Update 10/4/11: I stopped listening to Buzz Out Loud several months ago, so did not find out about this when it happened (late September) but Buzz Out Loud is now a weekly show (airing on Thursdays). While a weekly tech show can be interesting (early episodes of TWiT, for example) and enlightening, Molly Wood and Brian Tong aren’t the people to bring an in-depth look at the news. So now in addition to being silly and overly focused on a handful of topics, the show will be dated by the standards of the internet.
New rating: 1/5. Unless you just have extra time to fill on your Friday commute and have run out of podcasts released earlier in the week, don’t bother.
Buzz Out Loud was the second or third podcast I ever listened to, back in 2005, after being referred there by This Week in Tech. I gave it a shot and for years, BOL was a part of my daily routine – I would get to work, and start listening. Any day they didn’t have a show (which was rare) felt off-kilter. The podcasts of late 2005 through mid 2007, when the hosts were Tom Merritt, Molly Wood, and Veronica Belmont (<8), stand far above any others as my favorite podcasts, because of moments like these:
However, those times are gone, so I’ll try to review the Buzz Out Loud of today rather than score out of sentimentality.
This is the first professionally produced podcast I’ve reviewed – it’s recorded in the San Francisco studio of CNet, with tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment and a dedicated producer. As you’d expect, it sounds and looks (looks? It’s both an audio and video podcast, though for the record I subscribe to the audio version) great. Another nice benefit of the deep pockets is that they have an iPhone app through which you can watch their livestream as well as pre-show discussion, and a chatroom where you can talk to hundreds of other viewers. Hosts are distinct and audible (except for, sometimes and ironically, the producer – though that’s an english as second language thing).
The format of the show was the same for several years – talk about news, then take voicemails and emails. The current hosts have added in some ‘segments’, which in general I think are a waste of time; they’re little more than an excuse to play a sound effect prior to talking about stories they would have mentioned anyway. The segments so far are Quick Hits, Gadgets, Science News, and the Feedback Loop. Of the four, Quick Hits is the only one that really makes any difference, and I think it’s a negative one – stories in Quick Hits don’t always get as much discussion as I think they should.
There are 3 hosts, sort of – Molly Wood, Brian Tong, and producer Benito Gonzalez. Molly was one of the original hosts, 6 years ago (although she took a hiatus for a while); Brian and Benito are more recent additions. Benito tends not to say much, which is probably for the best, as if he wasn’t producing he wouldn’t really have the geek credentials to be there. Brian and Molly have a good chemistry – but it’s a bit 16-year-old-boy sometimes, in both energy and content. I find myself missing old host Tom Merritt, who was calm, measured, and more likely to make a joke with a reference to an obscure event in history than to sex.
I also find myself yearning for the good old days when it comes to content. The show has become heavily weighted toward Facebook and Apple news. I have an iPhone, so I’m not an Apple hater; but I think devoting several times as much news coverage to a company as it has in the PC market is a bit silly. Facebook, on the other hand, I don’t use, and find it annoying that the hosts constantly complain about Facebook’s attitude toward privacy but continue to use it, and to talk about it more frequently than ever.
Many of the stories not related to those two companies are stuck in the segments, and get only a brief discussion at best. They also often skip stories, even mentioning that they’re doing so on air, which is extremely frustrating.
In short, unless all you care about is Facebook and Apple, Buzz Out Loud cannot be relied upon as your sole source of tech news. It can be fun to listen to, but the quality tech news has suffered for the frivolity.
It pains me to do this…