I’m always conscious of my limited knowledge of the way the rest of the world works, so I invited Katharina, a friend and European resident, to talk about what podcasting means in Europe.

Katharina (@KMLaw on Twitter) has been a podcast listener for 5 years and a podcaster for 4 years. She is currently the host of Luscious Leftovers and co-host of Every Photo Tells.

More thoughts an analysis below the cut line!

So, the state of podcasting appears to be somewhat limited. I had hoped that my initial impressions were simply naive or incorrect. One can make all sorts of possible explanations for this, some of which Katharina mentions:

  • With the limited number of people in each language, the potential size of the audience might be too limited if the language isn’t broadly understood, like English. This makes sense, from a perspective of traditional media which really only thrives on large audiences, and may possibly reflect some of the lack of knowledge about podcasting. I have often suggested that “podcasting is big, because it is small“: it serves niches very, very well. So, a “niche” such as a particular language shouldn’t be used as an excuse not to do a podcast — but, in fact, should be used as a reason to do one.
  • Podcasting is dominated by big media in Europe. Certainly, the podcasts from Europe that I know the most about are representatives of big media (e.g. BBC). It seems that the big media has recognized that podcasting is an important medium, and are trying to give it support. This might be a reaction to the slow support that big media had for web sites when they first arrived (and the continuing love/hate debate they have around providing content in public or behind paywalls) — they don’t want to be caught out again. It may also be some recognition of the global capability of podcasts as a distribution mechanism. In contrast, however, I think that podcasting can serve very well on a local or even hyper-local area: it costs no more to distribute to your neighbour as to the rest of the world — and your neighbour might well be more interested in what you have to say. So, while we promote podcasting as an international distribution medium, we should also reserve some time to talk about it as a local distribution method as well.
  • Where are the European podcamps and podcasting conventions? Given the divisions of language, perhaps it is not surprising that there aren’t any common gathering spots for podcasters in Europe. Not surprising, until you look at all the other international and local festivals there are. In this local area, there was an international web video festival last month, as well as an upcoming international documentary festival and music festival. This deserves more examination: such events must be occurring somewhere in Europe..
  • Where are the European podcasting directories? Offline, Katharina reminded me that I can change the country for my iTunes store to see the iTunes podcast directory for other countries. What about non-iTunes non-North American directories? But, does this make any sense? Should podcast directories for each country exist, or each region? It seems to me that all directories should consider themselves to be global, and that what we really need are better tools to sort podcasts by language, country and region, as well as by subject matter and popularity. It strikes me that we need to step up and make more sophisticated information inside our podcasts, to better enable them to be organized. Maybe it’s just my perspective — I am a computer science grad student, with some interest in intelligent and structured information management — but I sincerely feel that if we organized things better, gave users more tools to slice up and query by, the world of podcasting would be better organized. We apparently can’t leave this task to Apple alone, however; if anything, simply pointing at the haphazard, uni-dimensional organization of both the iTunes podcast directory and the App Store should be good indicators that they don’t really spend a lot (most would say enough) time thinking about this.

Here are some prods to get you thinking:

  • As a podcast listener, how do you find podcasts? How would you prefer to find podcasts?
  • Do you have another perspective on podcasting in Europe? Is both mine and Katharina’s perspective too narrow?
  • Do you live in another part of the world — not Europe, not North America? What is podcasting like there? Do people know about podcasting? Do they know about it all? Do they have any conventions or gatherings for podcasting?
  • Is podcasting just a “luxury” limited to the “rich” countries? Certainly, there is a lot of infrastructure involved in getting podcasts — something that I think a lot of podcasters forget about when they say that it is “free” and “easy”. In North America, we now tend to look upon those with “only” a dial-up Internet connection with reactions between quaintly behind and shockingly backward — but beyond North America (and Europe, and parts of Asia), dial-up itself might be spotty. With the growth of cell phones adding connectivity where none existed at all before, do you think there might be another growth in the market of podcasts there?
  • How do we make podcasting more well known? Certainly, I believe in the medium’s power, and think it can be positively used around the world, and should be embraced.

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