How Apple will change everything about Podcasting, #5 — Five potential unintended consequences of iTunes embracing podcasting.

How Apple will change everything about Podcasting, #5 — Five potential unintended consequences of iTunes embracing podcasting.

(Note:This
is #5 (and the last) in a series of posts I’ve made 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 to posts I make specifically on the topic of “podcasting.”)

Okay.
It took me a bit longer than anticipated, but here is the last of my
posts regarding How iTunes will change everything podcasting. As it appears
the launch of iTunes 4.9 is being fast-tracked, I figured I have little
time left to procrastinate on this, my “what can go wrong when Apple
supports podcasting” entry.

In previous posts, I have outlined
numerous ways — mostly positive — I believe the support of RSS
enclosures and the recognition of “podcasting” as a viable “content
category” on Apple Computer’s iTunes platform will dramatically change
podcasting. However, here are a few of the concerns I have about what
negative things can happen when podcasting becomes “iTunified,” a list
of potential unintended consequences Apple adding RSS enclosure support
and a podcast tab to iTunes:

1. Some people will start thinking “podcasts” are
found exclusively on iTunes’s baked-in podcast tab:

As much as you and I have heard the
term, a vast majority of people
will learn about podcasting when Apple puts it on the front page of
iTunes. In the hype surrounding that launch (as hype surrounds
everything Apple launches), many podcast listening newbies will think
the only podcasts available via iTunes will be those “baked” into the
podcast tab. (It should be noted, I don’t know if there will actually
be a baked-in list of podcasters; I’m merely assuming there will be as
that’s what is offered now on iTunes’ radio tab. Here are some screenshots
of what the podcast-supporting iTunes version is supposed to be
like
.)
I assume, based on my unscientific research of asking people, that the
“baked in” problem already occurs with the current Radio tab in
iTunes. It is my opinion that most users of iTunes do not know that any
MP3 streaming source can be bookmarked in a playlist and played via
iTunes. I fear the same confusion will occur with podcasting. For this
reason, it will be especially important for podcasters who are not on
the “official” podcast tab to educate their listeners that a one-click
action is all it will take to enable them to subscribe to future
podcast posts.

2. The term “podcast” will be co-opted by those who
don’t know that the “-cast” part of it means RSS syndication:

As I’ve noted earlier, posting
audio files on the web is nothing new.
Calling the posting of audio files on the web “podcasting” misses the
point of what the RSS-enclosure facet of podcasting means in terms of,
well, I’ll skip words like asynchronous and say, simply, that it misses
the cool feature that makes podcasting like TiVo for web-distributed
audio.

3. The podcasting “movement” era will end:

As much
as I’ve displayed in the thousands of words I’ve written on this topic,
I still fear that before becoming “an Apple thing,” podcasting needed
more time as a movement before becoming a product. As I’ve said before,
the podcasting concept has been successfully spread because it has been a
grassroots movement

— not a marketing campaign. No company — well, perhaps with the
exception of Apple — could have pulled off in ten months what the
podcasting community has done since last October. If podcasting becomes
an “Apple thing,” that confusion may cause some slow-down in the
movement, especially on the corporate podcasting front where things
related to Apple, even a Windows version of iTunes (due to bandwidth
considerations) are met with resistance by the “IT folks.” For example,
I know a large company that has banned iTunes from their work force due
to bandwidth challenges. This would be an ideal company to use
corporate podcasting. Because, however, it will be viewed as an “iTunes
thing,” it will be dismissed before being considered.

4. People will think podcasting is something you
buy:

From rumors and reports, it appears
the first iteration of podcasting
on iTunes will not focus on the availability of “pay” podcasts via the
iTunes Store. However, as I’ve shown in an earlier post, a system
already is in place for Apple to facilitate the micropayment
transactions necessary for a podcasting economy. However, the
commercialization of podcasting may be misinterpreted by those who are
new to the concept. This will lead, inevitably, to over predicting the
financial potential of podcasting which will lead to the follow-up
disappointment when the podcasting economy does not develop at that
rate. (See a
long-ago rexblog post

concerning Paul Saffo’s concept, “micro-myopia”). Despite the “iTunes
will allow you sell podcasts hype” you’ll be hearing in a couple of
weeks, the financial impact of podcasting will more ambiguous than the
mere sum of transactions.

5. Podcasting party poopers will show up:

I hate to say out-loud this final
fear. I really do. But when
podcasting goes from the edge of the Internet (sorry, folks, that’s
where you are if you’re reading about this topic) to the center of the
internet (iTunes), the lawyers will appear on the scene as record
company executives are going to realize that podcasting has the
potential not only to grow the music industry dramatically, it has the
potential to reduce their significance. Somebody’s going to wake up and
say, “Hey, when one person can distribute MP3s to hundreds of people
who simple click on a button, well, that sounds an awful lot like
things we want to sue.”

Some people always try to ruin a
good thing.

– — — — — — — — — — — — —

A
Post Script: In an earlier post, I listed several types of podcasts
formats/programming/content I thought could catch on. That post led to
lots of e-mail and trackbacks with some great ideas. Alot of them were
related to classroom recordings and educational/training audio. Several
people e-mailed me suggesting that sermons would be great podcasts —
as the son of a minister, I agree. Some folks e-mailed me to say there
are already tour-oriented podcasts and I even received an e-mail from
my friend Ellen Pryor at Nashville’s Frist Center for the Visual Arts
saying the museum was jumping into podcasting.

The point is, with
the new tools to create audio files, Odeo, for example and a plug in
for my favorite software, NoteTaker or popping a Griffin iTalk onto
your iPod, or using tools like Garage Band, it’s just a matter of time,
folks. Get ready.

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In Seattle

In Seattle: Touched down here late last nighit for Gnomedex that starts later. I get to catch up on lots of stuff that’s been piling up — including a few rexblog posts I’ve written but couldn’t post yesterday (bad wi-fi mojo at both BWI and Midway airports) but now I’m going for a jog around this beautiful city. Tomorrow, it appears Microsoft will be demoing some cool RSS-related development. Dave Winer previews them with a thumbs up.