From my distant location overseas, listening to the news via podcasts is a great way to keep up: something I’m quite grateful to have access to on demand and via the internets. Until the end of Net Neutrality means that only “Verizon Insights” and “Life at AT&T” are still accessible, I enjoy a range of news sources on a daily basis using a podcatcher called Beyond Pod. One of the essential features it has is the ability to speed up the tempo of podcasts, some of which are a bit slow as recorded. But one…. one is like dripping molasses on a winter day: The Daily from the NYT by Michael Barbaro. I’m pretty sure silences are inserted in editing to draw out the drama to infuriating lengths and the tempo of the audio is selectively slowed to about half normal speed. Nobody can actually talk that slowly. I mean listen and try – like actually try to draw out a word that might take 1 second to pronounce to two full seconds. It is a pretty good news summary and has some useful information, but there’s no way I’d suffer through it without setting the tempo to 2x.
Every time I accidentally stream the podcast, rather than downloading and playing, the tempo control is disabled and while I scramble to skip to the next podcast before my I start questioning reality I often wonder for a moment just how bad the pauses are. Here’s my analysis:
I consider the BBC Global News to be a very professional, truly “broadcast quality” podcast. The announcers are clear, comprehensible, and speak at a pace that is appropriate for a news broadcast. I still speed it up because daily life is like that now, but if I listen at normal pace, it isn’t even slightly annoying.
The Economist Radio is fairly typical of a print publication’s efforts at presenting print journalists as audio stars. it doesn’t always work out perfectly and the pacing varies a lot by who is speaking and the rather eclectic line-up. In general it is annoyingly slow, but not interminably so. It comes across as a bit amateur by broadcast standards, but well done and very informative.
But then there’s The Daily from the NYT. This podcast was the reason I took the time to figure out how to speed up playback. There was no other choice: either unsubscribe or speed it up to something not aneurysm inducing. Looking at the waveforms, I suspect they might actually be inserting silences of around 500msec between words, perhaps for dramatic effect (there’s way too much dramatic effect in a lot of the stories, which speeding up only hastens rather than fully alleviating—never have you heard so many interviewees break into uncomfortable tears as they’re overwhelmed by whatever the day’s tragedy is, an artifice only slightly less annoying than broadcasting the sound of someone eating. OMG, that’s real. Rule 34.)