Thursday, April 06, 2006

Is It Time For Podcasting To Evolve?

It has felt like Podcasting has needed to move to the next level for months now, but it is being held up by non-commercial pressures and lack of great content search and discovery experiences. The podcasting community needs to work harder at removing RSS from the listener experience process and creating easier to use tools for the creation of high quality sounding podcasts.

Podcasts need to get down to a more personal and local level to continue to grow. I believe that some of the most compelling uses for podcasting have not even been done yet. One example is podcasting inside of educational institutions like the University of Washington and Duke (see recent article in the Seattle Times)

While iTunes has helped take RSS out of the listening process and pulled many new listeners into podcasting, they have presented a very limited set of experiences to podcast listeners. They are only surfacing the same limited list of podcasts from mostly the same podcasts week after week.

I believe that all the above is partially to blame for this recent Forrester study results that came out yesterday. It is amazing how quickly perceptions can change when one big research firm releases a study. Forrester just released a study of 5,000 people about Podcasting on the Charlene Li blog and this is that the study said:

Forrester podcasting report - just 1% use podcasts

We just released some new data on podcasting, in a brief “Podcasting Hits The Charts” (available only to clients).

Here’s the summary:
Podcasts have hit the mainstream consciousness but have not yet seen widespread use. One-quarter of online consumers express interest in podcasts, with most interested in time-shifting existing radio and Internet radio channels. Companies that are interested in using podcasts for their audio should focus not only on downloads but also on streaming audio as a means to get their content and ads to consumers.

Our survey showed that only 1% of online households in North America regularly download and listen to podcasts. And when you include all of the people who are just interested or have used podcasts, they strongly favor listening to existing content like Internet radio or broadcast radio, not necessarily new content. (And for newspapers thinking about podcasting, putting print stories into audio format just ranked ahead of original content from bloggers) I think this has something to do with:

1) original content just isn’t as well known; and
2) existing content benefits from users that simply want to time shift it.

This survey exposes the tendency that people have to gravitate towards content providers they trust and have a relationship with already. It does make sense that we tend to stay with the familar and with the massive crowd of new podcasting content online it is difficult for listeners to easily discover audio content that can fill the big shoes of a long trusted broadcaster like an NPR or persononalities like This Week In Tech podcaster Leo Laporte, who spent many years on broadcast radio in major markets like LA's KFI.

Kurt Hansen, the Editor of the RAIN Newsletter wrote in a 4/6/2006 post:

My belief is that podcasts — in the sense of short programs automatically downloaded overnight onto MP3 players — are merely a transitional phenomenon, until consumers' mobile devices are Internet-enabled. At that point, it will make sense to simply grab an on-demand stream of the program you're interested in.

Kurt has a great point that generally how we get programs today with an iPod is just a transitional step in the evolution of Podcasting. I met with Kurt at a recent Seattle area Public Radio Conference and I showed him Mobilcast. I explained to him that over 8o% of our podcast listeners experience the audio as a stream into the mobile phone.

I believe that our stats are confirming a long held belief by many in the Internet Radio space that when we all get reliable and inexpensive wireless broadband coverage to mobile devices then it will be checkmate and game over for the hard drive based side loaded content systems like the current iPod.

Podcasting is built on the principle of side loading and automatic download syncronization of mp3 files. Yet all the use data is showing that most people are listening to audio from a webpage as a stream. It is logical not to see that the next evolution in podcasting needs to be on-demand streaming of podcast content and the concept of podcast downloading will only have a long-term support role for listeners that are outside of wireless internet range or want to archive the content for repeated listening.

Mobilcast is bringing this future reality to life right now.

More discussion: Mark Evans: ...And I Was Just About to Jump on the Podcasting Bandwagon
Kevin C. Tofel / Kevin 2.0: 700,000 podcast households? Turn up the sound Forrester.
John Paczkowski / Good Morning Silicon Valley: Podcasts are huge; it's just the audience that's tiny
Jfurrier / Forrester Report on Podcasting - Wrong Big Time
Scott Karp / Publishing 2.0: Podcasting Is Still Just For Geeks
Dominic Jones / Investor Relations Blog: Do we need earnings call podcasts?
Jack Schofield / Guardian Unlimited: Forrester — just 1% use podcasts
Heather Green / Blogspotting: Reality Check for Podcasting
Andy Beal / Andy Beal's Marketing Pilgrim: Podcasting R.I.P? — Charelene Li has details of a new Forrester …
Frank Barnako / Podcast audience is piddling
Steve Bryant / InterMedia: Podcasting, with 1% Usage, Takes Back Seat to Video
Black Rim Glasses / Charlene Li's Blog: Forrester podcasting report - just 1% use podcasts
Amit Agarwal / Digital Inspiration: Podcasting bubble seems to have burst
Alexander Muse / Texas Venture Capital Web 2.0 Blog: Podcasting use follow-up
John Cook / John Cook's Venture Blog: Who's listening to podcasts?

Rob Greenlee


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