The Art of The Long-Form Conversation

“Whereas traditional media outlets like TV, radio, film, etc. are usually of a certain length whether its 30 minutes, an hour, or 2 hours, podcasts can go on for more than even that with some podcasts clocking in at 4 to 5 hours without stopping.”

I really love podcasts and I have loved them for years. They have been around since the 2000s but only really became mainstream during the last decade of the 2010s. Their popularity to me involves the fact that you really can do a deep dive on any subject under the sun without being constrained to a time limit. Whereas traditional media outlets like TV, radio, film, etc. are usually of a certain length whether its 30 minutes, an hour, or 2 hours, podcasts can go on for more than even that length with some podcasts clocking in at 4 to 5 hours without stopping.

It is not easy to have an uninterrupted conversation for so long but there is a real art to it that stands out these days from other forms of popular media. The hosts can pick and choose how many guests they have, their background, as well as how long they would like each podcast to be. Instead of a news report, a sports segment, or a weather minute, where the host or correspondent will be cut off abruptly, a podcast allows the information to be fully thought out without interruptions or commercials. There can be the occasional advertisement read, bathroom break, or even an impromptu cut off of a podcast due to the guest or host needing to leave the studio early, but for the most part, podcasts are an extremely rare form of media that really is not constrained by lack of space, time, or platforms.

Back in the early days of media, you used to have to rely on a corporation or government funding to get your message out, but today, you can self-fund and self-host your own podcast. There are also different crowdfunded platforms like Patreon, Megaphone or popular website platforms for video and audio like YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music, etc. where you can put your podcast on. There are a wealth of choices and a lot of different technology available to make hosting a long-form conversation easier than ever.

The beauty of hearing or watching these conversations is you get to learn from experts in a variety of fields from comedy to film to music to art to sports where you won’t have to pay a dime to tune in. Even if you pay a flat fee to a podcast hosting platform, you will have access to more podcasts and conversations than you can listen to or watch in a lifetime. There are thousands, if not, millions of podcasts available in the world in every major language. Such a wealth of information is something we could not fathom twenty or so years ago.

In an age of short attention spans and ten-second videos, the long-form conversation is still very much in demand. People may enjoy Instagram Reels, TikTok Videos, or a Tweet, but you will never get the same kind of details, wisdom, or knowledge from your average two-hour podcast. Podcasts are not perfect and often come with the bias of the hosts or the guests involved but it’s good to watch or listen to them with an open-mind and an open-heart.

The sheer number of efforts behind the scenes to make a long-form conversation happen should not be ignored. There are a lot of cameras, microphones, sound design, video quality, and getting the guests to appear, which would take a whole production team to put together. Podcasts do not have to be fancy like that but the more popular they become, the more they rival traditional media forms for both the amount of investment and the amount of time it takes to make them happen.

The core of any podcast though is the quality of the conversation, and the best podcasts are those where the host is patient, asks good questions, can answer them from the guest himself or herself, and will describe to the audience what is going on in case they are doing both an audio and a video feed. The most popular podcast in the world, The Joe Rogan Experience, started over ten years ago, and it was far from a polished product in the first episode.

It was not a fancy set with multiple team members and a lot of advanced gear. Instead, it was Joe Rogan, his computer, a microphone, and the help of a friend, who would bring on his friends, to talk about what’s on their minds. Now, it became the most popular podcast in the world not just the host is also a famous comedian, Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) commentator, and a former TV and radio show host, but the fact that Joe is patient, understanding, and aware of how the conversation is going.

He can listen for long periods of time without interrupting, is able to get more out of his guests if they are shy, introverted, or not able to talk at length without prompting, and he genuinely knows about each person(s) he has on his podcast. The conversation easily flows because him and the guest do not talk over each other, when they disagree it’s not a big deal, and it doesn’t hurt also that he has some coffee or liquor on hand to make it a more inviting podcast studio.

With almost 2000 episodes under his belt, Joe Rogan among other popular podcast hosts like Marc Maron, Lex Fridman, Andrew Huberman, Sam Harris have not only put a lot of effort, time, and money for the audio and video experience to be good for the audience, but they have also trained themselves well in the art of talking with other people and in being a good host to a wide diversity and variety of guests from all over the world.

Podcasting is a necessary media in today’s tumultuous, fast-changing, and unpredictable world. I find that these conversations are meaningful, educational, and insightful. I do still watch TV and listen to radio programming, but it is impossible to beat the quality and knowledge that is dropped on a good podcast every day.

From news to sports to politics to music and even comedy, there are such good long-form conversations to be had from your average podcast. Whereas the news program will end on the hour, or the radio show will cut off every thirty minutes, you can find multiple podcasts analyzing different topics at a deeper level so that your knowledge and understanding will be much deeper than it would be from your average TV program these days. It is easy for me to see why podcasts in the 21st century is here to stay and why they are number #1 source of information in order technologically dependent world.

While podcasts with long conversations can be prone to bias, misinformation, controversy, and even backtracking after the fact, I still believe that there is no better way to learn from an expert or practitioner in a certain area of human endeavor than by settling into a two or three or even a five hour podcast with just hearing their voice and hearing what they have to say without any commercial or other interruption. If you have not listened to a podcast at this point in 2023, you should start now and remember to watch or listen to the whole podcast even if it is a few hours long. You’ll often be glad that you did at the end of it, and you’ll often learn a lot as a result.

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