Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
September 20, 2008 9:28 PM

Podcasting Is Not Dead

Podcasting Is Not Dead... In fact, It's just getting started.

That pretty much wraps up the sentiment most had after PodCamp Montreal 2008 ended for day one a few hours back.

Podcasting Is Dead was the name of an afternoon session with Rob Blatt. He asked us to define Podcasting.

Here's what I said: "a Podcast is a portable piece of audio or video content that is delivered by RSS subscription."

Here's what Wikipedia says:

"A podcast is a series of audio or video digital-media files which is distributed over the Internet by syndicated download, through Web feeds, to portable media players and personal computers. Though the same content may also be made available by direct download or streaming, a podcast is distinguished from other digital-media formats by its ability to be syndicated, subscribed to, and downloaded automatically when new content is added.

Like the term broadcast, podcast can refer either to the series of content itself or to the method by which it is syndicated; the latter is also called podcasting. The host or author of a podcast is often called a podcaster."

They both seem to make sense, but Blatt's presentation challenged the notion that the word "podcasting" has no real value any more. In what turned into a debate on semantics (are you a Podcaster or a Producer?), I came to realize that Podcasting is, indeed, not dead... but just beginning to really see some uptake (whether you like the nomenclature on this new audio and video media or not).

First off, Podcasting is not like any other media form because while you can listen to a Podcast in many different ways (via subscription, directly in iTunes, downloading the MP3 file, listening to it right off a Blog, etc...), what makes a Podcast a "Podcast" is the the subscription (RSS) component.

Secondly, according to the eMarketer news item from September 2nd, 2008 titled, Podcast Usage Still Skews Young: "eMarketer predicts that the growth of the podcast audience in the US and the migration of content toward portable devices will help the channel mature and produce healthy increases in ad spending through 2012. The US podcast audience will grow from 18.5 million in 2007 to 65 million in 2012 — an increase of over 250%."

After watching the nearly 400 people today dive into social media and the power of Podcasting, it's clear that more adoption is beginning to take hold.

What do you think? Is Podcasting dead?

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Mitch Joel

    My personal project (Well-Rounded Radio) continues to grow, but I recently launched a series for my day job ( http://www.artsboston.org/podcast ) and after 14 episodes I've been kind of shocked how hard it has been to get traction with arts lovers, especially in Boston where the editorial coverage of performing arts is dropping off. I thought more people would listen or subscribe, but it's been a hard battle so far. Maybe it's just competing with too many other outlets, but...how much easier can it be to subscribe via iTunes...?

    Reply
  • Posted by Jersey Todd
    Mitch Joel

    Its a mixed bag. If you want to get into semantics, podcasting is a verb and clearly very much alive.

    But lets be honest, the question isn't is podcasting dead, but what ever happened to the podcast community? Was there ever really one to begin with?

    The answer is - that its refocusing and growing....the trick is going to be to see how many people are willing to cross promote other people's content...

    [I'd be happy to promote whatever anyone is doing....jerseytoddshow@gmail.com]

    Reply
  • Posted by Mark Dykeman
    Mitch Joel

    Podcasting better not be dead - I've only recently purchased an iPod, which makes it so much easier to listen to them!

    I think it's got a long life ahead of it.

    Reply
  • Podcasting is already becoming an acceptable part of traditional broadcasting.
    I work in the radio industry @ CIXL 91.7 Fm because of podcasting and Podcamp Toronto....this is just the beginning and this shows NO signs of slowing

    Reply
  • Posted by David Campbell
    Mitch Joel

    Terminology aside, on-demand content will continue to encroach on broadcast content and before long will be the only way we'll accept it.

    Reply
  • Posted by Avrum Nadigel
    Mitch Joel

    I find there's too much of everything. Too many podcasts... too much music... too many websites... too many blogs.

    So while podcasts may be alive, they're value has significantly been reduced.

    Reply
  • Posted by Avrum Nadigel
    Mitch Joel

    And too many spelling errors :P

    The above should read "their"

    Reply
  • Posted by Dave Kawalec
    Mitch Joel

    I co-produce a show that's available for free on the Internet. One of the avenues to get it is via podcast. It's about 50/50 split with various direct downloads. We call it a podcast because people know what that connotes, but I don't care if the audience gets the show through RSS or not. Podcasting is not dead but it's not the whole picture either.

    Reply
  • Posted by hugh
    Mitch Joel

    podcastin's not dead.

    Reply
  • Posted by Jay Berkowitz
    Mitch Joel

    Podcasting is alive and well, once a week, from Beautiful Montreal, and once every six weeks or so from Westport Conn. (just kidding JJ)

    A couple things inhibit the growth of podcasts.

