About Listening to Podcasts At Enhanced Speeds


I brought up the subject of listening to podcasts at enhanced speeds in my recent MacVoices Briefing on Downcast, because that's the way I keep up and listen to about sixty different shows. Yes, I admit it. I listen to some shows at 1.5x, 2x...even 2.5x!

Maybe coincidence, maybe not, but there suddenly seems to be something of a furor over the idea of listening to podcasts at anything other than their normal, 1x speed.

Why this is any different than speed reading in any form is beyond me. No one cares how fast or slow I read Mark Twain or William Gibson. Why should you care how fast I listen to my favorite podcast?

What's Involved
It all boils down to three factors:

  • Is the podcast a "performance" or a conversation?
  • How fast do the hosts and/or guests of a given show speak, and how do their voices sound?
  • Am I listening to enjoy or listening to gather information?

Performance podcasts are those where a sense of timing is essential to getting the full benefit of the show. Comedy, music and spoken-word performances fit in this category. Those pauses that are all part of a great performance can be changed or eliminated if the recording is played at anything other than 1X speed.

Everyone speaks at different speeds, and if a host or guest already speaks fast, you may not be able to crank it up. Or you might be able to go to 2x. It all depends on you and your ability to understand what's going on.

Finally, if I'm listening to a podcast for enjoyment, I may want to savor that show, without any concern for how long it lasts, like that favorite movie that you hate to see end.

Why Listen At Enhanced Speeds?
Simply put: time. If I can listen to a 60-minute show in 45 minutes with no loss of comprehension, I've saved 15 minutes. If I can lower that to 30 minutes, I've doubled the efficiency. But only if I can maintain the comprehension.

That means I can keep up with more shows, consume more information and be better informed. Win, win, win.

How To Listen At Enhanced Speeds
Experiment. Take your favorite podcatcher (as I said above, I prefer Downcast for reasons outlined in the Briefing), see what speeds it offers and then try it...but don't just try one speed for one podcast. Some shows are easy to ramp up to 1.5x or even 2x. Others are a struggle at 1.25x. Find what works for you.

Yes, you can train yourself to listen at more than 1x speed. Like so many things, it requires that you engage in that dirty, undesirable activity: practice.

Just like the excellent Read Quick iOS app for text, you can start at one speed and work your way up. In some cases, you might even enjoy a given show more because you're not having to dedicate as much time to it.

Bottom Line
There are no right answers in this debate. Experiment and find what benefits you the most and  what you like, and go with it.