Last night I went to a live podcast of Criminal at Jammin Java in Vienna, VA. It is a true crime podcast, hosted by Phoebe Judge. Before the show started I intentionally didn’t learn anything about what the show might be like, that is the way I consume entertainment. If I would have guessed what the show would have been like, I would have guessed one long story that would be impossible to tell without showing lots of videos and pictures, and maybe a Q&A at the end. What I got instead was six normal/short stories that were not that different from the show.
The fact that it was so similar to the regular show is mostly good because I love the show. The stories were engaging, funny and interesting. But the real reason you might go to this live broadcast of Criminal is to watch Phoebe read, in her perfect NPR voice, and Lauren Spohrer pull the strings and mix the audio in realtime.
The problem is that podcasts are generally a passive activity. So, sitting in a room with a bunch of other super fans listening to something that I normally hear while walking or doing the dishes, fundamentally changes the experience. I don’t think live podcasts are a bad idea overall and I am happy to have supported Criminal (a great show, seriously just go subscribe!) Mostly, I think they are not a good fit for me and in the future I will only attend non-scripted live podcasts¹, like FiveThirtyEight panel style podcasts.
¹As a small asside, I have purchased and watched live episodes of This American Life and Radiolab, but those are much bigger productions and go way beyond what I would consider a podcast.