How Apple will change everything about Podcasting

(This is a series of posts I made over a few days shortly after Steve Jobs announced Apple iTunes would support podcasts. I have reposted them here so they can be read in chronological order.)

Introduction: We temporarily interrupt not talking about Apple. (5/26/2005)

1. iTunes won’t be the eBay of podcasting,  it will be the iTunes of podcasting. (5/27/2005)

2. How much could Howard Stern make podcasting via iTunes vs. broadcasting via Sirius? (5/29/2005)

3. A long tail of podcasts on iTunes will make us stop thinking of “podcasts” as just Wayne’s World programming or radio-like genres. (6/1/2005)

4. How Apple will change everything about Podcasting, #4 — They’ll make it simple. (6/5/2005)

5. How Apple will change everything about Podcasting, #5 — Five potential unintended consequences of iTunes embracing podcasting. (6/23/2005)

Introduction: We temporarily interrupt not talking about Apple (5/26/2005)

Over the coming days, I’ll be devoting several posts to the topic, “How Apple Will Change Everything About Podcasting”

A good place to start, however, is to listen to Dave Winer’s 17 minute podcast yesterday. (For the two rexblog readers who don’t know, Dave created RSS and podcasting. However, if you really, really read the rexblog, you’ll know that on October 11, 2004, in a post titled, “Marconi personally taught me how to podcast,” I said the following: “Such inevitable debates over who is responsible for any innovation has led to my practice of always crediting Dave Winer, no matter what the innovation.)

I hope in the next few days to address the following;

1. Why, if you use Safari on the Tiger-version of OSX and have it sync to NetNewsWire (I do), you can already understand how easy it is going to be for Apple to make RSS-enabled subscriptions to MP3 files a one-click no brainer. In fact, because I subscribe to podcasts that way, it’s hard for me to understand why Steve Jobs thinks iTunes isn’t “enabled” already. (Let’s see: I notice a page has an RSS feed and click on that blue(?) RSS icon in the Safari location bar, it subscribes automatically on NetNewsWire which, when an audio enclosure is recognized, automatically downloads the file and syncs it to iTunes, and thus, my iPod. All I do is one-click in Safari and then click once in NetNewsWire confirming my desire to subscribe. Am I just living in the future, or what?)

2. How, if you slap a Griffin iTalk onto an iPod and create an MP3, youll recognize a conceptual pathway to how easy it will be to use an iPod itself as a program-creation platform (or, if you just want to reach a small group of family or friends, a personal-memo podcasting tool.)

3. How, if you slap a Griffin iTrip onto an iPod and “broadcast” tunes to your car’s FM radio, you’ll be able to conceive a pathway to the not-so-distant-future when that MP3 file you create on your iPod can be beamed to your AirPort and synced with your .Mac account’s Podcast studio (which is another conceptual no-brainer).

4. How “re-metaphorizing” the software GarageBand can be Apple’s killer ap for those who want to add professional quality production values to their Wayne’s World programs. I plan to discuss how a conceptual “GarageBand – “Podcast Studio Version” could substitute metaphors of musical tracks and “loop” metaphors with “radio programming” metaphors like: “Theme song,” “Interview track,” etc. Users of iMovie who are podcasters will “get this” in a heartbeat, but I hope to explore it a bit more in the next few days.

5. How iTunes’ 99¢ download model should make a light bulb go off above the heads of conference and seminar & convention planners, motivational speakers, audio tour-guide creators, etc. that makes them go, “Hmmm, every speech made at every conference we put own can be sold via iTunes” — for a lot more than 99¢, in some cases. In other words: A BUSINESS MODEL that even a media company executive can understand. (And to help the lightbulb go off a little easier, say hello to the new buzzword, “conference-jacking“).

6. And, like Dave has already said in his podcast yesterday, it was inevitable that Apple would come to dominate something called “podcasting.” Duh. Now, it’s theirs not to screw up due to Steve Jobs wanting it to be too slick or OS-centric (which is, at least on the distribution side — iTunes is a windows product, also — unlikely).

That, and more.

