Podcasting Just Isn’t There Yet

Over at TCS daily, Glenn Reynolds is expounding on the wonders of podcasting:

“If the past few years have been the Years of the Blogs, this year is shaping up to be the Year of the Podcast, as I sort of predicted last year.

Sure, podcasts have been around for a while. (I even experimented with a sort of proto-podcast some years ago, but gave it up as not ready for primetime yet.) But the development of RSS (which makes it easy to subscribe to podcasts in an automated fashion), and, most importantly, Apple’s decision to support audio and video podcasts with its iTunes software, has led the field to explode, and I’ve started up again with more success — you can see an archive of recent efforts here.”

While that sounds pretty optimistic, Reynolds didn’t go whole hog and predict podcasting would replace talk radio or anything — which is good, because podcasting just isn’t ready for prime time yet.

The big problem is that, as of yet, no one has figured out how to build an audience for podcasting. Sure, there are some bloggers out there, like Reynolds, like IMAO, that do podcasts (I’ve heard one of the IMAO podcasts and thought it was pretty good, too).

However, their audiences for those podcasts surely can’t be anything more than a fraction of their blogging audiences, which, since this is an alternative medium, are small compared to the mainstream media.

So, numbers wise, these podcasts are reaching teeny, tiny audiences and if they were actually able to somehow pull significant audiences, they’d be almost guaranteed to move over to radio. That’s because as Reynolds said in the article:

“Of course, for podcasts to really take off — and threaten talk radio — people will have to figure out ways to count them accurately (not there yet) and to sell advertisements (not there yet, either).”

Certainly podcasting isn’t ever going to reach a critical mass with no money involved & no way of counting traffic.

Furthermore, since you have so many local markets, all featuring enormous numbers of stations with airtime to fill, the barriers to entry aren’t as high as they are in the media. That means a popular podcaster would be much more likely to be picked up by a radio station than a successful blogger would be of being hired by CNN, Fox, or even National Review. Again, that’s another factor that will likely retard the growth of podcasting.

The point of all this isn’t that political podcasting can never work, because it may — many years down the road. The point is that podcasting for the next few years probably isn’t going to be much more than a vanity project or a way to make a demo tape to pitch to a talk radio station. Bloggers should be well aware of that before they start buying equipment and taking time away from building their audiences to prep a show for a much smaller audience than they already have.

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