Joshua Eichler-Summers
Blog of Josh Summers

Venture capitalist & founder. Lots to learn, but happy to help.
Investment Team at DN Capital
Founder of Taaalk

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The User Experience of Podcasts

14 Feb 2015

The UX of Podcasts has a problem and that problem is headphones.

Podcasts are not music. Although both use headphones they are very different types of content. Music is emotional content. Podcasts are intellectual content. There is no substitute I can do without headphones to get that musical feeling. There are many non-headphone substitutes for intellectual content (Medium, First Round Review, Hacker News, Designer News, the list goes on…).

This is my full user journey as I decide to listen to a podcast:

Unzip my backpack.

Pull out headphones.

Untangle headphones*.

Take phone from pocket.

Plug headphones into phone.

Put headphones in ear.

Unlock phone.

Open podcast app.

Click podcast**.

Click ‘Feed’**.

Download podcast**.

Click podcast to play**.

Receive intellectual content in my brain.

This is my full user journey when getting intellectual content from a purely visual medium.

Take phone from pocket.

Unlock phone.

Click on ‘News’ apps.

Click on Medium / other news apps.

Begin to receive intellectual stimulus (browse article titles).

Click on title to read. Receive intellectual content.

Podcasts have 12 steps before my brain begins to get stimulated. Visual news has four. On top of this, those steps are not created equal; untangling my headphones is a lot more frustrating tapping my phone with my thumb.

I don’t know if it means the difference in quality has to be 3x, but I do think this means that the content quality barrier for podcast adoption is much higher than that of textual adoption. High quality is hard to achieve.

Does this put a limit on the level of adoption that podcasts can achieve? If not on a person-to-person basis (most people have had some exposure to podcasts), then on the percentage of total media time they can take up?


Check out some of my stuff: Taaalk and Breathe Industries

Random notes: I recently listented to my first podcast after being told I should listen to one called Startup. It’s about a man starting a podcasting company. It’s great! You should listen to it too if you haven’t. [Full disclosure: no one at the ‘Startup’ podcast show has any idea who I am. I just like their work.]

*There’s probably a clever way to prevent this that I don’t know.
**I’m sure there are apps out there with a much better user experience. I am too lazy to find them and they haven’t found me yet.

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