Segments: Slices from the Macintosh Life
Podcasts: Number One on the Hype Parade
The term podcast is a misnomer. The iPod is not a required part of the podcast equation. It is not needed to broadcast programs over the Internet, or even to listen to them, for that matter.
For the past two months, I have been downloading and listening to podcasts daily. I installed iPodderX and used its directory feature to sample the widest breadth of content possible. It should come as no surprise that technology-based content outnumbers all others. All podcasts were heard through the internal speakers of my trusty PowerBook.
I will say that I learned a lot on a host of different topics, but this is after so much concerted listening. The quality level of what I was subjected to for the most part was amateurish. High school radio sounds a lot better and has higher production values. In our digital world time is compressed, and there is little room and even less tolerance for mediocrity. In essence, you are only as good as your last podcast. The signal-to-noise ratio is far too low, and it make me wonder how come so many people simply put up with it. I reckon it doesn’t cost them anything in dollars…yet.
Of course there are exceptions. There are a number of well-produced podcasts, where the on-air talent has taken pains to assemble the proper audio technology and most importantly screen what they are about to unleash. I would like to think that they take pride in what they are doing. These podcasts maintain a strong following due in part to their name recognition and the amount of preparation and research that goes into each program.
Recently, Apple introduced iTunes 4.9 with its integrated podcast aggregator. I was alerted to this by my close friends via instant messenger and dutifully downloaded and installed the update on the spot. I took one look at iTunes 4.9’s podcast software and was prompted to write to my friends and share my thoughts. Below are excerpts with additional comments afterwards.
This will mark the end of the incorrectly named concept of podcasting as it is known today—much like the World Wide Web was supposed to be the great equalizer, yet as we see from history that has not been the case.
When I first saw the opening splash screen, I was struck by the presence of Adam Curry. Mind you, I was not surprised, and had I thought about beforehand, it would have been what I would have expected as he helped coin the genre.
Podcasts will serve as the minor leagues and farm system for established radio broadcasting conglomerates and satellite radio companies: XM and Sirius.
This point was hit home as upon scrolling down the page I noticed that podcasts were being segregated into two distinct categories. The former being those that are unashamedly commercial and the latter being relegated to indie status. Much like the music industry, this nascent industry is rife with stereotypes. Make no mistake, right here and now this stops being grass roots. This is not freeform, and it’s nothing like college radio. It can only aspire to be that good.
The cream of the crop will get invited to the big show, while the chaff will, like most Web sites, get to enjoy their infrequent moments of fame. Podcasting can be likened to a visit to the Wizard of Oz. The level anticipation is great, but once you get there it’s all “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.”
I have begun conversations with radio executives about this phenomenon and find that they see the podcasts as a stream for future talent. The proliferation of talk radio demands that there be more unique radio personalities and esoteric subjects being discussed. Don’t be shocked when XM and Sirius launch channels comprised solely of podcasts.
Podcasts as a genre is yesterday’s news. It is not the equalizer that its proponents and pundits have claimed it to be. The Web should have taught us all something about the haves and the have-nots. The business of content is all about presentation and marketing. Quality comes far behind availability and access. Consumers will settle for mediocrity if they can get to it easily and reliably.
So what’s the next big hype? Any ideas about the next equalizer? For my money it is the blog, but not so much the content as the actual templates supplied by the leading blogging sites and software companies. I formed my own online focus group targeting the newest bloggers I could find with less than two weeks under their belts and asked them a number of questions: Why start now? Did you maintain a Web site previously? And are you getting out of it what you expected?
The responses in a nutshell: They found the provided templates an excellent tool to help express themselves and communicate their ideas in visibly organized manner. As a result, their Web sites, in their words, look more “respectable,” have “structure,” and are “easier to maintain” because the content and design go hand in hand. The majority chose to blog now because they all feel they have something to say, and they were empowered by being able to refer me to their blogs, rather than telling me directly what they were thinking and what made them tick.
I learned something special from them in reference to my last question. It is not about what the blogger gets out of it, but more importantly what the readers takes with them. Hopefully they are richer for the experience.
Also in This Series
- About My Particular Macintoshes · May 2012
- From the Darkest Hour · May 2012
- Shrinking Into an Expanding World · May 2012
- Growing Up With Apple · May 2012
- Recollections of ATPM by the Plucky Comic Relief · May 2012
- Making the Leap · March 2012
- Digital > Analog > Digital · February 2012
- An Achievable Dream · February 2012
- Smart Move? · February 2012
- Complete Archive