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A Podcast Dies a Thousand Deaths…

Death of Podcasting …an unfounded Internet meme lives forever.

At the end of 2008, with the demise of podcasting service Podango (no link ’cause they’re, uh, gone), the “Podcasting is Dead” meme recirculated again. The conversation, this time spurred from a recent blog post by Michael Goeghegan, referring to Podango’s situation and an unfortunately titled presentation he did in 2007.

So on Dec 31, 2008, Joseph Jaffe hosted a live discussion with some of podcasting’s greats to discuss the situation.

The rockstar guest list included:

It was a spirited discussion about podcasting with some really interesting insight. I regret not catching it live and joining the conversation via voice or the chat room. Keep in mind that most of these aforementioned podcasters are marketing and public relations folks (many have been on the cutting edge of podcasting for years), which is important to keep in mind. But there are a few names in there whose primary vocation is podcasting, which is also important to note. Take a listen if you want.

Also, Shel cited two excellent sources (thanks for the links, Shel) including a Pew Internet study “Podcast Downloading 2008” and Edison Media Research’s The Podcast Consumer Revealed 2008, which provide some interesting stats and figures about the consumption of podcasts. Listener and viewership is UP.

The themes I pulled from the 90+ minute discussion, include:

  • There are two types of podcast concepts (I’m stripping these down to their cores): 1) Podcasting as a marketing tool and 2) Podcasting as a distinct medium. The former includes producing content as a positioning tool for your business, consultancy, event, etc. The latter includes producing content strictly for the purpose of generating content. The print equivalents would be 1) producing a glossy magazine filled with interesting, industry-related content, sponsored by your business and 2) producing a magazine filled with interesting content, funded by ads and (possibly) subscription costs.
  • The death of podcasting tends to erupt whenever a business or person decides that concept #2 isn’t working out. Ravenscraft cites a conversation he had with Goeghegan referring exactly to this. It’s both time consuming and, for some, technically challenging to create a podcast. My opinion is that podfading is more prevalent than businesses going under and entrepreneurs giving up hopes on the medium combined.
  • Podcasting shouldn’t be about the technology. When you get hung up on the technology you’re missing the point. Podcasting is a tool, a channel for reaching audiences.
  • The main problem with podcasting today is that there is no easy, standardized method for distribution or subscription. RSS, as the geeks know, is what’s powering both,  and iTunes has come a long way in putting podcasts into the mainstream. A lot of people don’t sync, don’t timeshift, don’t know where to get podcasts.
  • Podcasting’s flexibility is its huge advantage. How can you make it work for you?
  • People ARE making money podcasting. Some are indirectly, by positioning themselves to be experts in their field; but Grammar Girl and Ravenscraft are both examples of people paying the bills directly because of podcasting.

So here are my thoughts on podcasting:

  • Podcasting is – wait for it – not dead.
  • The more niche the content, the better off you’ll be. The Internet has made geography irrelevant, all you have to do is find enough people across the world who are interested in what your talking about. I think that’s a fairly attainable goal. However, it’s easy to forget the Mid-Tail, as the Edison Media (link above) piece reminds us. As a good communicator, one needs to remember who the audience is and be sure the message is on target. It’s cliche as hell, but content is still king in podcasting.
  • That said, your talent has a lot to do with the show, that and production. Don’t skimp on either. I’ve chosen one podcast over another in similar categories numerous times because of the hosts. I’ll put up with a lot in terms of audio production, but there is a limit. Most of your audiences won’t be so forgiving and you’ll only have ONE shot to impress them.
  • Community is HUGE. This goes back to your talent, but you’ve got to make it easy for a community to form around your content. Don’t broadcast, engage. I think the reason the top podcasts on iTunes are typically repurposed mainstream media bits (ESPN, NPR, etc) is because there is already a community of people engaged with that content and talent. In this situation, the podcast is becoming an alternative method for receiving content, most likely because of the on-demand, timeshifted nature of the beast. As the Edison piece indicates, these people are big into social networks, too. I can’t lead your horse to the water more than that. Drink. And that only makes it hard to break through the clutter if you’re trying to do something that’s already out there. Here’s a hint – don’t do that unless you can do it WAY better. I’m still waiting for a short, weekly audio podcast wrapping up the NHL games, highlights and standings. I haven’t looked in a while, but if you know of one, tell me about it.

I LOVE podcasts, they keep me sane, but I have a 60-120 minute commute, one-way, depending on weather and traffic. And I have a lot more thoughts, but I’m hoping you’ll pitch in here. What are your thoughts? Do you listen? Why or why not? How and where do you listen? Do you sync and timeshift?

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3 Responses

  1. Great summary Luke! It was a really awesome call, and very fun to be a part of it. One of the things that was discussed on the chat session that accompanies the podcast was ‘how does a beginner get started with podcasting?’.

    I shared a presentation I did on “Ten Tips for Launching and Promoting a New Podcast”, the recording and the PowerPoint slides can be found here:
    http://podcast.tengoldenrules.com/10goldenrules-podcast-episode13.html

  2. Jay,

    Thanks for posting that link. I’m sure to check it out soon. I’m really glad to see that people are still investing publicly in podcasting.

    Newbies, check it out, let us know what you think.

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