Lex Conant is a long-haul truck driver and a voracious podcast consumer. This is how Lex listens.
You’re a long-haul truck driver. What is your route?
My homebase is central Indiana, and my route takes me anywhere from 600 to 700 miles from there. I feel like I’m almost always in Pennsylvania, but I also make it to Virginia, South Carolina, and other places. It all depends on where people need stuff.
When did you start listening to podcasts?
I started listening to podcasts in 2010 or 2011 when I either found out that Penn Jillette had a podcast, or the first time I heard something about him being a guest on Nerdist. Before that, I’d listen to the radio pretty much all day — mostly a lot of talk radio, often sports, or satellite radio.
What app do you use to listen, and why?
I use Apple Podcasts, because it’s easy to navigate while driving (and came preinstalled on my phone).
How many hours a week do you drive — and of those, how often are you listening to a podcast?
Realistically I listen for 9 or 10 hours a day, which is pretty much the entire time I’m driving. Sometimes I’ll listen to music, but not very often.
Does the nature of your job influence the type of show you gravitate to? For example, since you’re in the car so many hours a week, do you tend to pick longform shows where you get a lot of content per episode?
Yeah, I was just telling someone that when I see a half hour show it’s too short for me. Not that I won’t listen, but I prefer longer ones.
How have you found some of your favorite shows?
I tend to follow people around a little bit. If I hear someone interesting on a show, then I’ll click to see what else they were a guest on. Then I’ll hunt and peck and find other things as well. Occasionally I’ll struggle to find something to listen to, but not often.
If I want news I’ll go to NPR’s app, because it’ll play headlines and recaps and eventually full shows. When I find a podcast I like in NPR’s app, then I’ll subscribe in Apple Podcasts.
How many shows do you actively listen to at a time?
There’s probably a total of 15 to 20 shows that I subscribe to, but I don’t necessarily listen to every one of them. Of those, there are 6 or 8 that they minute they drop I’ll stop whatever I’m doing and listen.
Briefly describe how you decide what to listen to on a given day.
I usually decide based on the hosts — people that I know I like to listen to — or a topic I’m really interested in. Generally, anything that’s conversational and doesn’t sound too much like “traditional” radio is usually more appealing to me. I like listening to podcasts where people sit around talking and ad libbing.
Are there any times you’ll choose terrestrial radio over podcasts?
I’ll choose terrestrial radio for traffic updates, but that’s really it. Terrestrial radio just isn’t as appealing as it once was. I’m 45, so going to high school in the 80s I had radio DJs I’d listen to who’d play music. Now, what I want from terrestrial radio I can get from Apple Music.
With radio, other than with a few exceptions, as a driver you may only pick it up for an hour. But with podcasts, you can take the content with you no matter how far you travel. (Satellite does travel with you, but podcasts are on-demand).
I know you don’t speak for all long-haul drivers, but do you get the sense that podcasts are more and more a part of the listening diet?
I would assume so. I know CB culture has basically evaporated — I have a CB, but I recently had to look up to see if it was on, whereas it used to be there was constant chatter on the CB, almost like trucker talk radio. But I think the cell phone has started to kill that, as have podcasts.
Do you download or stream?
I have unlimited data almost specifically for podcasts — but having said that, I prefer to download and then listen because I sometimes go through dead zones with no service.
Tell me something about trucking that I don’t know.
I think trucking is a lot more diverse than people realize. In addition to a good representation of the “classic” Southern white middle-aged male driver who listens to Howard Stern, there is also more racial diversity and gender diversity than you might think.
I’m married and have a kid; I would much rather be at home than on the road, but this is the job that will make me the most money. I’ve told a lot of people in their early 20s that if you don’t mind not being at home and want to see the country, it’s a decent way to make a living. You’re never gonna get rich but you’re not going to go broke, either.
Want more Lex? He’s reviving a podcast that he used to host with his wife where they discussed atheism. The rebooted version will be Lex talking to people in his life; it’s called My Friend Lex.