Podcasts are the new special interest magazines

Detailed, up-to-date and authoritative


I grew up loving magazines. Any time I’d be interested in something, I’d head to the magazine aisle in the bookstore or grocery store and look for magazines on the topic. Computers, cars, boats, science, model railroads, photography, sports, baseball cards, comics, design and more. It didn’t matter what I was interested in, there was at least one magazine on the topic.

Growing up in the pre-internet days, these magazines provided the info I was looking for. Detailed, up-to-date, authoritative info about whatever geeky habits I was interested in. Even the ads were informative and useful. I subscribed to some of them. Others, I’d buy if the main topics that month interested me.

The internet destroyed these publications. The first blow came from blogs. Authoritative people writing about the things they loved that people could read for free. The second blow was Google, which could route you to exactly what you were looking for. For various reasons — mostly related to monetization — the blog revolution failed to really take hold. Google’s search engine algorithm seemed to reward people with better SEO tactics over more authoritative sources. When I search Google for resources today, it’s hard to tell if what I’ve found is up-to-date or reputable. More often than not, I’m led to dated post of questionable origin that barely answers my question.*

I was excited about the introduction of Apple News+. Access to hundreds of magazines for $10 a month. The service is nothing world-changing. I’ve absolutely gotten my money’s worth and will continue to subscribe. Surprisingly, though, I discovered I’d already filled the need for a detailed, up-to-date, authoritative source for my geeky habits: podcasting.

I use podcasts the same way I used special interest magazines as a kid.

If I’m interested in a topic, I find a podcast. Computers, design, photography, business, pens, science fiction, pop culture, sports, meditation and more. I subscribe to many of these podcasts in Overcast, while others I only listen to a few episodes. Even the ads are informative and relevant. Podcasts are how I learn about and explore new topics.

Some people think of podcasting as an evolution of talk radio. Others feel it’s more an audio form of blogging. I suppose I don’t have an issue with either of those opinions, but for me, podcasts serve a vital role as a replacement for the special interest magazine.

* And let’s face it, these sites are covered with annoying ads that make reading the content difficult.

** Overcast is my preferred podcast app. It’s significantly better than the default app and if you haven’t tried it, you really should.

Bob Wertz writes about design, technology and pop culture at Sketchbook B. Bob is a Columbia, South Carolina-based designer, researcher, college instructor, husband and dad. He’s particularly obsessed with typography, the creative process and the tools we use to create. Follow Bob on Instagram.