Adding Podcasts To Your Hobby

The Emperor demands you all must listen to podcasts!
I've spent some time talking to Carl from The Independent Characters about podcasting in the 40k community. I've got some questions that I'm looking to get answers to like how do I find a good one and why don't more people listen?

WARNING: Very, very long post here folks (but lots of good info) so grab yourself a cup of coffee, get comfortable and give this one a read through. It might change how you think about podcasts.

With the recent overhaul of the FTW Weekly podcast review, I thought I might take a closer look at 40k podcasting in general. I've posted before about the "value" of podcasts, but this time, I wanted to get into the process of finding something you like. As someone who doesn't listen to many podcasts, I figured I'd be the perfect person to try and figure out how one goes about finding a "good one."

And after receiving lots of feedback from Bloggers recently, very few of you guys even listen to podcasts at all it seems.

As a side note, the reason I don't listen to many podcasts is due to the language. I do my hobby stuff at home and would listen then, but as a parent who tries to set the example, it can be tough to tell your kids not to use some kinds of language and then turn around and listen to it yourself in front of them.

For those of you who have kids, you know they have the an unbelievable sense of timing and if you're listening to a 3 hour podcast with only one swear word at exactly the 2:59:36 mark, they'll walk in at that very second.
That's just how it works.
For those of you who don't have kids, you'll just have to believe me.
So it doesn't pay for me to listen to them at home if the kids are home and could possibly venture in to see what I'm doing.

But how do you find the right podcast for you?
How do I find the right podcast for me?

And better yet, what is a "good one?"
I know this is subjective and will change for each person since we've all got different tastes. I'm not even going to approach this other than to say we could all probably agree that good sound quality, consistency and professionalism would be a few of those universal qualities.

Trouble is, people don't take the time with podcasting. They try a few podcasts, then give up. And because podcasts are free or nearly free to produce, the ratio of junk to gems is even more extreme. There are a huge number of really bad podcasts out there.
- Mike Egan over at Computer World

Mike goes on to say that finding the right podcast is done through trial and error and can take weeks of wading through junk podcasts to find what you're looking for. To find something you really want to listen to.

With our hobby, we have lots of podcasts out there. More now than we did a year ago for sure. Finding them isn't too hard to do either. Once you find one, you can generally find others by way of link sharing. But that still doesn't help us find what we're looking for.

Some people prefer hobby talk, some like to listen to tactics and others really love to hear rules discussions. Me, I'm hobby talk. Rules and tactics don't do much for me. Talk about modeling or painting and I'm in.

I decided to set out and do some investigation. I went through some podcast sites to see if they "listed" or explained what it is that they do/cover/talk about. I wanted to know if there was a way to find out about the podcast quickly and what they focused on prior to investing tons of my time in trial and error listening. My results were mixed. Of the ones I looked at, some did and some did not.

YES: The Independent Characters
NO: Imperial Vox Cast
YES: The 11th Company
NO: The Battlezone
NO: The Eternal Warriors
NO: The Gamers Lounge
YES: The Imperial Truth
NO: The Overlords

Even then, finding a podcast with a brief explanation of what they do and do not cover still doesn't help us that much. By the trial and error approach, just going through these few podcasts could take considerable time since you'd most likely need to listen two or three episodes until you got a feel for the show and could make an educated decision.

That time adds up fast. Sure you can listen while you're doing other things, but I think you need to pay some attention to what's going on in the episode if you're planning on sifting through the pool of possibilities to weed out the ones that don't interest you.

Still, we're left with trying to figure those out.
Enter Carl from The Independent Characters. I've asked him questions before and I figured I could hound him again for some answers to my questions.

There are a lot of Podcasts out there about 40k right now. The market of them has literally exploded in the last 6-8 months. So finding one that works for you is a tough call. There are a lot of things that go into making a Podcast successful, chemistry of the hosts, preparation, a steady schedule, but does this make them right for you?

For the purposes of this article I am assuming you are looking for a Podcast that covers Warhammer 40k and potentially other miniatures games.

You probably want to take a few things into account:

First of all, iTunes is the big player on the block (Sorry Zune owners, it's true!). iTunes is a free application put out by Apple in support of the Apple iPod and iPhone. You probably already knew that, but for the sake of completeness I included it for you! Pretty much every Podcast out there is indexed on iTunes because it is so popular. With that in mind, it is probably your best place to start your search for the right Podcast for you.

Open iTunes and in the iTunes store do a search in the upper right corner for "Warhammer 40k".

Under the Podcasts section you will now see a listing and logos for some of the Podcasts in the community. However, if you click on the "See All >" link, it will open up a huge list of them that are available.

One thing you want to notice right away is that some shows have a red "explicit" tag that is listed next to them. It is important to note that this tag is not something enforced by iTunes. This is a flag the pod caster sets for them by episode.

Speaking for The Independent Characters, we put the explicit tag on our show every time as we tend to let loose with the occasional swear word. We shoot for a PG rated show. I sometimes think the explicit tag is perhaps a bit too harsh for our show, but I would rather err on the side of caution and not catch any parent by surprise.

