Agree to Disagree: A Call for More Open Debate in Podcasts.

When I'm listening to a podcast, I usually imagine myself in the room with the participants, conversing with them in my head; I take their viewpoints and compare them with my own, arriving at a conclusion not unlike that which you might have with real life group of people.  I don't agree with everyone's point of view, but that's only to be expected. I usually have a better time when I'm debating with someone's points than I do when I agree with them.
This metaphysical experience works best when the breadth of perspectives that a podcast can provide creates genuine discussion on a topic, and when those opinions are as varied as possible. What I've found is that variety of expressed opinions on a podcast is in fact the exception, when it should be the norm.

I won't go so far as to say that most people on podcasts all come from similar podcasts or share the same opinions on everything, because it's not true. The problem comes from the confrontation that comes with disagreement; if someone has something to say that disagrees with the rest of the group, they'd better be able to back it up right then and there. Contrast this with writing, where you have all the time in the world to compose your argument. Though many people share different opinions on many topics, if you fail at verbalizing your point of view effectively, you might end up looking foolish.

But when debate works, it benefits everyone. The 1UP Yours podcast was at its best when Luke Smith and Shane Bettenhausen bickered at length over Sony and Microsoft's strategy for the current generation. Though the arguments tended to get very juvenile at times, it was worth the gripes to listen to both sides of an argument rather than a boring consensus. My favorite episode of the Giant Bombcast is the 2008 Game of the Year episode, in which the bashed heads in order to decide what game was most worthy of the title. Though I didn't necessarily agree with their final decision, the logical discussion that lead up to the result was enabled me to accept their choice.

It's difficult to force people into discussion they'd rather not venture into, especially when the people you're podcasting with are close friends. The arguments you have in a recording booth undoubtedly spill over outside. But this type of discussion is valuable to both the people in the discussion and the listener. For the listener, it allows them to "participate" in the conversation vicariously through a person whose opinion on the matter they share. When everyone is in strict agreement without much debate, those who don't agree feel "left out" of the conversation because they can't relate.

Providing a wider range of opinions -- whether they agree or not -- lets more people feel like they're in the conversation. If a listener feels as though the podcast never ever shares their opinion, they're less likely to listen to that podcast regularly. It's fun to disagree with someone every once in a while, but when you simply can't see where a particular group is coming from, it's difficult to debate futilely for a long time. If you can manage having members who appeal to several audiences, you have a greater chance of having more people listen to what you have to say as an individual and as a group.

It's a difficult problem to address, honestly. If your podcast lacks variety, should you just have someone on because they're likely to disagree with you? Perhaps, but it's runs the risk of coming as though you're only having that person on to boost ratings. Discussions have to flow naturally, and if you can manage honest debate about a topic that can provide new insight to both the listeners and the participants, it ends up being better entertainment for everyone.

7 Comments
7 Comments
Posted by Flabbergastrate

When I'm listening to a podcast, I usually imagine myself in the room with the participants, conversing with them in my head; I take their viewpoints and compare them with my own, arriving at a conclusion not unlike that which you might have with real life group of people.  I don't agree with everyone's point of view, but that's only to be expected. I usually have a better time when I'm debating with someone's points than I do when I agree with them.
This metaphysical experience works best when the breadth of perspectives that a podcast can provide creates genuine discussion on a topic, and when those opinions are as varied as possible. What I've found is that variety of expressed opinions on a podcast is in fact the exception, when it should be the norm.

I won't go so far as to say that most people on podcasts all come from similar podcasts or share the same opinions on everything, because it's not true. The problem comes from the confrontation that comes with disagreement; if someone has something to say that disagrees with the rest of the group, they'd better be able to back it up right then and there. Contrast this with writing, where you have all the time in the world to compose your argument. Though many people share different opinions on many topics, if you fail at verbalizing your point of view effectively, you might end up looking foolish.

