Meet The People Who Listen to Podcasts Crazy-Fast

Rachel Kenny began listening to podcasts in 2015 — in addition to also quickly fell behind. “As I began subscribing to more in addition to also more podcasts, they began stacking up, in addition to also I couldn’t keep up at normal speed,” the 26-year-old data scientist in Indianapolis told BuzzFeed News. “I also had to listen to the backlist of all the podcasts when I subscribed to them.” So Kenny began listening faster: first at 2x, then she worked her way up to 3x. She stopped only because “in which’s just as fast as the Downcast app allows.” She estimates in which she listens to a few to seven hours of podcasts a day (which equals 15 to 21 hours at normal speed), “so maybe 20 to 40 episodes a day or 100 to 250 a week,” she said. She tracks her listening habits on a spreadsheet.

Kenny’s listening habits may be extreme, nevertheless she’s not alone. Meet the podfasters, a subset of podcast obsessives who listen to upward of 50 episodes a week, by, like Kenny, listening extremely fast. They’re an exclusive group: According to Marco Arment, creator of the Overcast podcast app, only around 1% of Overcast listeners use speeds of 2x or higher. (An app called Rightspeed, which costs $2.99, allows you to listen at up to 10x.)

Podcast consumers listen to an average of a few podcasts per week, according to a recent study, which seems like a nice, manageable number: enough time to listen to a true crime podcast or two, a long comedy podcast, maybe a dash of politics. nevertheless for some people, in which’s just not enough: Over 20% of podcast consumers listen to more than six per week, in addition to also podfasters — well, they listen to a lot more.


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Rachel Kenny listening to a podcast in her car.

You could read these tendencies as a symptom of our sped-up culture, of a listening population too impatient or distracted to listen to anything for longer than, say, half an hour. nevertheless also, within the same way in which peak TV in addition to also streaming has led to a culture of bingeing shows, we’re today in peak podcast — there are a lot of Great shows, in addition to also not enough time to listen to them.

nevertheless in conversations with people who listen at speeds higher than 2x, the idea became clear in which many podfasters are above all, completists. in which will be, they have an almost obsessive need to listen to every episode of a podcast in which they decide to commit to.

Take 34-year-old Jason Strickland, who works for a land surveyor in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He listens to around eight hours of podcasts at work every day, in addition to also listened at normal speed until he came upon the Movies By Minutes series of podcasts, which analyzes iconic movies minute-by-minute. (In various other words, every episode will be devoted to one minute of a movie.) When he found the idea, the hosts had already completed the original Star Wars trilogy, which was 378 episodes, plus a few special episodes, so he began downloading 50 episodes at a time in addition to also listening at 2x speed. “the idea took about a month per movie to get caught up,” he said, explaining in which he would certainly listen to whatever podcasts were on his current listening list within the morning, in addition to also then power through the Movies By Minutes episodes within the afternoons. “Once I was current, I would certainly then go find another show to download in addition to also get caught up, repeating in which for all the shows.”

“I have often, when finding out about a brand new podcast that has a large back catalog, made myself a 100-hour-plus playlist to catch up.”

Sam Borley, a 28-year-old charity shop worker in Felixstowe, England, listens to his 56 weekly podcasts at different speeds, calibrating each one depending on the content in addition to also how fast or slow the hosts speak, though he said he listens to most at speeds between 2x in addition to also 3x. Like Kenny, when he finds a brand new podcast, he makes a point of listening to the entire back catalog. “I have often, when finding out about a brand new podcast that has a large back catalog, made myself a 100-hour-plus playlist to catch up, in addition to also then set my favorites to automatically jump the queue in addition to also play next so I can catch up on some without falling behind on others,” he said. “The Joe Rogan Experience, for example — the idea’s up to nine hours a week of content, so the idea would certainly be hard enough to keep up with in which one alone if not listening at faster speed.”

Laura McCavera, a second-year medical student in Vegas, said she began out listening to her medical school lectures at faster speeds before using the practice with podcasts as well. When she starts a brand new podcast, she begins at normal speed “to get a sense of the cadence, in addition to also then I increase the idea as necessary,” maxing out at 2.5x. She compared listening to a sped-up podcast to skimming a book, explaining in which podcasts are easier than lectures to listen to casually, “so the idea’s less stressful to try to make sure you get every word.”

Podcast producers in addition to also hosts were mixed on their feelings about podfasters. Georgia Hardstark, who cohosts the Apple Podcasts top 25 My Favorite Murder podcast with fellow comedian Karen Kilgariff (tagline: stay sexy, don’t get murdered), said the idea doesn’t bother her: “Everyone’s brain works at a different pace so the idea doesn’t worry me. Plus each person listens to a podcast for a different reason, so if they’re just looking for information in addition to also not humor, then they won’t be missing anything.” She added in which she personally listens to some podcasts at a slower speed when she’s trying to fall asleep.

Gina Delvac, the producer of Call Your Girlfriend, in which long-distance best friends Ann Friedman in addition to also Aminatou Sow catch up weekly about women’s issues, said she understood how someone would certainly listen to CYG at a faster speed. “the idea’s loose, the idea’s conversational, the idea’s meant to feel free-flowing. nevertheless for some programs I’ve worked on, or if you think about people who do actually densely produced stuff, there’s a whole experience in which’s built around in which kind of audio experience.” She added, “I don’t have hate because I’m very intrigued by how people decide to consume what we make.”

