Mimesis Law
19 February 2020

The Return of the Podcast People

Apr. 6, 2015 (Mimesis Law) — For a brief and shining moment about ten years ago, podcasts were going to be the next big thing. Then someone blinked and they were pretty much gone.  No tears were shed.

And now they’re back, with a vengeance.  Padawan Keith Lee has done a quick survey and his results suggest that people have either failed to learn from the past or think they’ve got a whole lot more worth hearing than did their predecessors.   These podcasts tend to last from 30 to 60 minutes, which brings me to the burning question:

Do you really think you’re worth that much of other people’s time?

Before some doofus ripostes with, “well, you don’t have to listen,” that’s not the point. Of course no one has to listen, and similarly, nothing said here would prohibit some would-be pod person from podcasting for as long as they please.  But this is the critical meta-view of this trend, lest otherwise nice people take a blind leap off Narcissism Ridge and suffer the brutal landing on the rocks below.

It’s not as if I haven’t given this some thought, as I do a video commentary with some regularity that generally lasts between two to three minutes.  It’s not as if I couldn’t talk longer. I’m a lawyer. I could talk all day. But then, I would be talking to myself, as there would be no chance that anyone else would want to dedicate any more of their life to listen to me.

Do I hope that my two to three minutes of video is worth your time? I do, and I also realize that if I don’t give you a reason to keep listening beyond the first ten seconds, there’s a good chance you will click on the “x” and I’m gone.  As fascinating as I may be to myself, it’s within the range of possibility that others will think differently.

Which leads me to my main question, what makes these pod people think they deserve a half hour, maybe even an hour, of another person’s life?  Perhaps they’re targeting an audience that has no life, nothing else to do so their hour-long podcast fills the empty hours watching their silent phone and playing spider solitaire.  But if they’re aiming a little higher, then what?

Keith has a horse in the race, as he’s started a podcast with another lawyer, Jeena Cho, called the Resilient Lawyer. I clicked on the link to Keith’s first podcast with Jeena, and immediately saw that it ran 1:25:09.  That’s one hour, twenty-five minutes and nine seconds on the subject of lawyers’ mindfulness.  I listened for a grand total of 28 seconds before they lost me.

Having had a lovely lunch with Jeena and her husband Jeff the other day when they were in New York City, it was already fairly clear to me that we didn’t share the same vision of what it means to be a lawyer.  Not to begrudge Jeena’s focus on feelings, but the connection between lawyer happiness and our duty to serve our clients struck me as a bit too tenuous.  Then again, I get a visceral reaction to strings of random happy words that makes me start to twitch.

But then, who cares what I think about the substance of the podcast?  If I’m not the right audience, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t gems in there will be interesting and meaningful to others.  It’s certainly not all about me.

And yet, is it all about them?  Therein lies the dilemma, that this sudden return to podcasts will strike other lawyers with the idea that they, too, should be jumping on the Podcast Express before it leaves them behind.  That sense of missing the next big thing is a hard one for a lot of lawyers to shake off.

The allure of the pod promise is hard to resist. It’s as if spending more than a half hour of your life listening to such luminaries as Elie Mystal and Joe Patrice talking about “Thinking Like A Lawyer,” is a critical step forward in legal pop culture. So what if the two guys whose random musings to show you how to think like a lawyer fled the law after their ten minutes of very hard practice? It’s a podcast, dammit.

Having had the advantage of knowing a bit of the inside baseball poop from some pod people, there is a secret lurking behind their happy voices.  Nobody’s listening. Well, not exactly nobody, but if you subtract mom, the two homeless people and their now-retired third grade teachers, very few others.  What appears to be the case is that this is a dubious exercise in vanity, a way to tell the world that your inner thoughts desperate to break free have won the battle with sound judgment.

So you want to have a podcast?  Your thoughts and feelings are so worthwhile that you expect other people to squander a significant chunk of their life to listening to you wax poetic?  Go for it.  But don’t bother trying to lock up the mindful audience, as Keith and Jeena already own them.  So if you can’t get mindful, what’s left?  Well, there’s always mindless.  Own it, dude.

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