Minding the Borderlands

Mark Koester (@markwkoester) on the art of travel and technology

My Year in Podcast Listening: 2017

In 2017, I listened to 298 hours of podcasts. To put it in perspective, roughly 3.4% of my total time during last year went to podcast listening.

Compared to my 2016 podcast listening, I increased my daily podcast listening by 31 minutes per day (from 18 min per day in 2016 to 49 in 2017).

I mostly consume podcasts during the week (less on weekends). I listen to podcasts more often while traveling, and but I also tune in while running and during workouts.

How do I track my podcast listening? A bit over a year ago, I decided to “scratch my own itch,” and I built one of the first podcast tracking web services called PodcastTracker.com. It remains a simple service that helps self-trackers log what they listen to and export a log for visualization like I have done.

What did I learn? In this post, I want to share my year in podcast listening. For example, how much listening did I do? What were my favorite podcasts? What periods did I listen to podcasts? Finally I’ll conclude with a note about what I’ve learned.

Let’s first check out the full infographic.

Infographic: My Year in Podcast Listening: 2017

View Interactive Infographic.

Let’s look at a few of this stats in context.

My Favorite Podcast Channels from 2017

Last year I listened to 689 episodes from 85 different channels. Here are my favorite podcast channels in terms of listening time.

On the tech side, I find Note to Self and Invisiblia to be both engaging in how great technology is and also skeptical about how tech screws with us too. Both make me think about my role in a technology society.

On the entrerpreneurship and startup side, I’m a fan of both Trailblazers with Walter Isaacson and Masters of Scale with Reid Hoffman. Both have great speaking voices and engaging styles. Both offer very tactical advice from a range of founders and history, and they are helpful to anyone building a business, idea or product.

On the history side (with a bit of economics), I really enjoyed Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History and 50 Things that Made the Modern Economy. Both gave me plenty of new idea to ponder and important background concepts too.

And, of course, like many, I’m a big fan of the classics like Freakonomics, Planet Money, and to a lesser extent Tim Ferris and Sam Harris.

If you are looking for something new or want to explore tracking and health data, checkout any episode from The Quantified Body.

Speed It Up: 49 Minutes of Podcast Listening Per Day

Unfortunately I don’t have enough users and data to extrapolate global podcast listening trends, and users on PodcastTracker.com most likely listen to more podcasts than average folks.

In my case, after a year of podcast tracking, I discovered that I “listen” to about 49 minutes of podcasts per day. This number needs some contextualizing.

I use PocketCast app to listen to podcasts, and this app reported that I listened to 277 hours last year. By contrast, using my tracking tool, I logged 298 hours.

Why this discrepancy?

First off, this is a somewhat minor difference. Ideally these numbers would be the same. Unfortunately since I haven’t built my own listening app, it’s difficult to say if my manual tracking or the numbers from PocketCast are closer to my real number.

Second off, I listen to most podcasts at a faster than normal speed, either at 1.5x or 2.0x speed. I don’t find this creates any problem with retention, and allows me to listen to more. I don’t know if this explains the difference here, but it is possible.

In any case, I listened to between 45 minutes (PocketCast) and 49 minutes (PodcastTracker.com) per day last year.

My podcast listening in 2016 totalled 109 hours or a bit less than 18 minutes per day. So compared last year, I listened to even more podcasts in 2017.

Conclusions: My Year in Podcast Listening and Tracking

Two years ago I got into podcast listening. I’ve really enjoyed learning and discovering new ideas through podcasts. While I continue to use audiobooks, podcasts is also an interesting way to extend my learning.

At the end of 2016, I combined my goal of “tracking everything” and podcast listening to create one of the first online services for tracking your podcast listening. Throughout 2017, I continued to tweak and perfect PodcastTracker.com with testers, and I’m happy to report that my early users were able to track their year in podcast listening.

This podcast tracking service continues to grow, especially among podcast listeners who also track their movie and TV watching with Trakt or log their music listening with Last.fm. While podcast apps and services remains a competitive space, I plan to continue hosting and working on this project going forward, since it solves the problem of helping podcast listeners tracking and know what they listen to. This makes it easy to remember what you consume, but also notice patterns and hopefully one day to connect podcast listening to your overall learning journey through books, articles and videos.

I’ve learned a couple things by tracking my podcasts.

I listen to more podcasts while traveling. This may not be apparent in the visualizations I created, but all the increased listen periods connect with periods of travel or stays away from home.

My podcast listening tends to bunch around a few podcasts more than others. Similarly I listen to those podcasts in “chunks” in a short period of time. The one exception is Up First which is a news podcasts that I listen to once a day over a longer period of time.

Compared to TV and Movie Watching, Music Listening or even youtube videos, podcast listen for me is almost entirely for learning. There are a few channels that are more informational or fun, but in most cases, I use podcasts to learn more about areas of interest to me, like data science, health tracking and technology. This idea of podcasts as a way to stay connected and learning is a critical aspect that the tech should help too.

While podcast apps continue to improve and there are interesting services to watch, I still think podcast listen is too segmented away from other pieces of information. For example, it’s relatively easy for me to aggregate all of the articles and quotes from books on certain topics. For me this all ends up in Evernote and Google Sheets, and it’s all searchable. It would be great to have more of my podcast listening extend and connect with my book reading and article reading. This is perhaps an area to explore in 2018.

Similarly I have subscribed to a lot of podcasts, but my queue has gotten rather messy. I would love a way to group specific episodes on topics that interest more or that I’m currently studying. For example, if I’ve listened to two or three episodes on a topic, it would be great to receive a recommendation or queued item in the same vein. Unfortunately my service doesn’t have enough users or data to accomplish this year, but there might be ways to create a simple recommendations engine that looks at past listens and recommends episodes from other podcasts you subscribe too. This is another area to consider too.

Looking forward in 2018, I plan to continue tracking my podcast listening. Using my app, it’s as simple as going into the site when I start an podcast and logging it. If I’m not online, I take a screenshot and log it later.

In order to improve my podcast listening, tracking and general learning, I’m going to try and be more conscious about my favorite episodes. For example, I want to better remember which episodes struck me, maybe even store a quote or idea too. My goal for podcast listening and tracking this next year is to better contextualize my favorite episodes, not just my aggregate stats.

What is your favorite podcast? And what did you learn from listening to podcasts this past year?