I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the future of what we now know as Podcasting. As most of us who are familiar with it will know, it is an online Radio (or TV) type show that is produced, uploaded and delivered to a person’s computer or mobile device by syndication (RSS).
I got hooked right at the beginning of podcasting. I started listening to podcasts in 2004 and in early 2005 did my first one. Over the years I have dabbled in it, sometimes podcasting a lot, and sometimes just a little. I’ve started shows and stopped producing shows (Podfading) over the years on various subjects. I’ve listened to shows that were started and then after a while go away. I know the ups and downs of doing a regular show on a schedule. I am currently working in the new media industry (as well as the old media).
When Adam Curry was doing one of the first shows out there (The Daily Source Code) I was caught up in the hype. I saw a bright future in this new medium and figured all it would do is get more and more popular. In a way, it is. But in other ways, it’s not. There are not a whole lot of people out there that “could quit their Day Jobs” as Curry said there would be. There are a few, and those few are the ones that take it very seriously. Sure, the dream of 1000’s of podcasters making a nice living off of talking into a cheap computer in their basement is sort of dead. It’s not unheard of, but not very likely.
I was in on a facebook discussion with one of the podcast pioneers, Mark Yoshimoto Nemcoff from Pacific Coast Hellway and Word Sushi, and he has declared podcasting dead. I like Mark but I will have to disagree with that diagnosis. It’s not dead, it’s changing into something other then what the first bunch of podcasters thought it was going to be become.
Today, those who are making a living in this medium are very dedicated, talented and do more then just talk into a mic and post it to the web. Most do Live Streaming Video (which is not podcasting) and a video version of their shows in addition to the audio. They also invest lots of time and money into their equipment, their website and most even have staff. The really successful ones had some fame before podcasting such as a lot of comedians who are now podcasting or Leo Laporte of TWIT.
It’s also true that there are 1000’s of really crappy podcasts out there. Sorry, but it’s true! The old saying (OLD?) is that content is King. Sure, that’s true if and only if the quality isn’t too bad. I won’t listen to lousy audio for very long no matter how good the content is.
So I’m rambling on…. My point is that I think it may be time to re-brand Podcasting. The problem with the word Podcasting is, as it always has been, that people think you have to have an Apple iPod to either listen to or produce podcasts. (Ironically, it’s still not in most spell checkers!) I suppose, back in 2005, that might have been true. Now days, every smart phone platform has 3 or 4 different ways to listen to podcast content. There are smart TV’s and set top boxes that will get podcasts. Of course, the computers we use all the time can play podcasts. It’s not just itunes and ipod anymore. The other problem with podcasting is that it’s still not that easy. To listen to podcasts the way it was invented, you must have a podcatching program, know the RSS Feed for the shows you want to “Subscribe” to and set that all up to sync with your device of choice. It is getting a bit better with apps like Sitcher. Sticher works a bit more like a radio. You “tune” it to a station and it plays podcast content (although not the same as RSS) right to your device.
I propose we look at new words that more accurately describe what we are doing as podcasters. I have switched my branding on Mike Dell’s World to an “online radio show”. When you do a radio show, you are broadcasting. So how about “Internet Broadcasting” or “Micro Broadcasting”? I can think of a lot of other names for it I’m sure, but we should make it a friendlier and less geeky way of explaining what we are doing. I think that somehow we need to get the term broadcasting into the name. Just like Bloggers want to be called journalists just like their cohorts in the print media (magazines and newspapers) we should be called broadcasters like our Radio and TV colleagues.
Leo Laporte at one time suggested “Webcasting” as a good name. I don’t think webcasting is any better then podcasting as a term because it still doesn’t describe what we do as content producers. It might confuse people almost as much as podcasting does.
In the age of all the set top boxes and smart TV’s and Phones, our content can be just as easy to get as any TV or Radio channel. We (as podcasters) have the added advantage (although the old media producers are starting to get the picture) of time-shifted content. We should just embrace the fact that we are positioned just about the same as the big broadcast and cable networks when it comes to internet delivered content and just call ourselves what we are. Broadcasters that don’t buy $1,000,000 transmitters, but instead send our stuff out via RSS, Ustream, YouTube and other ways, which is just about as good as a transmitter (better really, because you don’t have to pay the electric bill for a 50,000 watt transmitter!)
So, I am going to refer to myself as a broadcaster and a broadcast journalist from here on out and my “shows” are Online Radio Shows and Online TV shows. Come to think of it, we do use transmitters… Like WiFi and 3G/4G but we still don’t have to pay the electric bill.
What do you think?