If you are an obsessive podcast listener, you stare at your collection of hundreds (thousands really) of podcast episodes, absolutely paralyzed with indecision about how to organize them all, how to hyper-categorize them into a perfect system.
But, here's a secret – we are all engaged in the grand experiment of podcast categorization and no one knows what the correct answer is. Or, to put it more accurately, everyone thinks they know what the correct answer is.
Well, they're wrong; or to put it more accurately, no one is right. So settle in and get ready for some wisdom on how to organize your podcasts.
- Outsource the tedious critical thinking to a podcasting app that automatically organizes everything for you and accept its final results.
- Organize by activity and then by genre.
- Unleash your inner Marie Kondo.
- Organizing a podcast list is not the same as organizing a book or movie list.
METHOD 1: Outsource all the tedious critical thinking to a podcasting app that automatically organizes everything for you and accept its final results.
Podcast distribution happens in two stages. First, podcast episodes are uploaded into an RSS feed. The RSS feed is then platformed onto podcast apps, web apps, and players. And in the increasingly hyper-competitive podcast platform environment, the platform that provides the greatest flexibility in terms of categories and filters will have a distinct edge over its competitors.
I recommend Pocket Casts. That's it.
When it comes to organizing, Pocket Casts wins thanks to its powerful and customizable filters. You end up with fairly specific topical lists. Just revisit the filters occasionally to tweak them based on your preferences.
(And yes, that's the only app I'm going to recommend. This is a special menu, not a buffet.)
METHOD 2: Organize by activity first.
Our behavior when we consume podcasts is generally very different from our behavior when we consume most other kinds of media.
You have to sit in one place to read a book. You have to look at a movie to watch it, or at a video game to play it.
But we don't listen to podcasts like that. We listen to podcasts when we're driving, exercising, cleaning, or waiting in line. Unlike books and movies, podcasts do not demand our full attention. And that's precisely why we like them.
Podcasts happen in the background as a supplement to something more important and more urgent. That's why the activity that you are supplementing with a podcast is the best category by which to organize.
Say you're exercising. What are you more likely to listen to? Something inspiring and stimulating, or something dry and technical?
When you're hunting for your favorite brand of shampoo at the pharmacy, wouldn't that be the worst time to have a really complicated scientific episode in your ears?
When you're cleaning up around the house, do you want to constantly pause your chores to pick out the next episode because the one you were listening to was too short?
Organize your podcasts by activity, by emotional state, and by company. Then by genre, creator, or topic.
METHOD 3: Unleash your inner Marie Kondo.
And finally, there will come a time when, despite having adopted the methods above, you find that you are still overwhelmed with far too many podcasts and podcast episodes.
If you haven't seen "Tidying Up with Marie Kondo" yet, I sincerely recommend that you do. But the Cliffs Notes version, adapted for podcasts, might go like this:
- Group podcasts or podcast episodes together, either by activity or by topic, as you prefer.
- Keep all the podcasts that "spark joy."
- Say thank you to all the podcasts that do not "spark joy" and then delete them.
- Do this for only one topic or activity at a time; don't start decluttering a new category until you've finished decluttering a previous one.
PRO TIP: Don't try to organize your podcasts the same way that you would organize your movies or your books.
What do books, movies, collectible cards, antique furniture, decorative lights, video games, and clothes have in common with each other that podcasts don't?
Answer: Millennials and Zoomers were not the first generations to grow up with them.
Millennials and Zoomers did not decide how these industries get talked about. We didn't lay down the foundations of discussion for any of these mediums. We didn't establish these cultures.
Rather, we inherited them.
Podcasting is different. While Millennials and Zoomers did not invent the first podcasts, we certainly were the first mass consumers of, and the first mass market for podcasts.
So it falls to us to also be the pioneers of podcast categorization. It would be rather anti-climactic if we were to slap on the same old categories to what is inarguably a phenomenon of our generation.
Unless you only consume one kind of podcast genre, the antiquated system used for books, movies, and the like will not translate well to podcasts.
Let's be original about this.