Listening at a slightly faster speed can force the user to focus and be more attentive, says Hasson, noting 25 percent faster, or 1.25X, is probably fine for most people. He says the acceptable speed depends on many factors: the amount of training at the higher speed, how attentive the listener is, the age of the listener (younger people can listen faster, generally), how noisy the room is, how familiar the listener is with the host’s voice, whether host is speaking in the listener’s native language, whether the host has an accent. “There are many, many parameters,” Hasson says. “So it is important to understand the limitations and benefits and context and training.”
A sped-up show works well for news, tech, and business podcasts, but skip podfasting for music, which will sound strange, and for true crime, where pauses build mood and suspense.
Make It a Habit
Whenever Elsie Escobar starts washing dishes, she also hits the Play button. “The action immediately triggers ‘Oh, I have to go listen to a podcast,’ and part of this happens with you creating a habit around it,” says Escobar, cofounder of She Podcasts, a group that supports and nurtures female-led podcasts.
Escobar, who listens an average of five hours per day, also plays podcasts while running errands, and carefully selects headphones for public consumption. She wears wireless earbuds under her hair if she doesn’t want to look anti-social, but over-the-ear headphones if she wants to focus on her feed and be left alone. “I use them depending on how I want people to interact with me,” she says.
Danielle Desir recommends designating a time of day for podcasts, especially with Covid disrupting our routines. “I think time frame is very important, especially because a lot of us have different routines now,” says Desir, founder of WOC Podcasts, which provides space for women-of-color podcasters to share resources and network.
Fans even share their habits with podcast hosts. “I’ve heard from the listeners that they associate certain activities with me, whether that’s jogging or going to the grocery store,’ says Zomorodi.
Delete When Done, or at Least Pause Afterward
When Desir’s two-hour commute ended due to Covid, her listening time dropped to three hours per day, and she became more intentional about the podcasts she listens to. “Now I’m like, how can this podcast help me in my life?” says Desir, who subscribes to 50 shows. “If nothing captivates me, I unsubscribe.”
Zomorodi advocates leaving three minutes of silence at the end of an episode. “Take the time to think about what you just listened to in this information-overload world,” she says. “What is the point of taking in all these episodes and information if you’re not going to process it and do something with it?”
Collins subscribes sparingly. “It’s painful to have to cut one,” he says. Gibbons understands the sentiment. Subscribing to a show can feel like a commitment; unsubscribing like a breakup, he says.
“When I unsubscribe, I think, oh man, we broke up, and I feel bad,” says Gibbons. “I think a lot of people, whether they are consciously aware of that or not, that happens and then all the sudden they’ll have 60 podcasts that they’re subscribed to, and they’re stuck in the paradox of choice, so they end up not listening to anything.”
This is why Gibbons recommends skipping episodes via filters and curated lists. “It allows you to enjoy a broad swath of podcasts but enjoy specific episodes of each one. So it’s like you’re dating instead of getting married,” he says. “But there’s also a certain point at which, when you date so much, you become sort of trampish. There’s a point where you’re like, is he a gigolo or is he charming? I want to be charming.”
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