Friday, July 10, 2009

Ears vs. Eyes: Learning to Love Podcasts

I am a visual person. I remember faces and I remember names, but I can’t always put them together again. I often find the very act of making a list allows me to remember what I need, even though the list gets left in the car. I can still see what I have written in my mind.

The popularity of audio books escapes me. I read fast, and I process things so much easier by seeing them than by hearing them. A multi-chapter book would require a recap at the start of each commuter session (or a long enough trip to listen to the whole book in one session).

A couple of years ago, I won an Ipod Nano. I quickly transferred a bunch of CDs and set up my Itunes account. I am not fond of listening through headphones, but my new car has a Ipod jack. The podcast, however, has only recently gotten my attentitunes_logo20080909ion.

Other faculty have been creating podcasts that physicians can download to answer specific questions. I didn’t get it, because I wouldn’t remember what I listened to long enough to benefit (see first two paragraphs). I far prefer to access an online “written” reference, especially if its presentation is friendly for my BlackBerry screen. Other physicians began downloading these short updates, though, and they still seem to be popular.

Now I have become a podcast personality. ASN Kidney News, the magazine I edit, started producing these with the May issue. I chat with the author(s) of something in the magazine, and we post it on the ASN web site and in Itunes. I was thrilled when the first one was downloaded more than 700 times. After all, kidneys are a niche audience. We just posted the second Kidney News podcast; in 10 days it has received >4,000 unique visits and >12,000 total visits!


I have also wandered around the Itunes store to see what other podcasts are out there. I am especially delighted to find my favorite NPR shows. I often miss Fresh Air on my local station; now I subscribe and listen the next morning at work (or on my way home in the car, if I have to do something away from my desk)! For the past year, I have planned Saturday morning rounds so I could hear as much of Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me as possible. If you haven’t tried this WaitWaitone, you do not know what you are missing; it is roll-on-the-floor, pee-your-pants funny. While this level of humor has, on occasion, proved problematic while driving, it is always appreciated. Now my patients don’t have to “wait, wait” while I laugh!

I still don’t remember as much of what I hear as what I read or see. I do appreciate what podcasts can do for the world, though.

By the way, I am a member of KIOS, the Omaha NPR station. Have you joined your local NPR affiliate?

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