Podcasting is not going replace radio, but that doesn't make it any less interesting, powerful or compelling. Besides, radio is having its own set of challenges.
When Podcasting (both audio and video) was first introduced, the potential for anyone, anywhere to record audio and video and publish it to the world instantly - for free - as simply as Blogging brought forward many new voices, stories and types of content. In 2006 (over four years ago), the Oxford Dictionary chose "podcast" as their word of the year. To this day, many people confuse Podcasting with both streaming and downloadable audio and video.
What makes a Podcast different?
"Podcasts are more than downloadable audio. The biggest difference between downloadable audio and a Podcast is the subscription component... Podcasts allow you to subscribe, and new shows are automatically downloaded as they are produced. Listeners can subscribe via Podcatcher software, and an RSS reader that supports enclosures, or iTunes. Regular Internet radio does not allow you to subscribe," says the book, What No One Ever Tells You About Blogging And Podcasting, by Ted Demopoulos.
Beyond the technicalities that make a Podcast something more than streaming content, it's fascinating to see how people react to this different content.
Like any form of content, it's not uncommon to get both negative and positive feedback from listeners about any given episode. The constructive criticism is always helpful and appreciated, but it always makes me reflect on the difference between mass media and the types of content that Social Media enables us all to produce. One of the best parts of a Podcast is the ability to fast-forward, rewind, pause and delete the content. Also, with so much content being produced into these channels, it's also fine to totally ignore a specific show or episode.
The content finds the audience.
Unlike traditional mass media - which is in a constant struggle to grow the audience so that it can sell advertising for a higher premium, the beauty of Podcasting is that the best content is very niche and it's not always going to be relevant to that niche audience. Producers of Podcasts have to be comfortable with the fact that not every bit and byte of audio and video is going to connect with an audience. Some people love Media Hacks (a semi-frequent roundtable conversation that I lead over on the Six Pixels of Separation Podcast about new media that features Chris Brogan, C.C. Chapman, Hugh McGuire, Christopher S. Penn, and Julien Smith), while some don't like the flow, language, recording quality, etc... others say it is their favourite Podcast to listen to. We used to say, "different strokes for different folks," but even within the Media Hacks audience/community, some episodes resonate while others may be perceived as boring.
The point is, we're experimenting with audio.
The idea is not to create a Podcast that sounds something like you would hear on the AM/FM or even Satellite dial. The idea here is to use this opportunity to experiment - with both audio and video. So, instead of always getting a "produced" show, what you're hearing is usually an attempt to do something different (I've used the media to broadcast from planes, trains, automobiles, while camping and while walking the beach in Thailand). To noodle with the media and try to create something interesting within this new and shiny white space. Some people think that Podcasting is no longer relevant. That is silly. Any brand or individual can suddenly produce compelling content about the industry they serve and publish this for the world to hear. That is amazing (not silly at all).
Podcasting is just getting started and the biggest challenge will be in trying to get the audience into the experimentation instead of the audience expecting the same old, same old we've been getting from mass media.