Just the other day I was lamenting with a friend -- on his podcast, no less -- that the personal blog has all but disappeared. That there's just not so much slow, rambling storytelling online, at least not in that old bloggy way. I actually miss reading your long, aimless posts about how you felt when you woke up today. Or about what you had for lunch yesterday. Or about that thing you almost said to that boy when you were twelve, and how the thought of that day has haunted you ever since.
I miss that old internet of weird, wonderful stories, told by people I'd never meet in real life.
But now podcasts are popping up all over, and suddenly my life is full of your weird, wonderful stories again.
Why is the world suddenly ready for podcasts? After all, I have friends who've been podcasting faithfully for years. Podcasts started getting some traction, here and there, in fits and starts, when public radio started syndicating their most popular shows that way. But it was always a small fraction who were consistently tuning in. I was one of them, but I knew I was in a tiny minority.
And then came Serial, and now boom -- podcasts are everywhere.
First, let's take it as a given that I think this is great. I may be a blogger from way, way back, but like a lot of writers in this world, I'm really in it for the stories. And podcasts are just getting tons and tons more stories out there into the light of day. So this is unquestionably a good thing, and I am on board.
But why now?
I think part of it is that we're just ready for a new medium. We bloggers had our day. We're not quite done yet -- we're still evolving and growing and finding new horizons to explore. But look, writing isn't everyone's jam. It's okay. A lot of people are just more comfortable telling their stories out loud. And that's perfect. That's great. Seriously: Whatever works.
When I started commuting to Boston eight years ago, I rode the bus every day. It's a long commute from Cape Cod to the city -- two hours each way -- so I naturally turned to podcasts to help me survive.
I figured I'd use them to learn stuff, at first. I subscribed to news podcasts and industry updates, mostly. Thought I'd get all crazy smart about marketing and business and PR and writing while I spaced out on the bus.
Then the funniest thing happened. I fell in love with your voice. Not slowly. All at once.
Some of you were funny. I'd surprise myself with laughing out loud on the bus, choking on my coffee and startling the dozing businessfolk nearby. Some of you depressed me, and your stories would have me staring out the rain-streaked bus windows like a melancholy teen.
But the really good ones? You put me right to sleep.
Not because you were boring, or because your stories weren't great. In fact, I'd usually listen for a good five or ten minutes before my eyelids would droop. But then you'd be so darn good, so honest and kind, that I'd just fall right asleep like I was curled up in your lap like a cherished old dog.
Of course I'd have to replay those episodes later. But it would be with the sense that I'd been there before. That you were telling me that story you'd told long ago, that one I still half remembered but never told you not to retell.
I think we all just need lots more stories. I don't know. Maybe, like me, you miss the sweet, rambling tales of the old blogosphere. Maybe you've always longed for audio to at last have its day.
Maybe we all really miss hearing each other's voices, separated as we are now by our screens and our jobs and our fragmented lives.
Maybe I just like being able to drift off to sleep (with my teeth in my mouth), half hearing, half dozing, while some friendly voices chat softly in some not-too-distant room. And just knowing you're there, talking, laughing, telling each other how it seems to you today, is enough to relax me. To set me at last back at ease.
And to let your weird, wonderful stories lull me gently to sleep.