Podcasting needs no eBay

Podcasting needs no eBay: [Updated] I’ve already said why I think podcasting has succeeded in 140 days. It’s precisely because those who are pioneering it are not turning it over to those who want to develop a central place for it.

I’m just an observer, okay. But despite my admiration for those involved, whenever I see articles like this in the NY Times about (arguably) the first people who got rich from anything related to blogging (not, from blogging, but from developing an early platform for bloggers and selling to Google, pre-IPO), jump into a business to create an “eBay for podcasters,” I cringe.


Odeo plans to base its business on the premise that the explosion of digital audio content has created the need for a central place to find relevant material and that there will also be a need for a market to buy and sell “premium” content in much the style of the eBay online marketplace.

I don’t understand how people I look up to can have such a misguided “premise” about podcasting.

Podcasting does not want to have a “central place.” The web hates central places. I use eBay as both a buyer and seller and believe me, I hate that it’s a central place as it is now a monopoly. Knowing what we know now, would early adopters of eBay say I want there to be a monopoly running the online auction market? I wish an open, distributed alternative to eBay existed.

I’m all for marketplaces developing for podcasts. But podcasting is more than “programming” — this is where those metaphors of old media for new mess up investors. Podcasting “programming” can be as simple as leaving a voice mail message. Podcasting programming can be a recording of a sales meeting that is distributed via RSS to employees who are traveling.

Podcasting will open the way for self-produced audio and video programming to be available on an endless variety of marketplaces: audible.com, iTunes, Napster. Podcasters shouldn’t be looking for a “central marketplace” that marginalizes them. They should be integrated into all the markets that exist today — and more. No, on second thought, don’t waste your time on marketplaces. If you had spent the past 140 days worrying about marketplaces, there would be podcasting.

Flashback: On February 14, 2003 (two years ago), I posted these thoughts on another “eBay for blogging” concept:


In his dreams: Tony Perkins, an expert at losing money in magazine publishing (but then, aren’t we all?), is now claiming that his Always On Network (with the URL www.alwayson-network.com, not the more memorable and obvious one) will help usher in the “ebayization” of media. His innovation? A blog of business articles and some early contributions by
folks in his contacts file.

Quote from Perkins:

“The bloggers have shown us the value of truly participatory media sites, so we’re just going to bundle it up and polish it and commercialize it.”

Does that sound familiar, or what? But in 2003? I mean, how can a reporter just sit there and take down such a quote without laughing out loud in 2003?

I guess in 2005, one can say the same thing without drawing a laugh.

Update (7:42 p.m. CST): Why is Odeo causing me to have this negative reaction? When I realized this post is bringing new people to the rexblog (a link from Dave Winer does those sorts of thing), I felt the need to reflect on why I had such a negative “rapid cognition” to Odeo and why I would be so off-put by someone starting a company that, on its surface, seems like something that’s supportive of podcasting.  After thinking about it on the drive home, I had to go back and re-read the NY Times article and then read the “back story” post on Ev’s blog to get to the bottom of my reaction.

Now I think I know why I found the news so hollow,

I think it’s because of the “just some guys in an apartment” shtick doesn’t ring true.

I think it’s because I’m envisioning someone writing a business plan about something that thousands of people around the world have actually created — with no business plan.

I think it’s because Odeo is a distraction from the real story.

I think it’s because I think podcasting is not a medium or platform or something someone can centralize in a marketplace. It’s a movement that will end up being countless different things in the hands and minds and ears of millions.

I think it’s also that when it comes to podcasting, Adam Curry and Dave Winer have walked the walk when they talked the talk: They have spent months evangelizing podcasting and devoting hours each day to creating a “movement” with a kind of giddy enthusiasm that only someone crazy-passionate about a concept, a notion, a cause — and not a business plan and demo — can understand.

I think it’s because opportunism should never be confused with passion.

8 thoughts on “Podcasting needs no eBay

  1. Why do you make it personal? When you say I’ve not been your favorite person, aren’t you doing the inverse of what the demo and the NY Times and Evan are doing? What does your disappointment have to do with me as a person?

  2. I had roughly the same reaction when I read both the Times piece and the Odeo site — what there is of it, so far.

    But, as we know, newspapers often get things wrong. And Ev & company haven’t been very disclosing about Odeo. Not until its Ted launch today sometime, anyway. Still in the future as I write this (at 1:30am).

    So, I’m holding off until I know more.

    Which shouldn’t take long.

  3. Thanks Rex. I find that often when I agree with someone, share the same values, they throw in a zinger that makes it difficult for me to say I agree. I think this kind of logic was put there oddly enough by people who wanted Blogger to succeed, and wanted Manila and Radio to die. They basically got their wish. That kind of mob attack actually works, esp when people won’t stand up against it.

    Doc, isn’t it amazing that after a public demo of their product there seems to be NO REPORTS of it anywhere in the blogosphere? Do any bloggers at all go to TED?

    All I’ve seen is Dan Gillmor’s very cautious praise of it.

  4. I’d rather think of “centralization” as “simplification”. Until the average Joe can easily find and listen to high-quality content, it will sit out in the ether in an unheard format.

    I don’t care if its Odeo or Shmodeo that organizes that content. I look forward to the day that it is organized. When we can easily find meaningful content, we’ll all be better off.

  5. I agree with Ken. If you want uptake on a truly global scale, make it less geeky and dead simple. (eg. why do we persist in making people copy/paste RSS feeds into newsreaders?) Clearly you help make it simple by introducing one or more sites that, in part, act like directories of audio content. Meanwhile, what’s wrong with making a business out of podcasting? Why is it so cool to be anti-blog-related business? By dictating the open source credo, the irony is you’re trying to force people into one application of the technology – podcasting must be this, and not that etc. Listeners will decide if the content is valuable or not, regardless of the business model.

  6. I tend to disagree that people online don’t privately like centralization. The main reason is that people or online users hate to hunt for things online and love sites that make finding things they are looking for easier. The thought that people hate centralization of services and content online is also driven by the fear of exclusion on the part of the content producer. I also think some people get caught up in online purity and that any online business models are bad.

    We will see many business models spring up and help make the experience of getting and listening to a podcast simple and easy. I believe that we will see podcast directory websites and networks that provide all the tools needed to enable free and paid subscriptions to podcasts.

    Rob Greenlee
    WebTalk World Radio Show

  7. Actually, there IS a widely used, quite centralized place that most podcasters post to and most of their listeners go to get their podcasts. It’s called the iTunes Store. Everybody who owns an iPod has direct access to it through iTunes.

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