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.

4 Comments

  1. Great point about Gervais’ podcasts. People will only download podcasts if they’re not available anywhere or if they missed them previously.

    With regards to subscribing to shows that have already broadcast on radio, it’s really only the diehard fans and people in PR like myself or media monitoring that would subscribe to them.

    Video blogging will completely outstrip podcasting by 2007. Don’t get me wrong, audio has its uses but podcasting as a medium has been completely over hyped as a medium. It will live on as niche programming and for things like internal communications, but it won’t threaten traditional radio stations.

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  2. Administrator 01/01/2006 at 10:44

    I have my doubts about video blogs, I don’t think they will do much damage to podcasting at all, for a number of reasons;
    1, they have a bigger filesize, which means they are longer to download or upload and they take up more webspace and so can be more expensive to host.
    2, they take more effort for the downloader, so rather than hitting play on their ipod they have to look at it too, something that isn’t easy to do when you’re walking (or sitting on a bus with dodgy people around you!)
    3, they take away the anonymity of the ‘caster, something that the internet has always given to people
    4, they are harder to produce, basic cameras cost more than basic mic’s, and editing software is harder to find and use too.

    Ignoring this I still don’t see it effecting podcasts, I think their fates are their own.
    I agree that podcasting will become a niché unless it is used by traditional radio (and their workers) in a new and unique way. I hope they are, a good radio show/podcast link could help bring listeners on board, not scare them away.

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  3. [...] It was always going to happen but now London’s LBC has started to charge for podcasts. To be fair the full podcasts of their shows were never available, I came across the station when I found The Iain Lee Show Podcast, which consisted of about 15 minutes of the best bits of the day. For an admittedly small £2 a month you can have access to the full length version of most LBC shows, archives of LBC podcasts, Online exclusive shows and special editions of shows also. In my opinion LBC has missed the boat. They’ve done everything that I suggested as regards radio podcasts (extra podcast-only content etc.) but by slapping a fee of any description on the content has ensured that it is alienating thousands of potential listeners and has ensured that the basic ideals of podcasting will not be a mainstream pursuit. I personally would love to hear the full Iain Lee Show, but as a point of principal rather than a point of pennys I refuse to buy it (besides, I can listen live if I’m around my PC at the right time). When LBC drops their Premium podcasts after a lack of interest I hope they realise it’s because of their decision to charge rather than their decision to try something new. [...]

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  4. [...] As I’ve suggested before, radio stations should consider offering un-broadcast extra’s in podcast form rather than just the same show as is available on FM. This could be good content that was dropped due to time constraints (or even censorship fears). Newspapers should consider offering downloadable content or web-only information too. This could be, again, content that was dropped due to space constraints. It could be a piece of music or film which is linked to a review or it could be online sources. But what about the music industry? [...]

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