How Apple will change everything about Podcasting, #4 — They’ll make it simple.

How Apple will change everything about Podcasting, #4 — They’ll make it simple.

(Note:
This is #4 in a series of posts I’ve made during the past few days
regarding the impact — positive and negative — of iTunes embracing —
the iTunification — of podcasting. Here is a link to a page displaying all of the posts, chronologically. Also, here is an RSS feed of posts in this series.)

I
had a very long post prepared on the point I’m about to argue. When I
completed it, I thought, how ironic is it to spend so many words trying
to explain how Apple can make podcasting — everything about it —
simple.

Forget hip. Forget micropayments. Forget marketing juggernaut.

Just, simple.

Simple, as in I don’t have to set up any new software or comprehend
what’s taking place. Simple, as in I don’t need to know what RSS is.
Simple, as in I just have to click on something to subscribe.

So,
you can stop right there and not read anything else.

All the words
after this are several ways I’m guessing Apple will make podcasting
simple.

Simple thing 1: You will subscribe to a podcast with
one click and without the need (and corresponding hassle) to set up
anything.

The major RSS newsreaders (on both Mac and
Windows platforms) offer elegant and intuitive methods of synching up
podcasts (RSS-enclosures) with iTunes (and, I assume, other platforms
on which people organize their audio files and download them to MP3
players.) However, those elegant approaches are merely transitional
solutions and, frankly, are a hassle for those who have low tolerances
for coping with something that needs more instruction than “click
here.” Indeed, this low threshold is perhaps why people don’t even
download and set-up RSS newsreaders in the first place.

Apple
will make subscribing to a podcast as simple to understand and execute
as it is currently to subscribe to a streaming MP3 audio program
(called Radio now on iTunes) using iTunes. (Wait. Some people don’t know that,  in
addition to the hard-coded radio streams available on iTunes in the Radio folder, you can
listen to any MP3 stream
via iTunes. Look for one of those hardcoded “podcasting” folders, but
I’m guessing you’ll still be able to subscribe to any podcast you want
in much the same way.

For podcasters, this “Simple thing 1” means that whenenver anyone you
know who uses iTunes (i.e., anyone with an iPod) asks how to subscribe
to your show (or whatever it is you do), all you have to say is this:
“Go to my podcast’s URL and drag that orange “XML” button  (or
maybe a “iTunes this” button) into your iTunes playlist folder that
says podcasts.” Then you’ll explain, “Everytime I have a new show (or
whatever), it will automagically appear in that folder.” (End of
instructions.)

Simple thing 2: If you want to, it will be easy (one day) to sell your podcast through iTunes.

Most
of you won’t ever sell podcasting content. (I hope.) But, if you do,
iTunes will make it simple. And not merely because they’ve already
created the defacto micropayment transaction platform for audio files
(that integrates Paypal, credit cards, pre-paid cards available at
retail outlets, parent’s allowances, and gift certificates), but,
theorectically, at least, they already have a model and process in
place to service a new “supply chain” and channel in commercial
podcasting. If you want to get a feel of how it will work, here is a link
to the online application they use now for independent record labels
and individuals who want to sell their music via the iTunes store. I
assume Apple is now working on nailing down “programming” feeds from the
“major labels” of potential commercial podcasting (whoever they may
be). A similar online applicatioin will be available to the “indies” of
commercial podcasting.

Once you have an account, when you finish
producing your podcast programming (more on that next), you’ll
be able to upload it to the iTunes store via something that will likely
be called, “The iTunes professional podcaster producer” (registration/approval/secret handshake required). It will likely add some “evil” or “necessary” (depending on your
point-of-view) Digital Rights encoding and send the file on its way to
the iTunes Stores warehouse shelves. Also, when Apple starts stocking your
podcasts on the iTunes Store, they’ll offer you marketing support
through something that will likely be called “iTunes Podcaster Marketing Support“.

Simple
thing 3: You’ll be able to produce pro-level-production-value audio
using software as easy-to-use as iPhoto or iMovie or…

iPhoto and iMovie
and iTunes display how Apple can make amazing software that enables
those willing to scale a slight learning curve to create and manage
digital media. GarageBand
is an equally stunning software platform for the less-than-pro audio
producer. However, it is packaged and marketed as, well, a product for
creating music. I’m guessing that’s about to change. Or, it should.

Producing
and posting a high-production-value podcast will get a lot easier when,
sooner or later, Apple strips out some of its music-centric features
and repackages something called “GarageBand – Podcaster Version” or, simply as “iPodcaster” or something similar.

And here’s a bonus thought for those of you who are slightly more geeky and Mac-centric
than the typical reader of this weblog:  Don’t forget there are rumors (as
in, the suing kind of rumors) of a “fireware audio device
that, in effect, will serve as an external “break-out box” for connecting different mics and input devices (that’s it — I’ve hit my audio production BS ceiling) for using GarageBand for audio production. This device will give
most people (exception:  high-end music production pros) all the tools they should
need to produce quality audio.

Simple thing 4: You’ll soon be able to “create” podcasts on the iPod

Don’t care about production value? Here’s one for you.

A few simple tweaks will enable iPods to serve as a production
platform as well as a sound capturing, storing and listening platform. I’m guessing
it won’t take long for Apple to introduce an iPod, podcaster version. As I’ve
noted, one can see the pathway to this product by considering that today,
a Griffin iTalk & Griffin iTrip,
can in a rudimentary fashion, create and broadcast MP3 files. With
higher quality input and wi-fi output, you’ve got what I’m talking
about.

Think about that: An iPod that allows anyone within the range of a
wi-fi access point the opportunity to podcast on location. Come to
think of it, you can do that today with a cell-phone, but saying that
is not nearly as impressive as implying that doing it on an iPod is
something new.

(Also, watching Dave Winer create a podcast on his Archos is enough to make me think Apple would be crazy not to.)

(Next
up: What this means for all the other podcast ventures and open source
projects and how Apple could screw up podcasting. And then, my final
post: Synopsis, or here’s the e-mail I’ve received with some great
ideas.)

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  • Halvard Halvorsen

    1. the “breakout boxes” you refer to already exist.
    OK – not firewire, but USB2. Thinks like the
    Hercules DJ Console (which I use) are excellent
    for producing podcasts.

    2. Sony – imagine what Sony COULD have done in this
    market if they had any brains. The Hi-MD format
    would have been great for podcasters.
    Better sound recordings than anything the iPod
    can ever produce, portable and cheap 1GB disks. It could have been a great device for doing the voiceovers, interviews and live/field recordings. If Sony openened up the format, cut the price and didn’t bog the device down with DRM it could have been a contender.

    Not that Sony is capable of such things at the moment.

  • rex

    Gee, Halvard. Funny you shoul mention it. I happen to own one of those very devices. Perhaps that’s why I think Apple can get this right. A slice of my opinion of the Sony minidisc recorder can be found on this rexblog post I made in March: “Now, if I can just figure out how to use the device I believe provides the most frustrating user experience of all time, the Sony minidisc recorder (is it just me, or is this the least intuitive to operate consumer electronic product ever?)”

  • Hudge

    The world is but a stage and all the people podcasters? Reels the mind…