James Cridland, editor of the Podnews daily newsletter, advocates using tools to increase listening time. While he uses the Castro app to create a listening queue, Cridland prefers Pocket Casts for syncing shows among multiple devices, such as his desktop, car, phone, and smart speakers. “It knows where you’ve gone up to and what you’ve listened to” as you move between devices, Cridland says. Apple and Android watches’ sensible controls can conveniently start and stop podcasts from your wrist, set the speed, and activate other features, notes Cridland. Collins, the super user who devotes half the day to podcasts, listens on multiple devices, including his Xbox via Spotify.
Cridland also recommends the voice-boost function (sometimes labeled volume boost) available on many apps, to smooth out the volume for voices, making them easier to hear if a guest is quieter than a host.
Some apps can trim silences and cut intros to make shows shorter. To skip ads, set fast-forward for 30 seconds or 15 seconds based on the duration of that show’s commercials—some apps will allow you to customize not just your feed but specific podcasts.
Finally, in some apps, you can track your listening stats for a sense of accomplishment or as bragging fodder on Reddit.
Get Up to Speed
Ross Malaga, who teaches information technology at Montclair State University in New Jersey, listens at double speed to wade through all the episodes on his phone. Malaga will revert to normal speed when his wife or two children are in the car. “They can’t stand to listen to stuff fast,” Malaga says. “It bugs them, so I step it down, but it sounds really slow to me.”
There’s no denying the results of podfasting—listening at a speed faster than 1X. Play a show at 2X to cut the time in half, allowing you to listen to another episode or do something else entirely. But listening at 1.5X or 2X speed has drawn derision and lament, especially from podcast hosts and producers.
“Oh my God, that makes me so mad,” says Zomorodi. “We make things a certain speed so you feel a certain emotion.” Zomorodi says no one would quicken an episode of The Office. “You can’t speed up Jim’s look when Dwight says something dumb to him. No. It has to exist in real time, which is the same as podcasts. I think people are kidding themselves,” she says.
For those who want to accelerate their listening, start slow and increase the speed in 10 percent or 25 percent increments. “When that sounds normal to you, increase the speed,” advises Malaga. “You go to the fastest speed where you can still comprehend and it’s still enjoyable.” Also, choose the right app: Apple Podcasts frustrates some podfasters by offering only 1.5X or 2X ,while other apps allow listeners to increase speed by 0.1X, or 10 percent, increments.
Just be aware of the limitations. Uri Hasson, a professor in neuroscience and psychology at Princeton University, says the brain adapts to the speed of the incoming words, to a point. “You cannot squeeze a one-hour talk to five minutes. No one can do it,” he says.
Listening at a slightly faster speed can force the user to focus and be more attentive, says Hasson, noting 25 percent faster, or 1.25X, is probably fine for most people. He says the acceptable speed depends on many factors: the amount of training at the higher speed, how attentive the listener is, the age of the listener (younger people can listen faster, generally), how noisy the room is, how familiar the listener is with the host’s voice, whether host is speaking in the listener’s native language, whether the host has an accent. “There are many, many parameters,” Hasson says. “So it is important to understand the limitations and benefits and context and training.”