How Apple will change everything about Podcasting, #1 — iTunes won’t be the eBay of podcasting,  it will be the iTunes of podcasting (5/27/2005):

(Note: This is #1 in a series of posts I’ll be making during the next few days on this topic. If you hate Apple, relax, I’ll be including a post that points out lots of ways they can blow it and why, in a perfect world, this wasn’t about to happen. But it is. So get over it. Or rejoice.) See that list of folk music over on the left. It’s flowing directly from the Apple iTunes store via RSS. Not only that, the links go to an iTunes affiliate store I set up and so, if you click on a tune and purchase it, I get a commission from Apple. Not only that, it updates everytime there are new, new releases.

Wow. An RSS-enabled financial transaction between you and me and Apple. Now, imagine an RSS feed from the iTunes store that says “Top 10 favorite podcasts on the topic of bird watching” or “Last ten podcasts from your favorite trade association’s annual meeting.” Imagine that and you can start conceiving the myriad ways having the Apple’s iTunes store step into podcasting will change things. Just remember, there were MP3 players before there was the iPod. Just remember, there were ways to purchase and download music files before there was an iTunes store. Just remember, iPods & iTunes work on the Windows platform as well as OSX.As much as I have harped on my belief that podcasting is successful to this point because it is a movement, and not a business, I can’t ignore the implications of the 800 lb. gorilla of audiofile aggregation assuming the central marketplace role for do-it-yourself, RSS-enabled audiofiles. And fortunately, the folks at Apple don’t use terms like “central marketplace.” They just create cool things and market their coolness. In reality, Steve Jobs announcement is simply about Apple’s decision to spread its mojo dust (and, frankly, it’s the only tech company around  that actually has mass mojo dust) on the do-it-yourself audiofile and distribution scheme that as a gazillion-dollar-branding-bonus to Apple, was christened “Podcasting.”

I’m just a user of Apple products, okay. I’m not a developer or even a tech person. But because of some weird coincidences of the way I use my PowerBook to record and edit bits and pieces from my son’s music lessons…and from being an early listener to and subscriber to podcasts and a poweruser of NetNewsWire, I’ve had countless eureka moments about Apple & podcasting for months. They’ve led me to imagine several things that could happen the day Steve Jobs finally realized podcasting is a gift to Apple from the marketing gods. Just imagine when iTunes starts offering access to podcast programming like it sells hip-hop songs. Just imagine an  iTunes directory of podcasts that can be sorted by location and interest and format with community features like “iMix”  enabling listeners to find programming recommended by others they’ve grown to trust. Just imagine what’s going to happen when Apple lets loose these folks on the assignment of making podcasting hip. Bless Adam and Ev (wait, that’s funny, Adam & Ev & Apple — gotta save that for another post) and whoever else is getting press coverage promoting podcasting. But the first :30 second TV spot from the folks who create the iPod advertising will be, perhaps, the pivotal event marking podcasting’s jump from  geek cult movement to pop culture phenomenon.Just imagine the day when  iTunes enables anyone who wants, to market a podcast (or indie produced music, for that matter) via the iTunes store. Why should Apple care if it’s offered free or for a payment? It’s all going to sell more iPods in the end. (This is a topic I’ll discuss in the upcoming post on “ways they can blow it.”)When that front page of the iTunes podcast store appears, it will change everything. There will be a sound throughout the land that goes, “Ooooh, I get it. It’s like I can click on this button and then listen to that person’s podcast show anytime I want to. Wow. That’s cool. And look, tomorrow, that show will appear here automatically. Wow. And look, it will go straight to my iPod.”

How Apple will change everything about Podcasting, #2 — How much could Howard Stern make podcasting via iTunes vs. broadcasting via Sirius? (5/29/2005):

What if Howard Stern had chosen iTunes as his distribution channel rather than Sirius? Could he have generated the $100 million annually he is reportedly receiving from the satellite radio network?  In a minute, we’ll ponder the math of the Stern deal vs. a hypothetical iTunes one. But first, let’s consider some easy arithmetic.In the quaint old days, ten years ago, MIT Media Lab’s Nicholas Negroponte put forth a theory in a Wired column that suggested (it was merely a theory, remember) that NY Times technology writer John Markoff could make $1 million a year if a small percentage of internet users (and this was in 1995) paid him 5¢ each for each story they read. (Later, in his book, Being Digital, Negroponte r educed that number to 2¢ and still figured a way for Markoff to make his annual $1 million.  Fortunately, for all involved, Markoff continued to write for the Times and has not, as far as I can determine, hired Negroponte for financial advisory services.

