Reinjan Prakke
📖 4 minutes

The podcast does not exist

This blog was written in Dutch for Adformatie and has been automatically translated into English.

If there's something I have trouble with, it's the word 'podcast'. Not because of the spelling or pronunciation, of course, there's nothing wrong with that, but because of the expectation that the word creates. For most people, it still subconsciously stands for a (somewhat cheaply produced) hour-long conversation between two celebrities, friends, or colleagues. Preferably made 'in the spare time' and accidentally grown into a tight-knit ‘community’.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with such productions, but the spectrum is, of course, much broader, as the more seasoned listener knows. For example, you can make a distinction between an interview podcast and a two-way conversation. There are audio documentaries, fictional stories, and monologues. There are journalistic bulletins, panel podcasts, and storytelling podcasts. People refer to a repurposed content podcast when an audio recording is not originally intended as a podcast but, for example, as a theater show or radio program, and we distinguish habit podcasts from binge podcasts. I could go on.

People generally understand perfectly well that these differences in form exist when you point them out. However, most people only really start to see the difference when you compare it to movies and TV formats. For instance, everyone instinctively knows that you shouldn’t compare Jinek with The Godfather, and equating a documentary by Louis Theroux with Waku Waku is pointless. So, just like not everything shown on TV can be meaningfully compared, the same applies to audio.

In other words, the podcast does not exist.

Therefore, I fervently hope that a Dutch award show will be organized in the near future where distinctions are made between styles instead of subjects. A fantastic podcast like Napleiten is now effortlessly lumped together with In de ban van Rian because they both fall under the 'True Crime' category, but one is an interview podcast, the other an audio documentary. Completely useless, in my opinion, and a shame for both productions. On the one hand, because they are played against each other, where with a different setup they both had a chance. And on the other hand, because if you lose, you go home with an even bigger crappy feeling, because there was never a genuine contest.

That's why I prefer to say that I make audio documentaries. That covers it much better. There’s still a lot of distinctions to be made within that, but I’ll fight that battle in my next life.

For those who are relatively new to audio documentaries, here are 4 reasons why I, as a listener, am so fond of the audio-doc:

  1. An audio documentary activates the same brain areas as a book, according to research by neuroscientists at Berkeley University of California.
  2. Listening to an audio documentary doesn't take any time, unlike a movie or TV series. I put it on during other activities such as cleaning the house or walking to the station. Essentially, it fills in ‘idle’ space.
  3. An audio documentary takes me away from my mobile. Since I started listening to podcasts, my active screen time (including TV) has decreased. Where nowadays, while watching a movie/series, I am increasingly tempted to also feed my smartphone addiction.
  4. With an audio documentary, I get a similar binge experience as with a good TV series, but my imagination is more stimulated because I have to form the images in my head.

Below is a list of my favorite audio documentaries from the past few years in no particular order:

The Coming Storm
De Kunst van het Verdwijnen
The Lazarus Heist
Sweet Bobby
Wind of Change
The Missing Cryptoqueen
De Brand in Het Landhuis
The Prince
El Tarangu
Missed Fortune
De Schaduw van Dutroux
Rabbit Hole
West Cork
Laura H.
Obscene: The Dublin Scandal
De Zwarte dag van Hans
Dit Kan Geen Toeval Zijn
De wereld van Jan de Man
Exit Scam
De plantage van onze voorouders

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