Why Podcasting Is, Once Again, The Next Big Thing

Some of you may find this week’s Hammock Idea Email interesting. At the insistence of some pesky editors, I left out lots of the 10,000+ words I once wrote about podcasting. Also, as we like to keep these emails to 300 words, those editors suggested that my discussion of the difference in podcasting and streaming audio would (1) go over people’s heads, or (2) cause them to doze off (3) doesn’t matter to the people who read Idea Email. They also insisted that another tangent on the difference between Paul Saffo’s macro-myopia and Gartner’s Hype Cycle was equally un-riveting. Note: None of those editors review what I write on RexBlog — which explains a lot about the ramblings here.

Here’s how it starts — with a link to the rest of it. 


Amara’s Law: “We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.”

—Roy Amara (1925–2007), Stanford Research Institute


Just as conventional wisdom was in the process of writing off podcasting, it is suddenly this year’s “it” media. Two weeks ago, The New York Times joined The Guardian, Wall Street Journal, NPR and other media companies to announce the creation of a team focused entirely on developing podcasts.

At the same time, NPR, Spotify, Audible.com and others have launched a new generation of mobile apps that pre-select and stream topic-specific podcasts. (Listeners typically download and play podcasts using “podcatchers” like Apple’s Podcast app and Stitcher.)

(continue reading on Hammock.com)

Happy “5th” Anniversary, Podcasting (well, not actually)

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First off: Today is not actually the fifth anniversary of podcasting. Dave Winer had demo’d file enclosures distributed via RSS over three years earlier. In other words, RSS-enabled audio and video distribution was almost four years old, five years ago today.

However, today is the 5th anniversary of Doc Searls writing a seminal post in which he explained what podcasting was to those folks like me who look to Doc to help us understand stuff we don’t quite get. (Tomorrow is the 5th anniversary of me repeating what I learned from Doc.)

Despite being almost four years after Dave Winer demonstrated how podcasting could work, how early was September 28, 2004 in the era of podcasting? Well, here’s a pretty good indication from what Doc wrote five years ago today:

“But now most of my radio listening is to what Adam Curry and others are starting to call podcasts. That last link currently brings up 24 results on Google. A year from now, it will pull up hundreds of thousands, or perhaps even millions.

For the record, the Google link to the word “podcasts” now has 61+ million results.

However, rather than look back over the past five years, I’m celebrating this anniversary by linking to a post that Doc wrote over the weekend. It’s something that you may not think about for another four years. And it might take nine years for what he’s writing about to really sink in. But by then, you’ll be able to do a Google search and get 65-million results on a word that may not even be used today to describe what this quote is about.

At this point in history, Twitter soaks up nearly all the oxygen the microblogging room. Thus there is no widely adopted open infrastructure for microblogging. (Identi.ca and the OpenMicroBlogger folks have worked hard on that, but adoption so far is relatively small.) But, given time, something will take. I’d place a bet Dave’s RSS Cloud. It’s live, or real-time. It’s open infrastructure. And, as Dave put it here, it has no fail whale.

Read the whole thing. And then ponder over the coincidence of the time-frame on which it was posted. I doubt even Doc had any idea of the anniversary.

If I think back hard enough, I can start making connections between RSS Cloud and podcasting and Twitter and Dave and Doc. But this is about the future.

When it comes to microblogging — or short-message relay services — or real-time syndication — or whatever it’s one-day called, the future will be here before you know it.

The beginning of the end of the Kindle?

For almost as long as there has been a Kindle, I’ve (somewhat jokingly) attempted to “outsource” my blogging on that topic to my friend Aaron Pressman. Aaron is a very professional journalist, but his Kindle-coverage has been as a personal blogger: he was the first Kindle “fan-boy” I knew and has kept me insightful on the product and its ecosystem since its inception. (More about Aaron in a second.)

There are many things I love about the Kindle — and my Kindle that I’ve had and used since they were first introduced. But I’ve always thought of it as a transitional product, and I’ve never been convinced that Amazon can be a hardware company — long-term. I’ve written about the things I like: the integration with the Amazon store — especially, never having to connect the device to a computer, yet still having full access to the Amazon.com store via the embedded cell-phone powered technology. And the convenience of having dozens of books with me all the time — even when I travel. But the most significant change in my reading enabled by the Kindle has been the price point of a book.

When the device was first rolling out, the typical price point of books — even current hardback bestsellers — was $9.99. I went from rarely purchasing back-list titles or first-novels, to purchasing 2-3 books a month that are outside my typical book-buying pattern.

To me, the Kindle would seem to be a publisher’s dream: A means to forego the massive costs of manufacturing, storage, transaction — and the whole screwed-up way publishers have to buy-back unsold books from sellers — and distribution (other than editing and marketing, that’s about the only things book publishers do).

