It’s Time to Cut Your Podcast Subscriptions

The podcast revolution has led many of us to subscribe to dozens of podcasts – and if you’re even a little like me, you’re faced with the buffet problem: you’ve put too much on your plate. More than you could possibly consume. Our channels are overflowing with TV shows that we no longer listen to, and new episodes only increase the feeling of dread. It’s the same feeling that wasso aptly illustrated in NBC’s The Good Place, when Sean, the evil demon, punished someone by placing him in an empty room with a New Yorker subscription that would accumulate for the rest of eternity. The victim will never read them, “but they just … keep … coming.”

Podcasts have fallen prey to content overload: new high-quality shows are constantly launched, and automatic downloads remind you of how far behind you are in your listening. But this is a solvable problem if you admit it. Here are some tips for Marie Kondo to add your podcast feed and determine which episodes to keep and which ones to remove.

Group your podcasts into categories

Need Vox’s Explained Today, NPR’s UpFirst, and The Daily from The New York Times at the same time? Since most podcasts can be divided into fairly simple categories – in this case “daily 15-minute news podcasts” – narrow your list down to one or two favorites and unsubscribe from the rest. Rest assured that the same content will be reviewed; maybe not the same day, but probably the same week. This is true for most review podcasts as well: choose your favorite hosts or opinions you trust the most versus the ones they choose. Their themes tend to overlap, and if you really don’t want to, you don’t have to take the time to listen to seven different groups of people talking about the same bad movie or good book. (The interviews with the authors are particularly egregious. They are like a politician’s cut-off speech … if you’ve heard one or two, you’ve heard them all.)

Remove the lag

Sure, you want to listen to the entire issue of Lifehacker’s The Upgrade (worthy effort), but be realistic: you are not going to do that. It is wise to keep track of the latest catalogs, so remember that new series will appear as well. Instead make a complete cycle, start by downloading a small amount – say, three episodes, the names of which you cause the most interest in – and load more only after you complete them. This is most true for shows with single episodes, but if you are a fan of real crime or other longer formats, apply the same principle accordingly, but be even stricter, for example:

Subscribe to one miniseries at a time

You can watch more than one TV show or read multiple books at the same time, but your podcast is much bulkier than a pretty bookshelf, and here we are in cleanup mode. If you’re listening to a long podcast on real crime, complete it before subscribing to another. And I know what you’re thinking, “What if I forget?” But you won’t. When you’re all passionate about your podcast – a podcast, the equivalent of inbox zero, a truly euphoric state of being – you’ll start looking for new ones and remember the episode you wanted to hear. Or you stumble upon something newer, which might even be better! There is no need for scarcity thinking here; there is a lot of great content and you will get what you need.

Unsubscribe from the finished miniseries

Once the episode is complete, do not hesitate to unsubscribe. Their now defunct channels will only serve as an ad funnel to advertise other online podcasts, or worse, cross-post full episodes of a show you don’t want to hear. You already get enough of this from your daily news podcast (for example, UpFirst NPR provides a non-UpFirst podcast every Sunday). While some may find this helpful(“I was looking for a podcast about red suede!” ), Most of us already know what we like and how to find it, or have reliable sources of advice. You’re already getting enough ads in podcast episodes – you don’t need them in your feed either.

Define your benchmark for bounces

In the recent Update, titled Becoming a Better Reader, we discussed when to quit a book. This question can be applied more broadly to any entertainment that requires more than two hours, including most podcast episodes. So ask yourself, how many episodes should I listen to before I move on to the show? How long am I willing to fight before I quit?

I recommend giving the series no more than three episodes so that you are interested in its hosts, theme and format. If you’re sold, great, click the subscribe button. But if not, don’t subscribe at all or unsubscribe right away. You can always find a podcast later if you want to check out their feed, but chances are you won’t because they didn’t suit you anyway.

And now, with your new clean podcast, the goal is to keep it that way. Save your favorite podcasts and allow yourself to unsubscribe from the ones you don’t like. Your listening will again feel a little more fun than a chore.


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