Micropayments weren’t going to work for a long, long time.Indeed, it can be argued that it was not until Apple iTunes cracked the micropayment conundrum, that someone showed that Negroponte’s  theory that a vending-machine “byte” media business model could work. (Ringtones are another micropayment success story, as well.) Apple has, with iTunes, created a platform on which millions of  customers are willing to pump 99¢ into the coin slot and have “content” spit out. What’s more, they have integrated the means by which those buyers can fund such purchases with a credit card, a parent’s allowance, a gift certificate, PayPal, pre-paid cards one can purchase at retailers like Target and even bottle caps from a Pepsi purchased from a non-metaphorical, atom-based (sorry, another Negroponte concept) vending machine.At least in this context, Negroponte was correct, except for the John Markoff part.

A business model based on micropayments can succeed if a universally-accepted platform and currency is in place to facilitate it. The virtual vending machine-based business model works because the right party, Apple, pieced together the right infrastructure, the right interface, the right advertising, at the right time. And the right financial incentive, the Apple business model was based on selling iPods and not music.Only a few people will get to play in the big leagues of this type of podcast economy. (I doubt John Markoff is one.)

Fortunately, there will be lots of smaller opportunities for the rest of us. Take, for instance, the demonstration I’ve set up as a sidebar to the left. In it, I display how the podcast The Nashville Nobody Knows and Candace Corrigan, the host and producer of the show (who pays ASCAP & BMI fees to do so, “legally” plays the songs of the musicians she loves) could generate a 5% commission on any iTunes download of those songs she may generate from her listeners. (She has such an arrangement with already, but I doubt she even knows she can do this via iTunes.) In the future, if her show is also available via iTunes (and, if I were in charge, I’d get it on as one of the first podcasts to be offered), she could (although I hope she doesn’t) offer a subscription model wherre I might pay, say, 10¢ per program for an RSS-fed subscription to her program. If I did that, it would generate $5.20 a year in revenues for Candace, with Apple taking some cut of that. Now, consider the sidebar again. After listening to her show for only five weeks, I would be happy to sign up at iTunes for an RSS-enabled subscription that would also allow Candace to become my purchasing agent for 10 songs per month. I wouldn’t have to pay more than the 99¢ per download I already spend as Apple will pay her a 5% commission through their affiliate marketing program — I’d just be subscribing to the 10 songs per month advisory service and paying for it via my iTunes account.

(Sidenote: Also, the lesser-known artists she features on the show also benefit directly, her stated aim of doing the podcast.) Under such a hypothetical scenario, Candace (again, with existing RSS technology already baked into iTunes) becomes not only my favorite podcaster, but my music purchasing agent. For the service, I willingly allow her to earn a 5% commission from Apple for the 10 songs a month she selects for me,  adding another  $6 per year of revenue that I have generated for Candace, or a total of $11.20 (minus whatever Apple charges to facilitate the 10¢ per show transaction). Will this work? Even without such a subscription, I’ve already purchased ten songs via iTunes that Candace has suggested. And she didn’t get any commission. In other words, Candance is now serving as my music purchasing agent, but she’s not getting paid for it.

As I’ve displayed in the sidebar, this is not a technology issue, but a connect-the-dots with RSS issue. Perhaps she’ll have two versions: A free one for her purchasing agent customers, and a 10¢ per program subscription for those who just want to download her program.I have no idea how many people there are out there who would do such a transaction with Candace. However, I suspect she won’t get rich with this business model. But, then, podcasting is not going to make many who produce such audio content rich. Like blogging, podcasting will be a hobby or passion or maketing tool for most folks. And it will be among the nichiest of niche media: Wayne’s World for the rest of us. (More on that in my next post.)However, what if Howard Stern had chosen the podcasting route via the iTunes subscription model rather than sign on with Sirius for a reported $100 million a year? What would happen if he were able to follow my hypothetical Candace Corrigan business model.

