Apple’s developer release of iOS 6 created an instant mystery: Podcasts are missing from the iTunes app! In fact, references to “Podcasts” are in there. Things have been re-arranged, and podcasts deemphasized. Something is going on. The rumor and/or speculation is that Apple will spin podcasts out into a separate app (but keep it in the desktop version of iTunes). This prediction is supported both by funny business in the app, and also inside information from unnamed sources “close to the company.”
Now why would they want to do this?
Giving podcasts their own app changes the emphasis. Right now, podcasts are presented as downloadable music’s ugly stepsister. Podcasts are displayed awkwardly in iTunes as a form of music, or at least just a two-bit, third-rate category of audio. If Apple is heroic and respectful of users, they will give podcasts their own app and make it one of the default apps on iOS. This would increase the importance of podcasts. And I think this is what they’re going to do.
And when you add voice-control, courtesy of Siri, you get on-demand podcasts and audiobooks from a brightly showcased default app built into the OS on every mobile device.
The home-run approach to all this is that you subscribe to your favorite podcasts, and new episodes download automatically from the cloud to your phone. When you’re in your car, you tell Siri: “Play my podcasts,” Siri will play them in reverse chronological order or in order of user rankings (depending on your preferences). During your daily commute, you’ll listen to “talk radio.” But instead of desperate groups of un-funny idiots trying to imitate Howard Stern or put-you-to-sleep NPR type shows, you’ll hear the podcasts you’ve selected from the thousands available. I think the new iPodcasts app will work a lot like Stitcher, but Siri-controllable. The big losers are likely to be the companies using “pod” in their trademark, Audible.com and radio.
Right or wrong?
Time will tell.
So what does this mean for radio if it comes to pass?
It means you had better develop sensible and effective podcasting strategies, for one. And by that I mean a strategy that gives folks what they want, the way they want it, and when they want it.
It also means you should be experimenting with monetization schemes.
To say this would be a tremendous boon to public radio is, of course, an understatement (despite CoM’s disparaging reference). The “work” to use podcasts today is far too great – the thresholds are too high for most consumers. Anything that makes that process easier and more attractive will mightily contribute to acceptance and usage.
And those quarter-hours in the car will have to come from somewhere.
(Thanks to Tom Asacker for the link).