Podfasting: A Podcast Phenomenon

Michele Theil looks at 'podfasting', a way of consuming podcast media at increased speeds.

Podcasts are an extremely popular way of consuming popular culture, media and general information. The iTunes Podcasts store is visited frequently by myself and many others in order to download and listen to the interesting content that creatives provide us.

As Buzzfeed recently reported, there are a new sub-group of people who have discovered an entirely new way to listen to podcasts, which is to listen to them at double, triple or possibly even ten times the speed. This phenomenon is called ‘podfasting’. The reason for listening to podcasts at an increased speed is simple; to be able to listen to as many as possible in a shorter space of time.

Every day, more and more podcasts are being created by dedicated creatives for their audiences to consume. Some podcasts release an episode each month, each fortnight, each week and with the increase in content, it can be overwhelming to have to catch up – and that’s not the mention the incredible backlog that usually accompanies each podcast.

On average, a person will listen to maybe five podcasts each week, of a mixture of politics, humour, pop culture, crime and more while “20% of podcast listeners will listen to more than six” each week”. Then, there are podfasters, who exceed that number massively. These “podcast obsessives”, as Buzzfeed’s Doree Shafrir called them, listen to over 50 podcast episodes a week. Of course, yes, this is a comment on the fact there are too many good podcasts and simply not enough time to listen to them. But, it isn’t just that we have hit  “peak podcast” season, the ‘podfasters’ feel a need to listen to every single episode possible – every podcast must be completed.

One of these so-called ‘podfasters’, Jason Strickland, listens to over eight hours of podcasts each day. He only started to increase the speed of his listening when he came across the Movies by Minutes podcasts, where each episode is dedicated to one minute of one particular iconic film. There are 378 episodes dedicated to the original Star Wars trilogy alone and, for Strickland, listening at double the speed was necessary in order to complete the entire collection.

Many podcast producers have no issue with listeners consuming their podcasts at increased speeds. But some feel that their audiences should appreciate the podcast the way it was created and put together originally, as the intrinsic content of the production will be lost if the podcast is sped up slightly.

There are studies that show that our brain processing speeds increase when the speed of what we’re listening to increases. This is good, of course – increasing the speed to 1.5x can be beneficial to us. However, when it is sped up to double or triple the speed, comprehension of the material will break down, which really defeats the whole purpose entirely.

Next time you listen to a podcast, maybe try a hand at the increased speeds to see how it works for you. It wasn’t my cup of tea at all but to each their own right?