Well, Sirius is paying Stern $100 million a year based on the belief that a certain percentage of his 8 million listeners will purchase the hardware necessary and then pay 58¢ per show ($142 per year/250 weekdays = 58¢ per show). Of course, for that $142, the listeners can listen to everything else Sirius has to offer (Adam Curry, for example), but, we’ve been led to believe that Stern is the Pied Piper that is bringing his followers to Sirius; it is he they are willing to spend the money for, not the other content. A survey in February reveals the challenge Sirius is facing, as only a small percentage of his listeners seem ready to step up to the plate when they learn of the hardware investment plus $142 per year they’ll be required to spend. Now, let’s consider the following:What percentage of Sterns 8 million listeners (18-34 year old males) have iPods or would rather purchase an iPod than purchase hardware to listen to Sirius? How many of them would think it’s a better deal to spend $25 per year (10¢ per program) to get their daily Stern fix than the $142 per year (58¢ per program) they’ll be paying Sirius? Okay, let’s do the math: For each Stern listener who pays him 10¢ per program, his gross is $25 per year (minus Apple’s cut). This is easy: 1,000,000 subscribers = $25 million, 2,000,000 subscribers = $50 million, etc.

Now, let’s say his listeners will pay for the purchasing agent model I suggested Candice offer — a “premium” RSS-enabled Howard Stern iTunes subscription where I pay for his program and 10 songs per month, which costs me about the same amount the Sirius subscription would cost me. As a listener/customer of Stern, I get his show and 120 songs on my iPod for the same price I’d pay for his show and the chance to listen to other Sirius programming. Stern would receive an additional $600,000 per million listeners who sign up for the premium version. (Sidenote: The record labels would make lots more money than they’re getting from Sirius for the rights to play that music.)Again, the Sirius deal was a no-brainer for Stern. Sirius has bet the ranch on him and is offering him $100 million a year. But what happens if his listeners don’t scale the price barrier he’s erected for them? No doubt, the most loyal listeners will (Jeff Jarvis will, of course.). But in the end, what is the better longterm deal for the Howard Stern franchise: $100 million from 4 million listeners paying 10¢ per day (the iTunes/podcasting model) or the X-factor number of listeners willing to paying 58¢ per day to generate the revenue necessary to make the Sirius business model work? Not counting the folks who will figure out a way to get it all for free, anyway.

How Apple will change everything about Podcasting, #3 — A long tail of podcasts on iTunes will make us stop thinking of “podcasts” as just Wayne’s World programming or radio-like genres (6/1/2005):

(Note: If they gave Oscars for buzzwords, Chris Anderson would easily receive an Academy Award for biz-speak term of the year for “longtail”. It’s a concept capturing the economic principles at work when a product so obscure only the creator’s Mom would buy it, finds itself sold on Amazon or eBay or iTunes. If you read about “longtail” on Chris’s weblog, then I won’t have to explain it, thus allowing me to jump right into what can happen when podcasting “content” is stocked on potentially endless  shelves at the Apple’s iTunes warehouse.)


Except for e-mail and Google News, my wife is not a big computer user. And while she puts up with listening to me talk about blogging and podcasting, I think her agreeing nods are more politeness than understanding. However, on Saturday, after reading this story in the NY Times about students creating their own art museum tour guide “remixes” and posting the MP3s for download on this website, she had her podcasting epiphany moment: “What’s this mean for Acoustiguide?” she asked.

Most chatter (by me and hundreds others) during the early days of podcasting has centered on the concept being “like radio” — but sort of amateur Wayne’s World (as Steve Jobs called it) radio. I am the first to celebrate the diversity of format, purpose and production value of the RSS-enabled distribution of do-it-yourself audio files (hey, I’m a regular listener of Dave Winer‘s podcasts that merely are him talking (and ocassionally singing) while having a cup of coffee in the morning). But trying to define podcasting by format or genre or production value is like trying to describe what a blank sheet of paper is supposed to look like before “content” is added. That blank piece of paper could end up on a refrigerator or on the wall of an art gallery. (I’ve been harping on this point for a while.)

I believe if you want to understand the economic implications of podcasting (audio files distributed via RSS enclosures) meeting up with the dominate platform facilitating micropayments for audio files (iTunes), you must set aside your notions that podcasting is about a given format or genre.Let me repeat one thing and make it perfectly clear before I continue: I believe the chances of an amateur, do-it-yourself podcaster striking it rich through podcasting — even if you’re lucky enough to get your podcast on iTunes — is about as remote as your chances of playing in the NBA.  I advise you to podcast for fun and passion or to promote your business or to serve mankind. Or, for some extra cash on the side, like selling stuff from your attic on eBay. However, I also believe that the NBA will continue to hold drafts and pay multimillion signing bonuses to a microscopic percentage of all basketball players, and likewise, I believe there will be break-through success stories (beyond the Adam Curry-Sirius program) when it comes to podcasting.