Some shows use that explicit tag because they are just that, REALLY explicit. So if you are offended by harsh language I would stay away from those shows with that tag. But again bear in mind it is a flag set by the pod caster. In the opening statements of the show if you hear something like Life After The Cover Saves, "Our goal is to offend every one of our listeners." or Imperial Vox Casts, "If you let your kids listen to our show, you should be a better parent!” take heed. They just might know what they are talking about.

I have noticed a couple of 40k shows out there without the tag, or with the "clean" tag, that are pretty harsh to listen to. So it's really a guideline, but one to take with a grain of salt. There are no set criteria for what is and is not explicit.

If you click on any one of those shows displayed there, you will see some more information about the show, as well as a list of episode currently available. This leads me to my next point. When was the last show uploaded? Are the shows on a regular schedule?

Speaking for myself, it is really tough to get involved with a show that produces content inconsistently or has stopped producing content some time ago.

You may also want to look at how long the show has been around. Are you looking for something new? There are new Podcasts popping up all time. Are you looking for something established? They are there also. The list of episode will show you the dates they were last updated and how frequently.

If you scroll down in any particular Podcasts page within iTunes, you can see reviews of the Podcasts written by listeners just like you. Read through the commentary and see what people have to say about the show.

Additionally, there is typically a link on the left side of the page, below the Podcasts logo, that leads to the shows Website. What does their web presence look like? Do they have an up to date site? Do they have a community? Do these things not matter to you?

Once you have decided to listen to a show, you can stream it directly from iTunes or you can download it to listen to at your leisure. Typically you can tell a lot about the show in the opening few minutes. Pick the latest episode of the show and give it a good ten to fifteen minutes before you make any kind of decision about it though. Unless you know right away that this show isn’t for you, the hosts may take a few minutes to get warmed up!

There are a couple of things you will notice right away. The first is probably the sound quality. Are the hosts able to be heard without too much interference or background noise? Bad audio quality can destroy a show faster than you can say “I can’t hear you.”

Next comes, the aforementioned tone and language of the show. Is this something that is the right fit for you? Only you can answer that question.

Last but not least is the actual content of the show. Are the topics of interest to you? Is the show taking a new angle on anything related to the hobby? How do they differ from other Podcasts you have now listened to?

Ultimately, it all comes down to personal preference. The great thing about there being so many Podcasts is that there is a lot to choose from. But the best thing of all is that there are plenty of FREE Podcasts out there that you can sift through and find something that appeals to you.

Running a regular Podcast takes a LOT of work, and most of the people doing it are doing it for the fun and enjoyment of it. Not very many people involved in Podcasts are media professionals by trade, but each and every one of them takes a lot of pride in what they do. However, some of the shows out there are really amazing when you consider how much is involved in producing a good Podcast. I am confident that there is something out there for everyone. When you find that show that clicks with you, do the hosts a favor, leave them a review on iTunes to help them get noticed more, and share your find with your friends and other hobbyists!

- Carl, Co-Host of The Independent Characters

All that being said, Carl and I went back and forth by way of email for a couple more rounds and he had this to offer as some closing thoughts:

Why don't people listen?
Well probably for a couple reasons, but this is purely a guess on my part.

They don't know about Podcasts
It was only a couple of years ago, maybe a year and a half ago that I actually discovered Podcasts. So it's highly likely there are still people out there who simply do not know how pervasive this medium is at this time.

They don't understand Podcasts
They have heard of them, but they don't realize that you don't need an iPod to listen to a "Podcast". The word itself is synomymous with iPods as it was basically spun off of that technology. However, many people who have heard of them may not realize just how accessable, and free, they are!

They don't have "time" to listen to Podcasts
I call shennanigans on this one, though I suppose it is possible that anyone who doesn't paint their models or have a commute of any length of time may not have the time to listen to Podcasts.

They have no interest in Podcasts
Well this is certainly the group that is the toughest to get to. They have no desire to even try listening to Podcasts, so getting them to sit down and listen to yours (ours) is virtually impossible. Maybe they think podcasts are amateurish or lack professionalism. They may have had a bad experience with one or two...

It is a subset of a subset
It seems to me that Podcasts and Blogs go somewhat hand in hand these days. So if you have people that aren't even reading blogs (and there are many! Shocking I know!), they very likely aren't even aware of Podcasts either.

The cool thing about 40k (or really any game like it) as a hobby is that there is SO much support, Blogs, Wiki, YouTube, Podcasts, Video Podcasts, etc. The list just goes on and on. The great thing about Podcasts is that you can do many of the other aspects of the hobby (in particular painting/assembly) while you listen to them.

And so I'll bring this monster to an end with one question...
"Why do you NOT listen to podcasts?"

Thanks for reading this insanely huge wall of text post and I'm interested in hearing some of your reasons you guys skip podcasts.

Ron, From the WarpIf you've got any questions about something in this post, shoot me a comment and I'll be glad to answer. Make sure to share your hobby tips and thoughts in the comments below!