    If people try a couple podcasts and the shows don't connect the they might not come back.

    Approx. 25% of people are auditory learners, we love audio. Other would prefer to digest the same content on a blog or in a magazine.

    Jay Berkowitz

    Reply
  • my additional thoughts were that a Podcast's unique attribute is the RSS/subscription functionality.

    Just because we all use other ways to distribute it (media player on-site, posting it to YouTube, etc...) does not make it any less of a "Podcast" because those are the promotional channels we use to get people to hear/watch what we're doing in hopes that they will subscribe and become regular audience members.

    Reply
  • Posted by Jason Bryant
    Jason Bryant

    Podcasting is not dead in the sense that getting audio and video content from the web will continue to grow. What is dead is the early notion that every podcaster would be able to "quit their day job" and just be a podcaster.

    There is only so much time in a day for people to listen and as more professional organizations put their content online, the amateur is left struggling to get attention.

    The paid subscription model may work for some podcasters, but advertising seems to be the only option for the vast majority. And for ad buyers to be interested in your content, you really need tens of thousands of unique downloads.

    Reply
  • Posted by Avrum Nadigel
    Mitch Joel

    It would seem anyone who follows Mitch's blog - for obvious reasons - are a biased lot. Curious... not one of my friends, family members and/or colleagues (and I work in a large hospital) listens to podcasts. Their reaction to my excitement is: "Who has the time?" and "I'd rather listen to music". So who's listening?

    Reply
  • Posted by Marko
    Mitch Joel

    I don't think it's dead at all. Things die after people becomes bored, fed up, or another technology, a newer better technology takes the place of older technology. IMO this has not happened with podcasting. Most of my non-tech friend are SLOWLY adopting podcasting. My subscribers/downloads are going up. Why would that happen if podcasting was dying?

    Reply
  • Posted by Ann Kingman
    Mitch Joel

    In my mind, podcasting is not dead, but in fact has not even really gotten started. We have a podcast that appeals to book lovers and people who like bookstores and libraries. We meet many, many potential listeners each week in person, face-to-face. It has been very difficult to get those people to check it out.

    The term 'podcast' strikes terror in the hearts of many that we speak with -- as soon as we say the words, you can almost see them cover their ears and say "nah, nah, I'm not listening." Most people in my world do not live their life online, do not have iPods, and hardly read blogs. They think podcast = ipod. If they have an iPod, they don't really know how to use it. I have walked more than one colleague through setting up iTunes and taking their long-ago purchased ipod out of the box.

    RSS feeds seem to scare people. About 1/3 of our blog subscribers subscribe by email. Less than half of our podcast listeners receive our contet through itunes or other podcatcher.

    We've tried "internet radio show" and other phrases, but the fact is that there is a huge potential audience that will slowly become more familiar with all that the internet has to offer. They are coming, but so slowly. Some of my bookstore customers barely use email. They are not all older people, either. These are smart people -- they just haven't had the need to live online like some of us. As the technology gets easier and more seamless, and more and more useful at the same time, we will see more and more listeners.

    Reply
  • Posted by Mark Blevis
    Mitch Joel

    During the the introduction of the topic, Rob called for definitions of the word Podcast. Several very distinct definitions were shared, each of them focusing on different components of 'Podcasting'. They ranged from the ethos of the movement to the technology used, to the delivery mechanism to the concept of Podcasting as a delivery channel.

    Notwithstanding the terrible and perceived brand-connected term 'Podcasting', the fact that there is so many definitions of the word/concept prevents Podcasting from being dead.

    It seems to me that the whole movement has evolved and those who feel (or believe) that Podcasting is dead are realize that Podcasting has evolved away from what they always expected or hoped Podcasting would be. That's the beauty of something that sticks -- it matures, evolves, adapts and survives.

    Reply
  • Posted by Mike Suchcicki
    Mitch Joel

    Forgive me for getting back into semantics, but early on I began to separate the podcasting spectrum into two waves, "podcasting," which was content produced, for whatever reason, essentially by the average person (hobbyist, commentator, craftsman, technician, etc.), and "pro-casting," which was podcasting produced by professional organizations who were riding the podcasting bandwagon (public radio, news organizations, movie studios, etc.)

    Looking at a distributor such as iTunes, it's obvious that pro-casting is alive and well. I'm more interested in the current survival status of podcasting in its original, grass-roots, hey-I've-got-a-mic-and-an-RSS-feed form, if it's alive in that form at all.

    Reply
  • Posted by Jacquelyn
    Mitch Joel

    I often wonder about what Avrum said above - I think there are people who are regular podcast listeners, but they seem to be more a particular demo than the general masses. That said, this in no way indicates that it won't hit the general population over time - simply that it's still not ubercommon among general consumers. I don't think this implies death, so much as early adoption.

