Thursday, May 27, 2010

Present and Future of Podcasting

Podcasting is becoming mature after almost 7 years now and it is starting to be taken for granted - not unlike broadcast radio or TV. It is interesting as awareness of podcasts still have not quite reached half of the online user base, yet podcasting still feels mature in many ways. I also know that it is clearly early days for podcasting and it needs to evolve.

The days of podcasting hype in the media are clearly over. It must be the fact that it is not as new now and online social media activities are dominating the attention cycles now. I have been working on platform distribution (Melodeo Mobilcast and Microsoft Zune) of podcast media content for almost 5 years. It is amazing that I have been able to build a 5 year professional career on podcasting. I am continuing to see podcast content growth and much podfading as well. Podfading is a common life-span issue as many podcasts start and then slowly or abruptly stop producing new episodes or just shut down entirely. Yet, the new ones contine to come in to fill those faded.

It is unclear about the growth in audience for podcasts in the absence of significant online and traditional media buzz. We still seem to have much confusion about what a podcast is still with a large portion of the online population. I believe that one significant trend that is hindering the growth of podcasting is the resurgence of online media streaming via content provider website or apps and the difficulty of getting easy access. I think that podcasts have matured on the distribution side and have leveled off. The reason for this leveling off is because new people are just not hearing about podcasts as much and the medium has already reached those that own a portable media player and have an interest in consuming audio and video content from an RSS feed. Sure, we are coming into a time when new smart phones have the ability to obtain and playback podcasts right on the handsets. This is a still rather undeveloped area, but will be getting better over the next few years. The new Windows Phone 7 devices will support Zune podcasts as part of the core mobile OS.

Yet, the future growth lies in two new areas. One is for video podcasts and that is reaching the large TV screen in the home. For video podcasts, the key to continued growth for many years to come is free and paid subscriptions that enable automatic notification of either the download of new episodes and or the availability to stream a new video episode to any device that plays video. I think requested TV and video podcast episodes should appear grouped together in my media listing on any service. Getting to my content should be as easy as going to a single page listing of all my DVR recordings in the old paradigm. This blending of DVR recordings is not unlike a possible list of subscribed and downloaded video podcasts that come in daily or weekly. These just show up in a list with my DVR recordings all on the same screen/page to offer an easy to find my media experience.

The other key growth area for podcasts is around the often forgotten area of audio podcasts, which I believe is still a very large part of podcasting and is at root where the majority of the content is today. Audio podcasts need to be easily available in the most obvious and heavily audio usage area and that is the car. Today, getting audio podcasts to play in the car is not that hard, but is a pain to do. I also think with the dangers of handling gadgets while driving, the opportunity to better integrate podcasts access, download and playback into car audio systems is key. This is another cloud-based opportunity and one that could be setup outside of the car and then the car just gets the content and plays it via 3G, 4G, LTE or even WIFI at the home.

Many still think that the name podcast is a bad and must be changed, but I think it is way past the point that it makes any sense to change the name. Far too many people know it as podcasting and we cannot go back now. The key is to evolve the platform and take the technical aspects out of the mix and get the great content easily available in the places and on the devices that makes it the easiest to find, get and consume. I think podcasting is on that track as video podcasts are part of Windows 7 Media Center and Zune podcasts on the new Windows Phone 7 and KIN devices will easily connect to car entertainment systems. Clearly, we are on the track to connecting with podcast users in better ways, but we have a ways to go in the car to make a better system for podcasts.

One last thought, we may also see audio and video podcasts being more blended in with regular download TV and Movie store experiences. This could blend the two worlds together as one day these all could just be called Video and Audio again and not really have to use special terms like podcasts to describe them. Thanks for reading.

I will soon post my thoughts on podcast monetization opportunities and issues.

Rob Greenlee

*This is not an official Microsoft statement or position, but my own personal thoughts.

1 comment:

  1. I appreciate your insight into the future of podcasting. Being a content creator and having reviewed podcasts for 3 years things have certainly changed. The hype is all but gone and directories are filled with podcasts of the past.

    Regarding "pod-fading", the economic downturn and continual recession "despite politician's promises" have been a kick to the face for many podcasters who once dreamed of advertising dollars falling like that water on a rainy day. To maintain a presense in the podcasting arena and to continue to release new content the essential fact remains. Do you still love to podcast? Do you find satisfaction in creating and producing your show?

    If not then "pod-fading" is in one's future. It has and will continue to be an interesting ride on the Podcast train.

    Daniel from Edgy Podcast Reviews