Podcasting has certainly gotten more popular as of late. I even did a podcast here on WebbyOnline for a little while. And for those of you who might be wondering where it went: yes, I did drop it out. Why?
I think that podcasting is a limited form of media and is not destined to reach mainstream. Again, why?
Too many mechanics involved. Look, when I bring you this blog post, I simply type it up and hit the Publish button. It couldn’t get easier. Now, to bring you a podcast, I have to have some equipment to record on, edit the podcast so it sounds OK, encode as an MP3, upload to my server, embed it into a blog post, and post. And before any of that will work, I have to set up my feeds to accommodate MP3 attachments. Then, the audio might sound like crap (unless, of course, I am really good at editing and have expensive audio equipment).
More importantly, let’s look at the listener side of the equation. The listener has to actively seek out the podcast and use, usually, special software like Itunes to get the podcast and stick it onto an MP3 player. The person has to have bought that MP3 player. The person would need to be technically inclined enough to know what an RSS feed is, how to subscribe to it, how to sync their MP3 player with the computer, etc. Or, if they are like the 80% or so that consume podcasts right on their computer, they either need to still know how to use RSS feeds or would need to sit there and listen without leaving the website until it is over.
In short, it’s still too technical and the barriers to entry too great for this to be mainstream. In actuality, it is much easier today to record and post a video to the web than it is to post a podcast. And that’s saying something.
Also, podcasts are, for now, not searchable. You might have great content in your podcast, but unless you accompany that show with a lot of written text, nobody is going to find the show. So, in the end, it still comes back to the written word.
The internet medium was all written and then evolved quickly to video. The whole podcasting thing got quickly skipped over. It is like going from the newspaper straight to color TV and skipping all evolutions in between.
But, again, the problem is accessibility to the masses. Sites like Youtube have made video accessible. A webcam costs $50 and you can record straight to the web if you want. Podcasting, because of the in-between barriers to entry, got lost in the mix. And I’m not sure it can recover from that. Video is a much more appealing form of content than straight audio.
I think podcasting is destined to be like ham radio – used by a few technically inclined people who enjoy it just for kicks. The exception to this would be if (and that is a big if) we see a device go mainstream that automates all of the technical matters associated with podcasts for the end reader. Something as simple to work as a clock radio, but that allows easy subscription to a podcast show. Or perhaps the same thing built into car radios. If we see something like this, perhaps podcasting has a fighting chance of becoming as prevalent as radio. Otherwise, I doubt it ever will. It is still growing, but I think it has a fairly low ceiling that it just hasn’t hit yet.
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