Podcasts Are the New Talk Radio

Time Magazine recently announced its Person of the Year, and it was you. Many readers felt the magazine's choice was a copout, but I thought it was quite perceptive. In this age of Web 2.0—with the booming YouTube, the far-reaching Wikipedia, and the infiltrating MySpace—everyone is reaching everyone. You are getting your voice heard, and I can find it to read it or listen to it.

One of the primary ways I'm involved with this new interconnectedness is my consumption of podcasts. I hardly ever listen to the radio anymore, particularly talk radio. For decades, radio has been a frustrating source of predigested information—when you could chance upon it, and only if a particular show happened to be available in your area. And even when I had a favorite radio show, its subject matter at any particular moment might not interest me, and I'd find myself changing channels, or worse, just listening for the sake of listening.

Boy, are we facing a different world today! Essentially, I can listen to just about any "talk show," on any conceivable subject, by any commentator I'm interested in—for free. And this shift in what we can listen to happened so quickly that it seems to have occurred overnight!

Have you been to Apple's iTunes Store? If you own any kind of iPod device, you've at least paid a visit. If so, have you taken a few moments to peruse the already vast selection of free podcasts available there? I've sampled quite a few, and I feel that I've only just touched the surface. Sure, as with all the outgrowths of Web 2.0, there's quite a bit of junk to wade through. Some of these things—the equivalent of ignorant ramblings in blogs or embarrassing videos on YouTube—make you weep for the future of humanity. But with a little rooting around, you can easily find your way to the cream of the crop—and that cream runs the gamut from amateur to professional.

I've recently been devouring podcasts such as The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe, The Hollywood Saloon, The FX Guide, The Penn Jillette Radio Show, The Ricky Gervais Show, Democracy Now, This Week in Tech (TWIT), and The Onion Radio News. I've also started looking into downloading podcasts by particular comedians, such as Louis C.K., who has a hilarious new standup special on HBO right about now. Admittedly, a list like this gives you a peek into my interests and even political leanings, but that's what's great about the incredibly wide variety of available podcasts: There's something for everyone. Truly, if you can think of a subject, no matter how arcane, there's probably a podcast devoted to it.

And that seems to me the ultimate evolution of Talk Radio—"Let's talk about what I want to talk about! Right now!"

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