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