    I do think that blogs and other text-based content tend to be easier to adopt that audio-/video-based content, simply due to the fact that people regularly look things up in places that one might not as easily get away with listening to something as reading something (work, school, etc.). I wonder how this will change over the coming years.

    Reply
  • Posted by Thorren
    Mitch Joel

    I certainly hope that podcasting isn't dead. I get a tonne of value out of listening to the various podcasts that I subscribe to. I do believe that things are just getting started.

    From a consumer standpoint a podcast is a great way to get relevant content.

    Reply
  • Posted by Neville Hobson
    Mitch Joel

    I'd offer an alternative definition, Mitch -

    "A podcast is a portable piece of audio or video content that is retrieved by a listener any way they want."

    In my view, RSS isn't the defining point of a podcast no matter the pure definition. From the user's (listener's/viewer's) point of view, who cares? As long as they can get hold of your content, in whatever way that's best for them, great.

    Re your question 'is podcasting dead', I would say no, far from it - a podcast is another experience to choose from among the many out there, whether that's text, video or other audio.

    Much depends on the content, though, as with almost anything else. If you produce something that others like and will talk about, then you're likely to have something that might be sustainable.

    So I see podcasting as just another medium which will rise or fall largely on the quality of your content as perceived by those who listen or watch. It's not a replacement for radio (at least, not here in the UK), just another choice.

    Reply
  • Posted by Alan A. Lew
    Alan A. Lew

    I think the high rate of podfading by grass-roots, amateur podcasters make it *seem* like that form of podcasting is dying. iTunes does not help with the huge number of podcasts they list that have not had a new show in a year or more.

    Professionally produced podcasts, from NPR to the Economist to CNet, podfade at a far lower rate and I expect that they will continue to grow in number the future, given their low cost to produce compared to other media.

    The number of new grass-roots podcasts seem to be growing at a much slower rate. But there will always be new people discovering the medium and a few new gems appearing on the horizon, some of which will not podfade.

    Reply
  • Posted by paz
    Mitch Joel

    Podcasting's definitely not dead, but... Podcasting is not healthy either, and I think it's a matter of technology. Let me explain.

    On a blog you can add comments that are viewable by anyone who can view the original content (that is the post). But what happens to podcasting? While the blogger (podcaster?) speaks, the others cannot reply in the same format (audio), they can only send comments via email (or via a linked blog).

    Podcasting is not "really" social, it's one-way communication. I like podcasts (yours and TimesTalks are my favorite) but I would like more interaction integrated into podcast technology.

    Who can help us with that?
    Apple? Bloggers? Programmers?

    ...


    paz

    Reply
  • Posted by Avrum Nadigel
    Mitch Joel

    My hospital is about to implement a podcast entitled:Teens and Tweens: Interviews with experts in Adolescent Mental Health and Addictions.. From the beginning, my colleagues have reacted with one, or many, of the following:

    * The term 'podcast' strikes terror in the hearts of many that we speak with

    * think podcast = ipod.

    * If they have an iPod, they don't really know how to use it

    * RSS feeds seem to scare people.

    I believe there's two HUGE impediments that we need to over come:

    1) Podcasts = technology = anxiety. If we reduce the anxiety, we may get non-geeks listening.

    2) Too much NOISE. As Brian Eno once stated, the future of music is silence (think: Noise Canceling headphones). I believe the spirit of Eno's quote applies to podcasts as well.

    Reply
  • Posted by Avrum Nadigel
    Mitch Joel

    I forgot to credit Ann Kingman's comment for providing the fodder for my bullet points (see previous comment).

    Reply
  • Posted by Engago Team
    Mitch Joel

    People are lazy, thus listening to a podcast is less deffort than reading;
    Problems
    - The fast forward: with text you know more or less if you are skipping things. With a podcast you don't know.
    - Copy/paste doesn't exist for a podcast. Thus if you need to make a summary for your CEO, you need towrite it all down yourself= much more work.
    - In offices podcasts are not always allowed. Watching a video or listening to a podcast is still considered as non-active.

    Reply
  • Posted by hugh
    hugh

    guess there's still some life in them podcasts yet...;-)

    Reply
  • Posted by Wes Walls
    Wes Walls

    I think Avrum Nadigel is right about anxiety, but I'm sure that this will change over time as the medium and content become more broadly accessible, and eventually accepted. I think the way podcasts are made and distributed will adjust to the listeners.

    Maybe it won't take over traditional media but it could become a significant supplement. But it's true that there's a time and a place to listen to podcasts.... people aren't going to sit there for 4 hours straight listening to podcasts like they might a TV, nor will they be as subject to absorbing marketing messages. For that reason it will probably always be niche from the consumer side and the marketer side.