Yet while even someone with absolutely no understanding of the book publishing business can easily intuit the massive savings of digital distribution over boxing up and trucking books, some book publishers actually argue that it’s “the content” that people buy and a book should cost the same no matter how it’s distributed. (Book publishers, however, unlike other widget manufacturers, have a 250-year old problem with such logic because of the inconvenient push-back argument provided by the institution called “the public library” and the whole “free” model that distribution channel enables. Counter-intutively, people who “steal” (a term I’m borrowing from record labels) content by reading library books for free also “buy” more books than those who don’t.)

Over the past 18 months, the $9.99 price on a Kindle book is getting less-and-less typical. And yesterday, PaidContent.com and others pointed to an analyst report about the coming “hike” in Kindle book prices. In other words, the publishers are marching down the path to destroying one of the few glimmers of hope the book publishing business has. (Notice, I emphasized “business,” as I believe book-publishing has lots of promise — but not as the business it currently is.)

Now, back to Aaron.

Today, he points out the other weak selling point of the Kindle — and how it may make the device even less appealing.

Apparently the already aggressive Digital Rights Management approaches of the Kindle are even more aggressive than consumers have been led to believe.

I’ll let Aaron explain it.

However I’ll add this: eBooks and eBooks reader have been one of those technologies that have been “just about to happen” for the past 20 years. The Kindle has come close to helping the concept break through to a general market. However, it would not surprise me one bit if publishers felt the need to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and, once more, screw-up the eBook market. Pricing and digital-rights-management rarely benefit the creator or the “consumer” — they exist to prolong distribution business models that will die eventually, anyway.

This time, however, I think authors and readers will be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel to a day where the obstructionistic and defensive ploys of book publishers are recognized for what they are: merely a means to protect the publisher’s core business of shipping and storing boxes full of paper.

Later: Another insightful post from Aaron Pressman on Kindle book pricing.

Not another ‘digg’ at Sarah Lacy, merely a ‘how-not-to’ suggestion

Sorry if this appears like I’m continuing to pick on her, but this Sarah Lacy interview with the Digg guys is a good demo of how NOT to talk over someone you are interviewing — on-stage, on-video or on-audio. Perhaps you can do so while conducting an interview for something you are writing (I’d practice avoiding it there, also), but (and this is something I’ve learned from radio reporters) when you are interviewing for “broadcast” (or podcast) never say “yes” or “uh-huh” or “right” or anything while someone is answering a question.

Why? Lots of reasons, some technical and others are just common sense.

Saying, “right” sounds like you are approving what they are saying — and that’s okay if it’s two tech people involved in a conversation, but not if it’s a “reporter” interviewing a “subject.” Don’t keep saying “uh-huh” as if you are the arbitrator of whether or not what they are saying is correct, or not.

But the most important reason not to talk over someone else, however is this: It will make you very popular with the person who is editing your video or audio. He or she will thank you for being such a pro.

On second thought, Why Apple won’t sue Universal

The other day, I speculated-out-loud that Apple may have grounds to sue Universal for factors related to “restraint of trade” in not allowing DRM-free music to be sold via the iTunes store while opening up such an option to nearly all other online retailers of any heft. (I admitted — and still do — I have absolutely no knowledge of the law surrounding such an issue, but I do recall “restraint-of-trade” being a central-focus of legal and regulatory battles in the book-retailing industry whenever one channel of distribution appears to gain preferential treatment from publishers or wholesalers.)

However, after thinking about it some more and reading articles like this one in the LA Times that re-hash the conventional wisdom that Universal is using this as some type of warning-shot against Apple, I have thought about it some more and come to this conclusion: Why should Apple give a rip about how people purchase DRM-free music? They should be encouraging Universal to do this and hoping that Walmart, Best Buy and anyone else who can sell DRM-free music will be as successful as possible.

Why?

In reality, Apple doesn’t make that much money from selling music. I once wrote about 10,000 words pointing out how Apple’s podcasting strategy, in which they support the RSS-distributed delivery of what is, for the most part, free music and programming, is a winner for them because, duh, Apple is in the business of selling hardware that organizes and plays music — the “content” part of iTunes is not their business. I won’t repeat the economics of this, as I’ve covered it before, but believe me, the margin Apple earns on selling music is a microscopic fraction of the margin they earn on selling an iPod or iPhone.

In reality, Apple wants you to purchase DRM-free music any way you can. They are begging Universal to the throw them into the briar patch if they doth protest too much (to mix literary metaphors) Universal’s selling of DRM-free music through every other channel possible. Steve Jobs & Co. know that on iTunes, there is this little menu item called “Consolidate Your Library” that will automagically suck into iTunes all of that DRM-free music you purchase via other sources.

Steve Jobs & Co. know that in a few months, Universal will let them sell DRM-free music. Even I, who am observing this from so far away I have to squint, can see it is inevitable that Universal will cave-in on this after all of their “testing” is done.