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Wondering why we don't all do more with sound

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I listen to a lot of podcasts. I can't get enough of them.

Some white headphones on a table

I listen to essays, podcasts about sport and science, slick radio shows, and podcasts recorded on a kitchen table.

My habit started, I think, giggling to myself on the number 3 bus, listening to Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant and Karl Pilkington. And when they couldn't publish them quickly enough for my needs I started subscribing to more and more. I would take slightly longer bus routes to make sure I had enough listening time.

I don't listen on the bus any more (I have other things to do). Now, I find that different podcasts fit into different moments of my day. I listen to Great Lives in the 26 minutes it takes to walk between DH buildings. On the way I learn a little bit about Edith Wharton or Winston Churchill. I listen to This American Life when I'm digging my allotment, The Life Scientific when I'm cooking my dinner, and Dave Gorman in the bath. I listen to Test Match Special and eighteensixtyfive if I'm awake in the middle of the night. I'm working my way through the Radiolab back catalogue walking around West Norwood, and sitting on the tube.

I think podcasts might be the perfect medium. They are brilliantly convenient for the user. Subscribe and sync, and that's it. The best of international radio just turns up on your phone, for free. There's no restriction of time, location or cost. They're dead easy to create too. So easy that you can record and publish a podcast from the same phone that you use to listen to them. Just a dictaphone, plus RSS.

There are a few people doing interesting things with audio in government. Couch to 5K might be an ideal match for the medium. DFID produce regular stuff, and the Wilton Park Dialogues seem to work well. BIS and others do nice things with AudioBoo.

In DH, the digital team are increasingly choosing audio to create rich content from events, as quicker and easier (and sometimes better) alternative to video voxpops.

And we encourage our bloggers to use tools like AudioBoo themselves. In health in particular, it seems to make sense for our medically trained thought-leaders - who are often used to dictating notes and letters - to record the odd clip for their bulletin or blog. Alistair Burns does this well, and his short interviews and clips add a richness to the content around our Dementia Challenge work.

But it feels like we're not quite making the most of audio yet.

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  1. Comment by Aaron Gow posted on

    While not quite a podcast, there's a nice audio slideshow on the BBC about a hack day/arts thing

    It gives you something to look at as well as listen to.

    • Replies to Aaron Gow>

      Comment by Stephen Hale posted on

      I like this a lot - it's very nicely done. Although I think part of the appeal of podcasts for me is that there isn't anything to look at, so I can do something else at the same time.