Why I’ve Stopped Listening to Podcasts at 2x Speed?

After years of listening to podcasts at 2x speed, I share my rationale for why it's best to listen at normal speed.

Why I’ve Stopped Listening to Podcasts at 2x Speed?

Those of you who have been following me for a while will know that I listen to a lot of podcasts. I prefer listening to podcasts while running because I'm learning – it makes my runs feel just that little bit more productive. I tend to lose track of time while listening to an interesting conversation, which also helps me to cover longer distances.

The episode that helped me reached this realisation was the Jamie Foxx interview on the Tim Ferris show. The episode was so good that I often had to pause or rewind parts of the episode to really take in what was being said.

I was fascinated by Jamie describing a party he threw at his home in LA. Pharrell was trying to get people to listen to his music (without much luck), while Jay-Z was described as a quiet, goofy kid in the corner that "nobody would talk to". Neither of them received much attention as they were trying to make their way through the music scene.

Jamie also told a story about how an unknown Ed Sheeran flew over to LA and ended up sleeping on the floor of Jamie's studio for 4 months. Neither Pharrell, Jay-Z nor Ed could have imagined how wildly successful they would become.

So Why Have I Decided to Stop Listening to Podcasts at 2x?

After listening to podcasts at 2x speed for years, it's a little surprising that I decided to quit listening to podcasts (or watching YouTube videos) at 2x speed. My rationale for listening to podcasts at 2x was that the quicker I listened to the episodes, the more content I consumed. In theory, this should mean that I was learning twice as fast and my enjoyment should surely be twice as much? It's only taken me about 3 years to realise the flaw in that logic.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have listened to podcasts at normal speed. This has helped me to realise that I enjoyed them more and I also retain way more information than I did while listening at 2x.

If the reason for listening to a podcast episode at 2x is to try and get through it as fast as possible, it's probably not something worth listening to in the first place. By its very definition, good content is rare. So if it's really good content where I am learning and enjoying the episode I should savour the content and really take in what is being said – not to get through it twice as fast.

If it's not good, I shouldn't waste my time trying to get through it in the first place – this has often been a painful experience in the past, where I have continued to persevere through boring podcast episodes where I have zero interest. The opportunity cost of listening to a bad episode at 2x is huge as there are far too many great content out there.

I also noticed that I often found myself rewinding parts of the episodes that are good to take in the content (thus defeating the purpose of listening to the podcast at 2x). Pausing and rewinding parts of good episodes effectively takes the same time as listening at 1x, I may as well have just listened to them at the normal speed.

We Have an Abundance of Quality Content

Just like there are infinite amounts of good books out there that I would never be able to get through during my lifetime, there are an infinite amount of good podcast episodes out there too – and I will never be able to consume them all during my lifetime. So it's better to be selective and pick out the best ones to listen to at 1x than it is to try and get through average episodes at 2x.

Using this logic, it's clear that listening to a truly great episode over and over again is better than listening to an average episode at 2x.

One of my favourite episodes that I listen to over and over again – I actually listened to it again during my run this morning, is the Knowledge Podcast episode featuring advertising legend, behavioural economics expert and vice-chairman of Ogilvy UK – Rory Sutherland. I won't give any spoilers. Give it a listen and you won't be disappointed.

Bad Episodes are Not Worth Listening to at 2x Speed

If the podcast is actual garbage – and many podcasts are garbage, due to the absence of transaction costs. Anyone can record a podcast and publish it online within the space of 5 minutes, with very little friction or barriers to entry. It's completely free to publish a podcast online, with the only cost being the time invested by the publisher in recording the podcast.

If I'm listening to an episode that I don't feel adds much value, I stop listening to it there and then – there's no point in listening to garbage twice as fast to get through it quicker, hoping that it gets better.

This does mean that I have a lot of unfinished podcast episodes, but I don't mind, because the opportunity cost of listening to them is way too large.

I never say never, but it's highly unlikely that I will ever go back to listening to podcasts at 2x. By listening to content at normal speed, I retain way more of the information and I enjoy the content more. It's a win/win.

It has also helped me to become incredibly selective of the content that I consume – I now only listening to the best of the best (which includes often re-listening to what I have already heard). There's no need to rush – 1x is the way forward.

So there we have it, listening to podcasts at 2x is a thing of the past.

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