Apple’s New “Podcasts” App – Radio’s Friend or Foe?

Podcasts are emerging from the dungeons of iTunes in their own dedicated app.

You can get it yourself here.

If you’re a podcast fan, immediately all your podcasts populate the app under the “podcasts” tab.  Nice – and way overdue.

Most interesting is the “Top Stations” tab.  Apple seems to be reconceptualizing “shows” or “series” as “stations” (a dumb idea, if you ask me, since that distinction is so deeply embedded).

Also interesting is the “swipe” metaphor to move from one genre to another:  It is a radio dial!  Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery but is also a reflection of exactly what form of media is in the bulls-eye.

I have mixed feelings about this app.

It feels clunkier and more confusing than it should be, but it definitely does lower the usage threshold for podcasts, which have historically been one of the most bothersome and arcane ingredients of iTunes.  Obviously, anything that makes podcasts easier to discover and consume will increase their usage. And increasing the usage of audio podcasts in particular will come at the expense of other things consumers would use that time to listen to, namely radio.

If this app does indeed appear as standard issue in the new iOS (as opposed to just another Apple app available on-demand), then that creates a distribution bridge to every iOS user on every Apple-made mobile gadget. That won’t make podcasting huge, but it will make it easier.  And the easier it is, the more it will be an alternative to radio.

Here’s my tour of the new app:

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  • I think this is not an immediate threat to radio, but it could evolve into one.

    Today the podcast catalog is still too haphazard and meager to compete quality and breadthwise with radio, but that is slowly changing. Apple’s app is an immediate threat to:
    – iOS podcast apps- podcast delivery services like Stitcher
    Apple’s app will likely be preinstalled or at a minimum heavily preferenced in the app store to the detriment of other podcast app developers. If users have a preinstalled app that’s already logged into their Apple account that’s a lot less friction than searching for after market app, installing, registering/logging in. Same goes for Stitcher. Apple’s podcast catalog is the largest in the world. Largest catalog + one click away makes it a formidable competitor.
    Is there a radio business today or an audio entertainment business? I think it’s the latter. Imagine if every AM/FM radio was available as a podcast. Now that would make things interesting. That’s what we’re doing at DAR.fm where users can time shift shows which actually turns them into podcasts. The lines between satellite, net and terrestial are blurring every day.

  • The blur has happened – it’s just a question of when broadcasters will realize it.
    Thanks Michael.

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