity: 

“I was listening to an average speed of 1.8x. I tried 3x, but it felt way too fast for me. I could still understand what the podcast was saying, but it required all of my attention and was tiring to keep track of it.”

Another reviewer reported that Smart Speed works best for spoken word podcasts like the New York Times’ The Daily. The Daily sounds okay at 2x normal speed, he says. More highly produced podcasts such as 99% Invisible or Radiolab are mixed so tightly even a speed of 1.2x is unpleasant.

To hear Smart Speed in action, listen to a recent story produced by WNYC [link].


The Chicago Tribune recently asked some of the most successful podcast producers for their opinion of speed listening [link]. Here are a few of the responses:

• Ira Glass, This American Life

"Our podcast is a product for people to enjoy however they wish. We are, in fact, super-meticulous about every second of our shows, but we're not painting the Sistine Chapel here.”

• Alix Spiegel, Invisibilia

“What listeners should know is that the producers have spent truly absurd amounts of time locked in rooms far from sunshine and wind and any hint of nature or the outside world [to produce a podcast]. If I found out that someone was listening to one of my shows at high speed, I'd be highly offended."

• Mike Pesca, The Gist

“Even 'S-Town' or 'Serial' are quite enjoyable at 2x."

• Alex Blumberg, founder of the Gimlet Media podcasting network

"I guarantee, every moment you've listened to on the radio or in a podcast that's floored you ... someone's thought a lot about pacing, and time, and designing that moment for the express purpose of flooring you. And when you listen on double speed, you've undone all that hard work. But, you know, I sometimes listen on double speed!"

• Jad Abumrad, Radiolab

"I've bumped into a lot of people who tell me they listen to 'Radiolab' at double speed and I think they're all crazy. … Why on Earth would you intentionally listen to something that sounds so unpleasant just to save a few minutes?"

• Roman Mars, 99% Invisible

"I listen to everything that doesn't have complex audio production at very high speed. My brain barely registers it as being fast anymore.”

No comments:

Post a Comment