Podcast people's memories work differently

Listeners and creators have completely different memories than non-podcast people

If you’ve been listening to lots of podcasts for awhile, they’ve become part of your life. They shape the way you approach your day and they shape your memories.

Welcome to the #vanlife of podcast publications, where the writing is casual and the sense of adventure is high. Usually we park the van somewhere interesting, but this week we’ll just stay on the road so we can keep listening to pods. For both listeners and creators, podcasts worm their way into the highlight reels of your life so deeply, I thought it’d be fun to spend time thinking about how.

A place marker

In a time before #vanlife was a thing. I was driving on this Western Colorado stretch of road in my black 2004 BMW 3-series.

Looking out at the canyons and listening to music, my mind started to conjure up images of another canyon in Southern California. I got an uneasy feeling like there was someone, a latino man, hurt. Why? Where were these vague visions coming from?

They were images and emotions my mind manufactured while I listened to The Tortilla Curtain a few years before on the same stretch of highway.

That was the first time I noticed these audio place marker memories. Since then I have worked to develop these connections so that I associate certain podcasts or books with stretches of road or trails. Going back to those places is the surest way to remember the story.

I-70 in Eastern Utah will always surface thoughts of Broken: Jeffrey Epstein. I got so swept up in the story that I forgot to look at the gas gauge. Now I know that after my gas gauge counts down to zero remaining miles, there are still two secret gallons and 50 miles of heart attack panic highway driving in the tank.

An unscripted record of your life

If you make a podcast on a regular cadence for awhile—maybe a year, and if you talk about things that are important to you during that podcast, especially if some part of what you say is unscripted, you are creating a trove of memories.

I’ve listened back to a few episodes of Mobycast, and there’s a not-recommended section at the beginning of many of them where we told each other what we had been up to that week. Whether our listeners appreciated the vanilla banter is doubtful, but listening back brings the days I recorded the episodes into full color. I can remember the things I was thinking about, what I had eaten, conversations I had with my wife and kids, and the feelings I was having about life, my company, and my family all as if they were much more recent.

If you’re a podcaster, and you have these records, you should treat yourself to them sometime. For some reason, they are more effective at letting me relive a moment of my life than either photos or the short videos that pepper my iPhoto.

A friend that you only know for awhile

Who were your pandemic friends? What percentage of them were podcast hosts? Mine were Alex and PJ from Reply All. I listened to every episode as those early days got weirder and scarier.

You probably have other shows that have come and gone and you’ll forever associate them with a time in your life. The hosts got their own drawer in your thoughts and your memories.

The older we get, the more this will happen. Someday I’ll look back at early 2021 as my Climbing Gold phase.

A reference point for personal growth

Finally, one more for podcasters. You know how podcasting has changed you. You can hear the difference in your voice, you can feel your confidence to be able to ad lib and bring energy to a conversation. Now there’s the part of your life before podcasting and the part of your life since podcasting. It doesn’t happen after episode one, and maybe not even by episode 10, but somewhere in your first few dozen episodes you change, and forever after you can connect every memory in your life to whether it was before or after that change.

Two more things:

1) Don’t you want your show to be better? Better shows get more listeners. One hundred percent of members have said we’ve helped them make their show better.

Help me make my show better

2) We have a new episode of Timber—Stories for Podcasters. This is the tale of Paul MM Cooper’s highly crafted history podcast Fall of Civilizations.

Here’s the Apple link. And the Spotify one is below.

Thanks for being in the van with me this week! Talk to you next week.


—Jon Christensen