The Limits of Podcasting

Steve Jobs calls Podcasting “the hottest thing going in Radio,” which is, of course, hype.

I have long argued that Corporate Entertainment podcasts would swamp the amateur stuff because The Man is better able to produce and market entertainment worth listening to.

Seth Godin has some very important observations on the limits of Podcasting here and here.

To sum these up and amplify them with some thoughts of my own:

1. You can’t browse a podcast. You won’t know what you like until you get it. That will diminish the chance of subscribing and will mean that few podcasts will be heard by very large numbers of people unless that content is “pre-sold.” (Note that Radio Talk programming is ideal in this respect – everyone who subscribes to a Rush Limbaugh podcast knows precisely what to expect)

2. The cost of sampling (in terms of time) is high. And high costs mean fewer listeners.

3. Many of the podcasts I’ve encountered are 30 or more minutes long. Unless the content is “pre-sold” (as noted above) who wants to take a chance on a dull 30 minute download?

4. A well-written article is easy compared to a well-produced podcast. I’m finally at the point where I can muster good audio quality, but some Podcasts are produced like razzle-dazzle Radio shows, and that kind of production value takes time, skill, and money. This means that listeners will either be confronted with audio mediocrity or they’ll look to the rare “quality” podcaster which naturally moves the advantage in favor of Corporate Entertainment.

In my opinion, every Morning Show with worthy entertainment elements and every Talk show that’s worth its stuff should be Podcasting either elements (for free to generate buzz) or the whole show (for a fee).

Beyond that, as I’ve said before, look for more advertisers to treat Podcasts like entertaining informercials – they’ll be laughing all the way to the bank.

Podcasting is a solid trend, but it’s not “the hottest thing in Radio,” Mr. Jobs.

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