The Podcast Pickle: Is it Dying or Not?

The Podcast Pickle

When discussions about radio moving into the new millennium come up there is one aspect of technology that is often invoked: the podcast. Detractors of broadcast media say that podcasting signals the death knell for radio. Supporters stress the importance of stations adopting podcasting as a new delivery mechanism for radio shows. Both sides will be interested in our topic today: Is podcasting dead?

That question was asked yesterday morning in the tile of Alexander Wolfe’s Information Week column entitled “Wolfe’s Den.”  Wolfe is not optimistic about the future of podcasts.

Hence the question in my headline, “Is Podcasting Dead?” More correctly, the question should really be whether podcasting isn’t on artificial life support. Because, as best as I can see, there’s a lot more money and effort being spent on creating ‘casts than there is interest and dollars headed back to content creators from consumers.

Heck, if you check out the iTunes podcasting directory, you’d think this stuff is more popular than Monday Night Football. (OK, the MFN isn’t what it once was.) Yet the most recent study I could find forecasts that the number of regular podcast listeners in the United States will reach 7.5 million this year. This compares to 200 million from radio.

The interesting thing about those figures is that many of the podcast listeners are in fact hearing repackaged radio content. Alex Iskold over at Read Write Web gives us a documentation rich analysis of the current podcasting climate:

The last problem may be delivering the final blow to podcasting — competition from big media companies. They all quickly figured out that recycling their audio content into podcasts is cheap and easy. So many of them have done just that. NPR, CNN, and National Geographic, for example, make their content available as podcasts. Looking at what is popular on iTunes we see very few independently produced podcasts, but rather a top downloads page that is dominated by the pros.

While the popular podcasts are dominated by video, at least one radio syndicate has bridged the digital gap in a major way: National Public Radio (NPR) is a front runner in the union of radio and podcasting. Many of NPR’s popular shows are available as podcasts as well as during their regular time slot via streaming audio.

To further shake things up, the departure of iconic podcaster John Furier from Podtech has ignited a furious and sometimes vitriolic array of commentary across the media landscape. What is interesting is that many of the arguments supporting the death of podcasting as a delivery mechanism are areas that radio is, and has long been, strong in.

  • Intellectual Capital – Podcasts require more attention, which many would rather focus on watching video or listening to music.
  • The Commute – drivers generally do not wear headphones while driving, and most cars do not have an input jack for an iPod. In addition most podcast content is seen as being “too serious,” for listening to after a long workday.
  • Cars – even if auto manufacturers start integrating iPod/MP3 player docks in their new models the rate at which this will become the standard will be limited by the rate of new car purchases.

While podcasting might not be a dying delivery mechanism, I think those who hold it up as a “radio killer” should reconsider their positions.

photo courtesy of arvindgrover, used under this Creative Commons license


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6 Responses to “The Podcast Pickle: Is it Dying or Not?”

  1. Jonathan Says:

    I think digital content such as podcasts will kill talk radio, but it’s going to take some time for it to happen.

    Music is a different argument entirely – and the radio industry has tentacles deep into the lawmakers pockets – meaning they will continue their attempts to kill off internet radio stations and music podcasts for years to come – destroying their own reputation in the process.

  2. George Williams Says:

    Hello Jonathan, thanks for stopping by to share your thoughts. I

    I think that you may be confusing the radio industry with SoundExchange, which is actually an organization based in Washington representing record labels and artists.

    For a wealth of information on SoundExchange and the ongoing royalty battles you should check out

    Part of the future of radio is the embrace of streaming media in addition to broadcasting, something many stations around the world have already done. I listen to my favorite station on its stream while at work because the broadcast signal is hard to get (concrete walls). I also use it while out of town. When I am at home or in the car I tune in via traditional broadcast. I view the two methods as complimentary rather than exclusionary.

    If I am missing the mark in my response please let me know, I would be interested in hearing more of your perspective on the situation. Thanks for stopping by The Radio2020 Blog!

  3. Jonathan Says:

    Thanks for correcting me George. It has been a while since I heard about the battles going on with royalties – the last time it cropped up on This Week in Tech was when the deadlines got extended for several months.

    In addition to your thoughts about streaming media with radio, I would also add that it will only really take off if there is no DRM involved. Thankfully the big media companies seem to be dropping DRM on audio.

  4. joe Says:

    go poacast pickle

  5. joe Says:

    In all arguments, I think that Podcasts are the “new-age” thing. How many people, out of the ones you know, have iPods? Podcasts are fast and easy to download. They are entertaining and, at time, mindless. Take for instance, the Onion. It is a simple newspaper that started at a college, created by a bunch of college kids, and or other persons that decide to put fallacies in a newspaper for the sake of entertainment.

    I don’t really see what you are trying to achieve in your article; perhaps I am absent minded when it comes to these kinds of things. But where does Podcast pickle come into these argumentative/interesting discussions/questions? I am sure that there are other mindless podcasts out there that are dying out faster than Podcast pickle.

  6. George Williams Says:

    @Joe As far as what I am trying to achieve with the article, I am trying to shine a spotlight on pertinent discussions and developments that are tied to the future of radio as a medium. My use of the Podcast Pickle was simply to illustrate the tenor of Alex Wolfe’s article in information week.

    Time will certainly tell with this particular topic. I think the last line of my post says it pretty well: “While podcasting might not be a dying delivery mechanism, I think those who hold it up as a “radio killer” should reconsider their positions.”

    I’m not taking any solid position on this other than “wait and see.” I am, however, going to continue watching the trends and see where they go.

    Thanks a lot for stopping by!

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