Podcasting’s pundits suffer from macro-myopia: For as long as there has been a rexblog, I’ve been crediting Paul Saffo with helping me understand the phenomenon he calls “macro-myopia.” (Last year, he e-mailed me this background on the concept.) In short, for the past hundred years or so, wonks who study “technology diffusion” have observed that folks always tend to “overestimate short-term effects and under-estimate long-term implications of emergent technological change.”
If you want to watch real-time macro-myopia, follow the “overestimation, underestimation” of podcasting. Today, just 18 months into the era of podcasting, a Forrester research report suggesting that only 1% of people actually listen to podcasts is being treated as if such statistics mean something. They mean absolutely nothing.
There will surely be a “bust” of financial expectations related to podcasting (such is the law of macro-myopia), however, there is no way that 18 months after the word “podcasts” returned only 24 results on Google, that anyone’s research about its “acceptance” means anything about the longterm impact of those “notions” and “platforms” that combine to form the metaphor of podcasting.
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. From day one, I’ve been ranting that podcasting shouldn’t be considered a “programming format” or use mass media metrics or metaphors. Sure, the early podcasts sounded like radio shows, but sharing audio is something we do all day long via the phone and I don’t have an opening theme-song before each phone conversation.
I believe podcasting’s greatest impact will be as a personal medium for small groups — as small as two. While they wisely do not use the word “podcasting” anywhere on the site and are, indeed, NOT podcasting, the dynamics of what is taking place at YackPack is where I think time-shifiting and sharing audio may be heading (watch their screencast “video demo” to get the idea). Again, I am not applying the term “podcasting” to what they’re doing — because it’s not — but clear your mind of “programming” metaphors and think conversations and what they’re doing at YackPack can help you understand the difference between personal media (conversation) and mass media (programming) as it relates to time-shifted audio files. Okay, you are now allowed to connect the dots between conversations and podcasting.
To quote myself, bottom line (as I will continue to repeat this again and again, no doubt): “Before the coming podcasting boom and bust, it was just a grassroots notion. Before we cycle through the inevetiable macro-myopic journey of over-expectation and disappointment, I want to say once more that podcasting is going to greatly disappoint lots of people who think it’s about the money.” But what podcasting will eventually lead to is way beyond our minds’ grasps.
Update: Dave Winer says about the phone call theme song: “Hmm. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could.”
Kevin Marks (in comments below): “…if I have a custom ring for you on my phone, you do have a theme song when you call.”
If that’s the case, when someone who is not in my directory calls me, my phone “theme song” is the Simpsons: I guess that puts a smile on my face before I start talking.