Episode 12: Information Density



This is Matt Croydon and you are listening to The Tinycast.

I listen to podcasts of every shape and size during my commute to and from work. There are long ones that sometimes take me a couple of days to get through. There are medium sized ones that I listen to as soon as they hit the streets. There’s something special about the short ones though, and that’s usually how I start my commute.

At first I thought it was the sheer length of these podcasts that attracted me but the more I think about it — the more I look at it — I think that I’m drawn to the information density. this is the amount of information conveyed in a particular amount of space or time. My two favorite short and dense podcasts are the NPR: Hourly News Summaray Podcast and the Marketplace Morning Report: First Edition. They’re almost always ready for me hot and fresh as I get on the train.

first let’s look at the NPR News podcast on a typical Monday morning: November 3rd 2014 at 8am Eastern. in four minutes and forty-five seconds this podcast covers the election, One World Trade Center opening for business, Syrian extremists attacking moderate rebels in the province of Idlib, an update on the crash of SpaceShipTwo, a rememberance of Tom Menino, the former mayor of Boston, news of a capsized boat off the cost of Turkey, abnormal weather conditions over the weekend, and an update on a recent lava flow in Hawaii.

Seriously, that’s nuts. That four minutes and forty-five seconds is chock full of information. Not a second is wasted. The facts are delivered rapid fire but it’s not really dry either. The election coverage includes a sound byte from a candidate and a mention of the other major party candidate for balance. The stories from New York, Syria, and Turkey and Maine include reports from the field. The inside baseball term for this is a stand-up.

To be fair, it doesn’t get much denser than that. The Marketplace Morning Report is nowhere near as dense, but it makes up for it by going a little deeper on a couple of stories. On that same Monday morning, the big story was Proctor and Gamble being forced to halt operations in Argentina. Coverage included an interview with Johnathan Fruin. HSBC reported profits, David Broncocchio did the numbers — he played the sad music — and the program ended with an interview with Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and Rajiv Chandrasekaran, co-authors of a new book called For Love of Country: What Our Veterans Can Teach Us About Citizenship, Heroism, and Sacrifice. Schultz has pledged to hire 10,000 veterans and their spouses in the next five years.

All of that in just six minutes and thirty-six seconds.

In deference to density and brevity I think that’s it for today’s tinycast. On the web at tinycast.in, on Twitter @thetinycast. You can also find the show in the iTunes podcast directory or in the Podcasts app on iOS. Episodes are also available at the Public Radio Exchange, PRX.org.