Pew research: Over six million Americans have downloaded a podcast. Is that a lot? Consider that on September 28, 2004, or 188 days ago, a Google search for the word “podcasts” had only 24 results.
Getting back to what’s important about podcasting: Okay. Darren Barefoot (I love that name) has, like me, become a podcast
pooper. He says, quite articulately, he’s “not smoking the
podcasting dope.” And he’s right. However, to paraphrase a quote from the current episode
of South Park, “Best Friends Forever,” he’s right for all the wrong
reasons or wrong for all the right reasons. I haven’t quite figured out which.
I’ve been quoted (geez, even in India,
I’m being quoted) for being a podcasting naysayer. But, I have to
that my podcasting pooping is about the business of podcasting. Not
about the essence of podcasting. (I’ll spare you and not repeat what I
said in February or, more accurately, one week after I heard the term “podcasting,” last October 6.)
I think the essence of podcasting is not about the format or the
production values or the size of audience of one particular podcast
Its “essence” is simply the ability to
establish what the business-speak folks call, a “frictionless” channel
between audio source (speaker) and audio listener (listener) using some
hacks on technology that more and more people are already using for
purposes. In other words, people don’t have to purchase anything new,
or, increasingly, set up anything new on their computer. It’s Really
Simple Broadcasting, in other words — for both “caster” and “listener.”
Darren is correct. When given a choice between listening to a podcast I created or
listening to, say, Kurt Andersen, even I would choose the latter.
However, the “killer-app” content will be that which has no professional
alternative: A report from a Mom to her two children away in college; a
recording of a Sunday School class for six people who couldn’t attend;
an inspirationial chat from the regional sales manager to 15 sales
people to listen to while driving between calls; an explanation of a
new product by the lead engineer; a father’s play-by-play description
of a Little League baseball game — all showing up automagically on the iPod or other MP3 player of the individuals who “subscribe” to it.
So, while I agree with Darren on the “I’m not smoking the podcasting
dope,” bottomline, it’s not for any lack of “longtail” that podcasting
will have. I agree with him that there’s no “large willing
audience.” However, I think there are endless tiny 3-person audiences
for audio (and later video) clips of various lengths and quality.
Why do I think I’m right?
Well, there’s art hanging in the Louvre. And art hanging on my
refrigerator. There’s photography on the cover of Vogue and in my
iPhoto library. There are films that win Oscars and videos of babies
learning to crawl.
I view podcasting more bottom-up, I guess. Something akin to
broadcasting voice mail into iPods, rather than top-down, me trying to
compete with Ira Glass’ This American Life.
As I’ve said, now that we’re moving into the “busines of podcasting” phase, we’ll start missing the real story.
And I think that’s where I agree with Darren.