    Still, I think podcasting is alive and well.

    Reply
  • Avrum - just because your social circle is not listening, it doesn't mean it's not huge. Check out the stats. Also, Podcasting is not just audio. There are some very successful video Podcasts as well (think Ask A Ninja or Rocketboom). Have you seen the 'Free Hugs' video on YouTube? Over 30 million views. When I show it, I'd say over 90% of the audience had not seen it. Does that mean it's not big? I don't think so. All that being said, we do need to remove the technology part to make this more accessbile (this is always the case - look back to the home PC, first mobile phones, etc... - once we made the interface easier and the technology "invisble" there was mass adoption).

    Ann - iPods are the fastest selling electronics device of all time. More and more people everyday are using iTunes. iTunes is the #1 music retailer in the U.S. (surpassed Wal-Mart). Ever been to an Apple store? Line-ups around the block. I'd say that's pretty mainstream. Now, we're just starting to see Podcasting get more adoption. From a personal perspective, my Podcast stats continue to rise week over week.

    Mike - Music is music. Indie, rock or heavy metal. If you're asking what happened to the indie spirit of Podcasting, it's still alive and well. Is it being overshadowed by mainstream companies doing the Podcasting thing? Maybe. If the indies don't like that, they have to do more to build their audience and create more compelling content. I'd argue that those who are Podcasting out of hobby don't really care about the size of the audience, but rather who is listening.

    Paz - that's been a long standing discussion: is Podcasting Social Media at all? I'm not sure it matters to me. From my perspective it is social, because of the audio comments, ability to rate and review it, and the ability to further the conversation on the Blog, etc... All that being said, I tend to believe that anything online is social at this point.

    Reply
  • Posted by Andy Strote
    Mitch Joel

    I don't think podcasting is dead but I do think there are a few things that hinder it from becoming mainstream:

    RSS distribution. Last stat I saw, about 7% of Web users have used or are using RSS. I don't think that number is climbing much.

    Listening or viewing a podcast is a linear activity. You can't skip ahead, you can't scan. Attention spans are getting shorter and there is too much competition for our attention, i.e. Twitter.

    Having said that, where do I think podcasting works?

    Niches - highly particular content for a specialized audience. I think business to business podcasts work, but again in niches.

    Podcasts of a more general nature, i.e. covering the arts scene in your city, compete with all the mainstream media. It's tough - they have more money for production and promotion than most podcasters.

    "Celebrity" podcasts. Would I listen to an Obama podcast? Yes. Just another amateur political commentator? I doubt it. Gene Simmons? If I was a Kiss fan, sure. A Kiss fanboy podcast? Not likely.

    I'm surprised that more bloggers and podcasters don't allow subscriptions by email. Ann Kingman said that about 1/3 of her subscriptions are by email. That's huge!

    Reply
  • Posted by Avrum Nadigel
    Mitch Joel

    "just because your social circle is not listening, it doesn't mean it's not huge"

    I should add that the teens we work with don't listen to podcasts (or read blogs) either. I'm always surprised when they tell me this, but they'd rather hang out with their friends (A good thing IMHO).

    In general, all the hoopla about social media seems to boil down to 2-3 sites (notice the narcissistic elements in all of 'em):

    * Facebook
    * Youtube
    * MySpace (especially for teens)

    All the other noise seems to be generated by insiders. Nothing wrong with that, but I'm not sure it's a revolution.

    So again... do I think podcasting is dead? Not for the fan-boys (and I'm one of 'em). But there's too many cultural, psychological and technical issues that will hamper it's growth. In the end, there's just too much stuff out there.

    Perhaps that's why, in Toronto anyway, all of our OHIP sponsored Mindfulness courses have waiting lists. People are tapped folks. They're simply exhausted.


    Reply
  • Posted by atle b
    Mitch Joel

    Podcasting is dead, long live podcasting

    I agree with jason above - from being "one" phenomenon where almost everybody knew a lot of the same references (DSC, Dawn&Drew, ...) podcasting is now nothing more than a way to get audio (and video) content

    Even if I'm using Google Reader to skim headlines, I'm not rss'ing the news - I still read them.

    Same for audio - now I have a way of getting shows conveniently whether they are broadcast locally, nationally or abroad. Whenever, wherever.

    But it still comes down to time constraints - take out work, sleep and family time. What remains is leisure - surfing, reading, watching video, playing games - or working out...

    Subscriptions and loyalty are great, but pull-based push doesn't equate to actual use. There is a reason iTunes has built in limits for backlogged content

    So - text, audio and video are all alive and doing quite well, each across a multitude of platforms, formats and distribution channels.

    Reply
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