Here are a few examples of the kind of podcasts  I’d actually pay for if podcasters price it low enough and Apple iTunes makes the vending machine part of this transaction as easy and simple as everything else about using their service (and please, if you have programming ideas that you’d purchase from a budding podcaster, add it to the comments of hthis post). I believe some of these ideas can be multimillion dollar ideas (the seminar podcasting one, for example) while others will be only multithousand dollar ideas.

Here goes:

1. City tours (really, any kind of tours, including museums, historic battlefields, national parks,  etc.) : I would purchase downloads of MP3s  I could listen to in a rental car, driving into a downtown from an airport. Not like GPS directions, but fun, helpful information that tells me what I’m seeing as I drive in and gives me ideas of what to do while in town. Or, produce a series of “jogging from your hotel” directions that tells a jogger what he or she is running by.

2. Mash-up music-news programming: I’d pay for a version of a 30 minute program of business news each morning that had jock-jam-type music in the background playing at my jog pace. I need music to get me over the next hill, but I also like listening to the news. Can’t someone smash up the two?

3. Seminar sessions: I doubt I’m going to attend your $1,200 conference. But if it sounds compelling enough, I might pay you $100 to download each session a few minutes after it is finished. Rather than cannibalize your registration revenue, your session downloads are merely samplers for getting people to attend future meetings. Besides, I hate to break the news to you, but the real value of that convention you’re putting on is the networking taking place between the sessions.

4. MP3 books — self-publishing model: iTunes could, if they want to extend the long tail out long enough, become the of audio books — is trying to do that itself, however. And has such a headstart that Apple already partners with them. But (and I want to be sensitive here, as I’m a loyal and appreciative customer of who needs and their short-tail, boutique approach to retailing audiobooks at ridiculously high prices? Watch this space for major disintermediation.

5. Motivational, self-help, weight-loss, exercise, how-to audio: This content is all over the place already…even on iTunes. (And I touch on it in an upcoming post in this series.) It appears to me that iTunes will provide a robust marketplace for such programming — not only from the masters of this genre, but it could provide the platform necessary to add fuel to emerging cult figures in media microniches. (Personally, I nominate Merlin Mann of to pioneer this — I’d pay to subscribe to anything he produces.)

6. Acoustiguide should sell anything they produce via iTunes. They probably won’t as I imagine they view their business model revolving around hardware rental, or something. In reality, I doubt they’d cannibalize any of their rentals at museums as most people won’t think ahead. However, the incremental sales on programming already produced will only increase the value of the short-shelf-life products.

7. As I said shortly after hearing the word “podcast” for the very first time, this is a perfect medium for certain CEOs. Unlike blogging, it doesn’t require the CEO to sit down and write something. In this medium, a “scripted” presentation would sound awful. Authenticity would be rewarded and more times than not, when you get rid of scripts, CEOs can actually sound intelligent and passionate and thought-provoking. I would gladly pay Apple iTunes for an RSS-enabled daily feed of anything Bill Gates wants to talk about each morning. (I’m serious.)

How Apple will change everything about Podcasting, #4 — They’ll make it simple. (6/5/2005):

I had a very long post prepared on the point I’m about to argue. When I completed it, I thought, how ironic is it to spend so many words trying to explain how Apple can make podcasting — everything about it — simple.

Forget hip. Forget micropayments. Forget marketing juggernaut.

Just, simple.

Simple, as in I don’t have to set up any new software or comprehend what’s taking place. Simple, as in I don’t need to know what RSS is. Simple, as in I just have to click on something to subscribe.So, you can stop right there and not read anything else. All the words after this are several ways I’m guessing Apple will make podcasting simple.

Simple thing 1: You will subscribe to a podcast with one click and without the need (and corresponding hassle) to set up anything.

The major RSS newsreaders (on both Mac and Windows platforms) offer elegant and intuitive methods of synching up podcasts (RSS-enclosures) with iTunes (and, I assume, other platforms on which people organize their audio files and download them to MP3 players.) However, those elegant approaches are merely transitional solutions and, frankly, are a hassle for those who have low tolerances for coping with something that needs more instruction than “click here.” Indeed, this low threshold is perhaps why people don’t even download and set-up RSS newsreaders in the first place.

