The cool kids don’t listen to This American Life anymore.
That sweeping statement isn’t accurate, but has more of a ring of truth to it in Europe than the US.
Why? Because when you’ve heard one TAL, you’ve heard 90% of them – explaining why they get most kudos these days for commissioning musicals, pushing the boat out past their regular, rigid, format. And that’s the keyword – format.

The same 1 episode = 90% of episodes rule applies to other programmes of course – Too Much Information from WFMU, Broadcasting House from BBC Radio 4 for instance. Radio programmes, which you’ll tune into every Sunday morning because of the predictability. There’s a known quality.
Yet that predictability, comfortable on the radio box in the bedroom, can dip into turn-off territory when a little blue dot on-screen says “take another hour out of your life for something you already know”. Sure it helped me click
“subscribe” in iTunes, but it can push you away.
Either the stories need to be strong enough, or the format soft enough, to keep people committed.

And when I say “people”, I mean vaguely grumpy radio theorists like me. Because as it happens, tonnes of cool kids still listen to This American Life, even outside the US.

I wonder though do many podcast listeners over here listen at a fixed point every week? The Tuesday commute, or last thing Sunday, etc.

Are we using these big-name shows as beautiful wallpaper? And if so, why not try something with more auditory craft, such as the ABC’s offerings? The use of sound rather than structure can be a more invigorating wallpaper, with less effort from you as the listener.

So, the personal opinionated part: don’t particularly like TAL (I find it sneery) or the ABC features (I find them pretentious). But the ABC stuff riles me as a cynical exercise less. I generally avoid both but am perhaps trying to make my peace with both by writing this!