It seems that now that John Dvorak has written, negatively as always, about podcasting, everyone has had this or that to say about the “fad”. (No I’m not even going to bother linking, you know where it is, you’ve probably read it by now!)
Let me just start out my particular screed with this caveat. All of you who have complained about how podcasts suck and aren’t interesting, you’re right. I haven’t heard one podcast yet that I think would stand a chance of getting any sort of market share worthy of being aired on a radio station. Most of them cover niche subjects, have crappy recording quality and only interest a handful of people in the world.
And that’s exactly why it’s exciting to me. Recently, here in Columbus, a talk radio show that took calls and helped people with their PC problems got canceled. Not because the show didn’t have some really good information, but because not enough people cared enough to tune in at 6PM every Weds to hear about using PC’s to make it worthwhile for the station to keep airing it. Imagine if you could do a show, answer questions, and your audience didn’t need to tune it at 6PM on Weds, and you didn’t need to provide big “numbers” to keep yourself going? You could just do the program, share the information, and your listeners could automatically download the MP3 and listen at their leisure.
Compare that experience with say, Kevin’s In The Trenches podcast. From a major media point of view, his show sucks. I’m not picking on Kevin, the interview he did with me sucks too. The sound quality isn’t very professional, the subject isn’t all that interesting to non-techies, there’s no way it would ever generate the sort of mass market interest that would attract a bevy of advertisers, etc. Comparing it to radio, it sucks, plain and simple. But, through the magic of MP3 and RSS, he’s able to do a show that does appeal to a certain segment of the population, notably Sys-Admin, tech support type people, he’s able to share good information. He’s able to use technology he already has at his disposal to bring in contributions from outside sources (in my case, all I needed to do the interview was Skype and my laptop’s built-in microphone, it doesn’t sound very professional, but it’s good enough, and it’s the only way we could have done it, and shared that information with people. There are no big money backers throwing him the money to get a mixing board.), and if the information is interesting to you, you subscribe to the feed with RSS enclosures and have the MP3 available to listen to whenever you want.
The excitement comes from the opportunity to do niche shows, with good information, but limited appeal, using easily available technology. It’s not radio, and never will be, and that’s maybe the most exciting part of it. Radio is a slave to mass market appeal. Podcasting doesn’t have to be.
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