Apple will make subscribing to a podcast as simple to understand and execute as it is currently to subscribe to a streaming MP3 audio program (called Radio now on iTunes) using iTunes. (Wait. Some people don’t know that,  in addition to the hard-coded radio streams available on iTunes in the Radio folder, you can listen to any MP3 stream via iTunes. Look for one of those hardcoded “podcasting” folders, but I’m guessing you’ll still be able to subscribe to any podcast you want in much the same way.

For podcasters, this “Simple thing 1” means that whenenver anyone you know who uses iTunes (i.e., anyone with an iPod) asks how to subscribe to your show (or whatever it is you do), all you have to say is this: “Go to my podcast’s URL and drag that orange “XML” button  (or maybe a “iTunes this” button) into your iTunes playlist folder that says podcasts.” Then you’ll explain, “Everytime I have a new show (or whatever), it will automagically appear in that folder.” (End of instructions.)

Simple thing 2: If you want to, it will be easy (one day) to sell your podcast through iTunes.

Most of you won’t ever sell podcasting content. (I hope.) But, if you do, iTunes will make it simple. And not merely because they’ve already created the defacto micropayment transaction platform for audio files (that integrates Paypal, credit cards, pre-paid cards available at retail outlets, parent’s allowances, and gift certificates), but, theorectically, at least, they already have a model and process in place to service a new “supply chain” and channel in commercial podcasting. If you want to get a feel of how it will work, here is a link to the online application they use now for independent record labels and individuals who want to sell their music via the iTunes store. I assume Apple is now working on nailing down “programming” feeds from the “major labels” of potential commercial podcasting (whoever they may be). A similar online applicatioin will be available to the “indies” of commercial podcasting.

Once you have an account, when you finish producing your podcast programming (more on that next), you’ll be able to upload it to the iTunes store via something that will likely be called, “The iTunes professional podcaster producer” (registration/approval/secret handshake required). It will likely add some “evil” or “necessary” (depending on your point-of-view) Digital Rights encoding and send the file on its way to the iTunes Stores warehouse shelves. Also, when Apple starts stocking your podcasts on the iTunes Store, they’ll offer you marketing support through something that will likely be called “iTunes Podcaster Marketing Support“.

Simple thing 3: You’ll be able to produce pro-level-production-value audio using software as easy-to-use as iPhoto or iMovie or…

iPhoto and iMovie and iTunes display how Apple can make amazing software that enables those willing to scale a slight learning curve to create and manage digital media. GarageBand is an equally stunning software platform for the less-than-pro audio producer. However, it is packaged and marketed as, well, a product for creating music. I’m guessing that’s about to change. Or, it should.

Producing and posting a high-production-value podcast will get a lot easier when, sooner or later, Apple strips out some of its music-centric features and repackages something called “GarageBand – Podcaster Version” or, simply as “iPodcaster” or something similar.

And here’s a bonus thought for those of you who are slightly more geeky and Mac-centric than the typical reader of this weblog:  Don’t forget there are rumors (as in, the suing kind of rumors) of a “fireware audio device” that, in effect, will serve as an external control board for using GarageBand for audio production. This device will give most people (exception:  high-end music production pros) all the tools they should need to produce quality audio.

Simple thing 4: You’ll soon be able to “create” podcasts on the iPod

Don’t care about production value? Here’s one for you.

A few simple tweaks will enable iPods to serve as a production platform as well as a sound capturing, storing and listening platform. I’m guessing it won’t take long for Apple to introduce an iPod, podcaster version. As I’ve noted, one can see the pathway to this product by considering that today, a Griffin iTalk & Griffin iTrip, can in a rudimentary fashion, create and broadcast MP3 files. With higher quality input and wi-fi output, you’ve got what I’m talking about.

Think about that: An iPod that allows anyone within the range of a wi-fi access point the opportunity to podcast on location. Come to think of it, you can do that today with a cell-phone, but saying that you can do that is not nearly as impressive as implying that doing it on an iPod is something new.

How Apple will change everything about Podcasting, #5 — Five potential unintended consequences of iTunes embracing podcasting. (6/23/2005):

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 appearsthe 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.

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That’s it. The most words I’ve ever blogged on one topic. I’ll never do it again on this blog. Promise.

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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.