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Podfather Reviews: You listen to your podcasts too quickly

I’ll just say this to make myself clear: Most podcasts should be listened to at normal speeds. But for the “speed-listeners” or “podfasters” of the world, this column isn’t meant to crucify the trend of listening to podcasts in the fast lane. I’ll explain.

For those who are unaware, most podcast-listening apps allow for the user to speed up the audio to save the user some time, with some apps allowing people to listen to podcasts as much as over five times the normal speed.

This often creates what is called the “chipmunk effect” when listening, in which the voices on the podcast sound high-pitched because of the quick, compressed speed of the podcast. 

And the topic of whether or not speed-listening is detrimental for podcasting is pretty much a scorched-earth battlefield. There have been so many hot takes on speed-listening that I’m probably going to burn my hand trying to even lay a finger on this. 

No, I’m not here to say that speed-listening is the next “great awakening” in the podcast industry or that it’s akin to the devil incarnate. But it might be somewhere in the middle. 

I actually agree a lot with the comments of Roman Mars, the host of "99% Invisible," when he talked with the Chicago Tribune.

“I listen to everything that doesn't have complex audio production at very high speed. My brain barely registers it as being fast anymore,” Mars said. “With shows that feature a lot of music or sound design, I keep it at regular speed because the sound does get distorted and the pacing is an important element of the production.”

I’m on “Team Roman,” and others should be too. For highly-produced podcasts, such as "RadioLab" and "Snap Judgement," that WNYC creates, the sounds and extra audio weaved into a narrative are crucial to telling a story well. And when those immersive sounds are sped up to two or three times their normal speed, it sounds plain weird. 

Like Mars said, a quicker tempo ruins the pacing and sound production that a lot of these storytelling podcasts work hard to create, all in an effort to save a few measly minutes. Please slow down. 

That’s not to say all podcasts have to be played at normal speed. For podcasts that are pretty much “gabfests” — or podcasts where people basically just sit around and talk — go ahead and hit the gas pedal. 

"The NPR Politics Podcast" will not sound drastically different if sped up to twice the normal speed as the show is still essentially people talking. You can still comprehend what people are saying — as long as you doesn’t mind their favorite NPR political reporters sounding like Alvin and the gang.

It’s all personal preference, really. And I listen to shows sped up all the time. But before you hit the gas pedal on that new podcast, take a moment and consider how the show is meant to be listened to. 

Liam Niemeyer is a senior studying journalism at Ohio University’s Honors Tutorial College. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Do you speed up your pods? Let Liam know by tweeting him @liamniemeyer.

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