Category: Podcasting Should…

Are Podcasts Dying?” asks a blogger for Stuff online.

The evidence (paraphrased):

  1. The New York Times is getting out of podcasting.
  2. People the author’s age (youth?) aren’t listening to podcasts (but his parents love them).
  3. Most people listen to podcasts of shows that they missed on radio.
  4. Podcasts are hard to make.
  5. Podcasts are hard to monetize, and have “smallish” audiences.
  6. Podcasts are hard to get/manage.
So, let’s look at this closer…

Good friend and author, Scott Roche, is also a rather ambitious fellow. He’s recently launched an effort to catalogue the podcasts and podcasters out there, as an independent, community-driven effort. I’ve signed up, and maybe I can help — maybe you can too!

This effort is sparse, at the moment, but could grow, with effort and participation. It is the Internet Podcast Database (IPDB). (Scott has suggested that things will be moving soon to, so I’ll include that link as well.)

I’ve lamented continuously about the lack of real discovery and management tools we have for podcasts, so I won’t rehash that topic. Sadly, despite the break I’ve taken from publishing here, nothing really dramatic seems to have happened.

One thing I’ve never really talked about here is Stitcher, or the various other on-device podcatchers. Mostly, that’s out of ignorance and a lack of time to remedy it, but also because I confess a certain aversion to the concept of end-device podcast management. Some are quite happy to separate the collection of podcasts from their central home computer or laptop — mostly, I suspect, because it frees you from using the stagnated singular leading product in the market, iTunes. Given the growth in processor power and storage on portable devices, as well as their role in day-to-day activities formerly associated with desktop computer use growing (email, web browsing, messaging, gaming, etc), it’s a trend that’s likely to continue.

But it leaves power-users like myself a bit in the dust. I can’t possibly store the unheard episodes of the podcasts I’m already subscribed to on any portable devices on the market, nor would I want to subject myself to podcast playlist management on a screen barely big enough to handle my sausage fingers.

(Side note: bring back physical buttons, dammit!)

I also wonder about the history of a podcast being appreciated when you put in on a compressed device. There are podcasts I’ve collected for a “rainy day” of listening. Others which had their run, podfaded, and have now become complete volumes on my “podshelf”, to be brought down, dusted off, and enjoyed when I have a lull in other programs, much like I will pick up a book from my bookshelf that hasn’t yet been written. There are other podcasts which I will complete but not delete; rather, I put them back on the podshelf to enjoy again at a later date. This is particularly true of fiction podcasts, but there is a class of “timeless” podcast which includes non-fiction as well.

And finally, there is the biggest problem of all: podcasting silos, otherwise known (crudely) as the creation of a vertical marketplace. Each of these end-device applications has it’s own database of podcasts, which is created either through the googlescraping of podcasts and defunct directories, or must be submitted to by overworked podcast producters who have to somehow keep on top of every nickel-and-dime-store podcasting application creator’s product release.

So, instead of really solving a problem, for example, the issue of iTunes being a “walled garden”, you have, instead, the creation of a panoply of walled gardens, or the creation of the “podcasting walled garden” as a category of thing, and instances replicated throughout these applications.

So, I laud Scott’s effort for an independent body of knowledge, free of individual applications. It’s form is that of a wiki at present, and it is a community-driven effort, but I suspect it may transform into a form of directory at some point. With luck, it will survive the transformation with the lessons of the past failed and faded directories, and provide a resource that can automatable connections to software. With luck, we’ll see the offspring of such a project be the podcast directory service equivalent of what RSS is to podcasts; that is, an organizing principle which is metaphorically accessible and machine-readable.

Managing: time, podcasts, life

Podcasting is not really a profession, as such — and neither is pontificating about podcasting.

That means that it really falls into the hobby category, and that means that other things take priority, sometimes.

Obviously, I’ve had a few priorities to deal with, but I’ve kept this blog set up and paid for the hosting to make sure that I remind myself to come back to it, when I have time.

And then I realized: I will never have time, just free-floating time that is free of all obligations.

I have to do what people have been telling me for years: I’ll have to make time.

For all those years, I’ve bristled at that term, feeling myself surrounded by obligations that don’t have any room to wiggle in. I’ll still do, but I’m starting to realize the real essence behind the phrase. It’s not about “making” time, it’s about deciding not to waste it.

With the multitude of things to distract, amuse and work at, it’s no surprise that time rarely feels wasted, but rather just consumed.

Ah, but what does this have to do with podcasting? If anything?

Actually, I think it has something very fundamental to do with the emergence of the podcasting medium. I think podcasting is one of the ultimate expressions of people wanting to organize their leisure time, to take control over the schedule of entertainment that, for the majority of its modern timeframe, was out of our control.

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(This is the second part of a two-part series of posts inspired by the #podcrit discussion on Twitter of 2010-06-05/06. The first part is here.)

The second factor is largely a technological one. Podcasting hasn’t really changed since it began, despite the fact that it has grown so big. For the most part, I think podcasters have largely rested on their laurels, content to simply put out podcasts in the form that exists now, rather than innovating to make the form better. For most, that’s a reasonable notion. But podcasting needs to innovate, or it will drown in its own success.

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Podcasting is often described as a community, implying that we all should be good neighbours. What does that mean?

The point erupts from time to time (see Scott Roche’s podcast ep “Public Critique” from a few months ago, or John Miereu’s taking-the-Canadian-polite-hat-off, “Social Media: It’s Okay to Rock the Boat!” post), and sparked an interesting discussion on Twitter last night (look for the #podcrit tag). (Aside: if you know of more examples of this kind of discussion out there, please add them in the comments.)

(This is part one of a two-part series that sprung up from that discussion. The second part will follow.)

There were essentially four discussions that came up:

  1. Podcasting needs more real criticism in order to get better. Too much criticism is too soft, and really just supportive fluff.
  2. Podcasting needs to grow the pool of listeners, not just cross-pollinate the listeners we already have. New blood, rather than spreading old blood around.
  3. The notion of “podcasting standards” gets raised — not only in terms of production and content quality, but also in terms of the physical structure of podcasts, the use of tags, and other mechanical things to assist intelligent podcast discovery.
  4. The notion of “genre” has been abused within the podcasting arena; specifically, podcasts aren’t given genres, but “podcasting” is classified incorrectly as a single genre.

(These are my distilling points from the conversation. The discussion ranged quite a bit, and I’m sure I’ve missed something…)

What follows is my consideration of these questions, along with some ideas on what we might do.

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