Some podcast apps include a feature in which automatically gets rid of pauses, which Delvac will be more conflicted about. “There are kinds of intentional storytelling where you put a pause in there for a reason.”

nevertheless Eric Eddings, host of The Nod, feels in which sped-up listening will be unequivocally bad. “I don’t think the idea should ever happen,” said Eddings, who used to host the today-ended podcast For Colored Nerds. “The shows I’ve worked on have all been actually sound- in addition to also music-rich. in addition to also you’re just fundamentally gonna miss in which if you’re listening at even 1.5.” He recalled the first story he ever produced, about some men through his mother’s hometown in Louisiana. “the idea was just stacked with things in which would certainly not work at 1.5 speed. You have all these elderly Southern men recounting their life, which will be actually serious in addition to also intense. On top of in which, we had sound effects in addition to also scoring music coming in. We took a song through in which meeting in which happened within the ’70s in addition to also slowed the idea down in addition to also built the idea into the episode. My soul dies when I think of somebody listening to in which at 1.5 or 2.”


AJ Mast for BuzzFeed News

Rachel Kenny increasing the playback speed of a podcast.

In June, Apple announced in which the idea would certainly be opening up its analytics to allow podcast producers to be able to see just how many people were listening to their podcasts — including how many of them were skipping over the ads. Many podcast ads are direct response — in which will be, they give you a code to use for a discount on a product — so in which has, until today, been the best way in which advertisers could measure the effectiveness of their ads. nevertheless if people are listening to podcasts at very fast speeds, does in which diminish their value to advertisers?

Lex Friedman, chief revenue officer for Midroll Media, a large podcast ad network in addition to also owner of the Earwolf network of podcasts, said no — in addition to also in fact, podfasters could potentially be more valuable to advertisers because they may be less likely to skip ads. Friedman himself listens to podcasts at 1.8x. “I think people like me are less likely to skip ads because they’re wasting less time when they’re listening,” he said. He added in which he’s never heard an advertiser complain about podfasters. “I actually do genuinely believe in which if the idea’s having any effect on ads, the idea’s doing them more likely to be heard. today they’ll pay attention to the ads. I don’t think the idea harms the ads’ efficacy.”

In fact, according to behavioral neuroscientist Stephen Porges, because recordings played at higher speeds are at a higher pitch, they are actually easier to hear. Low frequency noises, like street noise, vacuum cleaners, or airplanes get within the way of our understanding of people talking; by playing podcasts at a higher speed, the listener will be creating a greater acoustic differentiation between the words in addition to also lower-frequency background noises. According to Porges, the muscles within the middle ear help to dampen low frequency sound so we can hear speech more clearly — nevertheless if we don’t exercise those muscles (by, say, not having much human interaction), then they don’t work as well. Thus, listening to things at a higher frequency, in addition to also speed, could be helpful.


Megan Mack for BuzzFeed News

Rabbi Mordechai Lightstone listening to a podcast on the walk home through work.

in which makes sense to Josh Winn, a 38-year-old podfaster in San Diego who listens at 2.3x in addition to also incorporates a total of 184 podcast feeds in his Overcast app. Though he can today hear perfectly, he was born mostly deaf in addition to also learned to speak with limited hearing — which meant, he said, in which his speaking was “fairly unintelligible to most folks.” When he was in high school, his parents gave him an audio course through a personal development company as a form of informal speech therapy, in which the instructor said in which speaking slowly will be actually bad for listener comprehension. When he began listening to podcasts, he recalled in which course. “Because I was able to slowly test faster in addition to also faster podcast speeds, I was able to gradually adjust until the speed became too rapid for me to comfortably listen in addition to also follow. I knew the idea was too fast when I had to rewind a bit to catch what was said, or to understand the nuance of meanings,” he said.

Neuroscientist Uri Hassan, whose Hassan Lab at Princeton studies brain responses to real-life events, has studied how the brain processes sped-up speech. He pointed out in which even at normal speed, most people don’t catch every single word in which’s being said. “If you make the idea one-third faster, the idea’s almost perfect — they don’t lose a lot,” he said. He also noted in which the brain will be able to easily adapt to different speaking speeds. “Your brain responses become slower when I speak slowly, in addition to also brain responses become faster when I speak faster.” nevertheless, he cautioned, comprehension starts to break down around 2x, in addition to also at 3x “the idea actually breaks down.”

There’s one exception to in which, though: blind people. “Because they are so used to only listening, they can speed the idea up faster than sighted people,” Hassan said. “They’re actually trained.”

Rabbi Mordechai Lightstone, who does social media for Chabad in addition to also runs an organization with his wife Chana called Tech Tribe, had perhaps the most philosophical view of speed listening. (He listens to the 75 podcasts in his feed at 2.8x.) When asked how he decided to enhance his speed, he responded, “There’s a concept in which whenever you’re striving to do something brand new, whatever will be hard today, in which’s what you should try to do. Then when you become complacent in addition to also comfortable in which’s a sign in which the idea’s time to move on,” he said. “I’m applying in which concept on a spiritual level. As soon as I could actually hear what’s going on, I would certainly inch the idea up a little bit. Just keep on moving the idea, more in addition to also more.” ●

Doree Shafrir will be a senior tech writer for BuzzFeed News in addition to also will be based in Los Angeles.

Contact Doree Shafrir at doree@buzzfeed.com.

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