Friday, June 08, 2007

Podcasting audience still grows, but name poorly defined

The Diffusion Group has just released a new research study on podcasting dated June 7th, 2007.

The results from this study show some alarming realities around the podcast name as a brand. Brands are supposed to clearly define what a product or service it and what it means in fact and socially to users, customers and business partners. This study is saying, the term "Podcast and Podcasting" as a brand has failed to clearly deliver the goods for all parties involved in it.

Here are some positive aspects of the study;

TDG reports 11% of adult broadband users (some 12 million US consumers) listen to podcasts at least once per month. TDG's latest report on new media usage, Podcast Usage Profiles and Demand Forecasts thru 2012, predicts that by 2012 this number will grow to 24% of broadband users (38.5 million Americans).

Among those that listen to podcasts at least once per month, 68% use a portable device while 49% listen to them on a PC (an interesting insight given that many define podcasting as only a portable medium);

On average, users listen to 5.4 podcasts per month on a portable device and 4.7 on a PC;

On average, those who subscribe to podcast services are signed up for 4.1 different feeds; and 70% of users rely on iTunes to access podcasts.

Straight from the report, here are some of the TDG's harshest truths about podcasting;

While the audience for podcasting continues to expand, TDG identifies two specific factors that are keeping a lid on usage:

(1) Podcasting continues to be perceived as too complex for average consumers to use.

(2) Users remain unaware of the quantity and quality of content available for podcast consumption.

The report continues; "Despite the fact that the Oxford University Press selected 'podcast' as Word of Year in 2005, most consumers have a very poor understanding of the medium or the variety of content available for consumption by podcast," said Dale Gilliam III, director of primary research and author of the report. This lack of understanding, notes Gilliam, is due primarily to the multiplicity of ways in which pundits and marketers have used the term.

Why is the definition of "podcasting" so important? Gilliam continues: "At the end of the day, the way consumers come to understand a new medium such as podcasting will strongly determine the types of experiences and value they attribute to the concept. When those in the business of articulating and promoting this new medium use language inconsistently, the power of the concept to attract and engage users is diluted."

I completely agree with this observation about why podcasting adoption has weakened over the past year. The truth is that the early adopters of podcasting have kinda moved on to the next bright trendy light. To many techno-elites audio podcasting is so 3 years ago. Now the only real hot area of podcasting is video. This area has grown quite well on the iTunes and iPod platform, but has fallen flat on any other portable player platform. The only other place this video podcast content has become successful is on YouTube and Revver, it is it a video podcast whe it is watched on You Tube?

The other area is the use of the term "podcast" and that it means something different to everyone involved at all levels from consumption, distribution and production. The word "podcast" has no one meaning to everyone. This is the core reason the the brand and word "Podcast" has no meaning anymore, because it means too much.

What is a Podcast? Can you define it to mean something everyone can agree on? No, that is the core of the problem. Listeners and watchers of podcasts think for "Podcasts" as only "content". Does it mean a show or and episode?

The word "Podcast" to creator or producer of the content means a type of distribution platform that refers to RSS feeds with enclosures tags linked to downloadable media files.

To distribution platforms the word "Podcast" means a competitive distribution platform with iTunes and the iPod. Plus to add to more confusion the majority of people who have heard of "Podcasts" think of it exclusively as a way to get content on an iPod only. Sorry to say that at this point "Podcast" the term is dead as everyone is so confused.

Early podcasters talked about this potential as it was lifting off. Now we are seeing mobile phones being used to listen to podcasts and it is even more confusing to potential users. I think the answer to this problem will take time and education by marketers who can clearly define in an understandable way all the potential ways consumers can get content. It could be on a mobile phone or a portable mp3 player. It is looking like the mobile phone is the next portable multimedia consuming platform and we just need to figure out a way to clearly communicate what that method is that takes us beyond the term "Podcast".

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