• Where now for podcasting?

    Piaras Kelly raises an interesting question about the future of Podcasting in his latest blog, that which was so hyped in the year almost gone.
    Like most new creations that receive massive hype, Podcasting, while constantly growing, has failed to prove itself as a challenger to the throne that Radio has held for so long but was it ever really a threat?
    Going back to the point I raised in a previous post about social media and citizen journalism, podcasting is more likely to become a tool of traditional media rather than an enemy. In fact it already is, at this minute 7 out of the 25 top podcasts for today on the iTunes chart are regular radio shows, and that chart includes video podcasts in it too.
    What Podcasting offers, like blogging, is a way for anyone to get their views heard or get their hobbies discussed online. This isn’t re-inventing the wheel it’s just making it easier for the public to use it. For one thing, podcasting didn’t make home recording equipment cheaper, the general music market and technological advancements did.
    2006 will be an important year for Podcasting, though. This coming year is likely to decide the fate of this new tool, will it be a flash in the pan or will it fade away once the buzz has passed. There is an awful lot that Podcasting has to offer that hasn’t been exploited yet, as Piaras himself points out. The fact that big radio companies had adopted the idea was a great boost to the movement at first, but now it threatens to stagnate the whole podcasting industry by making it no more than a TiVo system for radio. What podcasting needs is innovation. Ricky Gervais’ podcast has helped bring attention to the new way of thinking and is a baby step towards positive growth. Gervais’ podcast is something that you cannot get anywhere else, but that the general public actually wants to hear. It has proven that non-techwise people are happy to try podcasting when there is something new to experience. Why don’t, for example, existing radio shows feature podcasts of extended interviews, or entirely new content that couldn’t be aired due to time restraints or watershed issues? Imagine listening to your favorite current affairs show and knowing that an interview was cut short because it had to fit into a designated time slot; wouldn’t you be delighted to be able to listen to the whole thing? Howard Stern has recently agreed to a multimillion dollar deal from Sirius satellite radio so he can air his shows without FCC interference, but what about those shock-jocks that can’t command such a contract? Couldn’t they air an unfiltered version of their show online?
    There will never not be niché podcasting, the low cost means that shows can command tiny audiences and there will always be people who are happy to work on such shows for free because of their passion. It is vital, however, that the big players use Podcasting to its full advantage to ensure the evolution of the movement and to ensure that they are drawing in all aspects of the market. If the general public become more acquainted to the term Podcast it will be easier for the amateurs to get access to people and places that would have ignored them before. The longer radio stations feature podcasts as a throw-away side bar feature of their operation the harder it will be for the hobbyist ‘casters to gain credibility for their art.