But when debate works, it benefits everyone. The 1UP Yours podcast was at its best when Luke Smith and Shane Bettenhausen bickered at length over Sony and Microsoft's strategy for the current generation. Though the arguments tended to get very juvenile at times, it was worth the gripes to listen to both sides of an argument rather than a boring consensus. My favorite episode of the Giant Bombcast is the 2008 Game of the Year episode, in which the bashed heads in order to decide what game was most worthy of the title. Though I didn't necessarily agree with their final decision, the logical discussion that lead up to the result was enabled me to accept their choice.

It's difficult to force people into discussion they'd rather not venture into, especially when the people you're podcasting with are close friends. The arguments you have in a recording booth undoubtedly spill over outside. But this type of discussion is valuable to both the people in the discussion and the listener. For the listener, it allows them to "participate" in the conversation vicariously through a person whose opinion on the matter they share. When everyone is in strict agreement without much debate, those who don't agree feel "left out" of the conversation because they can't relate.

Providing a wider range of opinions -- whether they agree or not -- lets more people feel like they're in the conversation. If a listener feels as though the podcast never ever shares their opinion, they're less likely to listen to that podcast regularly. It's fun to disagree with someone every once in a while, but when you simply can't see where a particular group is coming from, it's difficult to debate futilely for a long time. If you can manage having members who appeal to several audiences, you have a greater chance of having more people listen to what you have to say as an individual and as a group.

It's a difficult problem to address, honestly. If your podcast lacks variety, should you just have someone on because they're likely to disagree with you? Perhaps, but it's runs the risk of coming as though you're only having that person on to boost ratings. Discussions have to flow naturally, and if you can manage honest debate about a topic that can provide new insight to both the listeners and the participants, it ends up being better entertainment for everyone.

Posted by TurboMan

One podcast that was absolutely amazing on this was the original lineup for 1UP Yours. Of course Shane was on Team Playstation and Luke was on Team Xbox, and Garnett would always play devils advocate to challenge the others if it seemed unanimous..... I miss that show...

Posted by ThatFrood

I don't want the dudes to feel forced to do anything in particular. I would like it I guess if Ryan didn't cut stuff off so quickly, but I guess that is necessary for the bombcast to be orderly and progress forward at a reasonable pace.

Posted by ZanzibarBreeze

I agree, but this suits some shows better than others.

Posted by natetodamax
@ThatFrood said:
"

I don't want the dudes to feel forced to do anything in particular. I would like it I guess if Ryan didn't cut stuff off so quickly, but I guess that is necessary for the bombcast to be orderly and progress forward at a reasonable pace.

"
Ryan is the host, and if he didn't cut stuff off the Bombcast would be hours longer than it usually is.
Posted by Supermarius

the 2008 game of the year podcast was maybe my least favorite GB podcast. The argument got a little uncomfortable to listen to and in the end noone really changed their mind. They just agreed to go with GTA4 to end it. It was clearly not brad's favorite game and i dont think it was Jeff's either. He just knew that the games he really liked that year, like burnout paradise, didnt have a shot at consensus. And i believe Vinny wanted Dead Space initially but that was shot down super fast.  Honestly i think they should just talk about their personal top 5's and then vote at the end, with a runoff if necessary because of a tie. Its not interesting to me to hear 2 or 3 people slowly wear another person down until they give up. False consensus is not a consensus and its unreasonable in the first place to think that a writing staff with such diverse tastes would have a unanimous favorite.
 
Honestly in the real world, arguments about opinion-based topics is nearly pointless. People seldom change their minds and it causes ill will if the conversation gets too heated. This is why formal debates have judges or moderators, because people dont change their minds.

Posted by ThatFrood
@natetodamax said:
" @ThatFrood said:
"

I don't want the dudes to feel forced to do anything in particular. I would like it I guess if Ryan didn't cut stuff off so quickly, but I guess that is necessary for the bombcast to be orderly and progress forward at a reasonable pace.

"
Ryan is the host, and if he didn't cut stuff off the Bombcast would be hours longer than it usually is. "

right, like I said, reasonable pace and all that. I see why it's necessary.