7 Signs That Read/WriteWeb Is Clueless About Podcasting

Aug 31st, 2007 | By | Category: Audio Podcasting, Commentary, Video Podcasts

Alex Iskold has penned an article over at Read/WriteWeb that asks “Will Podcasting Survive?”. The article suggests that podcasting is stagnating, that podcasting is losing steam, and that it’s even going out of fashion.

Here are the points Read/WriteWeb offers to support their claim that podcasting is stagnating:

  • Podcast technology inherently limits interest;
  • Podcasting startup PodTech is in trouble;
  • Search requests for podcasting peaked two years ago;
  • Podcasts face competition from other stuff that’s more interesting;
  • There are few times when you can listen to a podcast;
  • Monetization is a challenge;
  • Big companies are making podcasts.

Iskold’s conclusion is that “It appears that podcasts are not picking up steam, and rather, podcasting is actually slowing down.”

Iskold’s argument is not just bad, but spectacularly bad. Not only does Iskold fail to understand what a podcast is, but he apparently doesn’t understand basic technology adoption patterns.

Because Read/WriteWeb typically offers more thoughtful analysis, we think it’s important to take a look at their reasons for asking whether podcasting will survive…..

Read/WriteWeb Doesn’t Know What A Podcast Is

The first thing that is apparent from the article is that Iskold & Read/WriteWeb don’t appear to know what a podcast is. It seems that their definition of a podcast is something like “indie dudes with a microphone making talk shows.” Given the amazing variety of audio, video, PDF and other types of podcasts that are available, this narrow definition seems very out of date.

We consider a podcast to be a collection of files published to the Internet with an RSS 2.0 feed. This simple definition allows for audio podcasts, video podcasts, pdf casts and for the fact that many podcasts are used online as much as they are offline.

An audio podcast is a collection of audio files, typically in MP3 format, published to the Internet with an RSS 2.0 feed. This can be a radio-style show, but an audio podcast can also be: a collection of music files like the podcasts many music sites offer for musicians; a DJ mix; an audio blog; a collection of shorts audio posts from your cell phone; or a stream of audio files on a specific topic from a search engine.

Read/WriteWeb Thinks PodTech Equals Podcasting

Iskold cites podcasting startup PodTech‘s struggles as support for the idea that podcasting is stagnating. While it’s true that PodTech has its share of problems, it’s wrong to suggest that PodTech is a bellweather for podcasting’s fate.

For the last year, PodTech has focused on creating and monetizing content, of very limited interest, presented with minimal production values. Many have criticized PodTech’s content and strategy; Valleywag calls it ‚Äúthe Valley‚Äôs worst video network.‚Äù

It would be a mistake to make any broad judgements based on PodTech’s experiences, other than that it’s hard to sell ads on dull content.

If Podcasting Is Going Out Of Fashion, So Is Blogging

Iskold also makes much of the fact that search requests for the terms “podcast” and “podcasting” have peaked and are now declining. For example, search requests for “podcasting” appear to have peaked in 2005:

Google Trends podcasting

Nowhere, though, does Iskold explain why we should think that search requests tell us anything about technology adoption. In fact, if you take a look at Google Trends for “blogging”, you find that blogging’s search requests peaked about the same time:

Google Trends for blogging

These graphs don’t show us anything about adoption trends for these two technologies; all they they show is that people aren’t searching for terms like “podcasting” and “blogging” as much as they used to. Maybe people now know what these two words mean; maybe 2005 was the peak of the hype cycle for these two technologies.

Read/WriteWeb Appears To Be Clueless About Video And Music Podcasts

Iskold appears to think that the content of podcasts just can’t compete with other things on the Internet for your attention.

“The first trouble for podcasts is that they compete with online video and blogs. Videos are cooler, shorter, can be consumed on demand, and satisfy multiple senses. Podcasts, on the other hand, are something you need to specifically listen to,” he writes.”They typically consist of a discussion you need to be able to focus on to follow. As a result, podcasts can’t really compete with music, which is something that many of us can enjoy while working.”

Iskold appears to be unaware of the world of video podcasts and vlogs. Here are 31 other reasons he’s wrong.

You Can Actually Enjoy Podcasts Outside Of Your Car

Iskold argues that commutes are the only time that podcasts are useful.

“When can we listen to them? It seems that the most natural place would be while commuting, instead of listening to the radio,” writes Iskold. “That is, however, a rather specific and limited time and perhaps not a large enough window of attention to allow podcasts to flourish. And revisiting the content issue, when we are coming home from work, do we really want to listen to a sophisticated discussion? Maybe not.”

Iskold’s point appears to be based on the strange idea that podcasts = sophisticated discussions. This ignores the tens of thousands of entertainment and music podcasts that are available.

If You Want To Sell Something, It Has To Be Marketable

Iskold suggest that monetization is a challenge, offering several worn-out reasons why.

Sturgeon’s law says that 90% of anything is crap. Most podcasts, video podcasts, websites and blogs are not easy to monetize, because they not marketable content.

There are many podcasters, though, that are making great content, on topics of broad interest, and producing it on a regular schedule. These podcasters are getting advertisers, and this will only increase as advertisers move their budgets to the Internet.

This is happening already. IBM says that Internet media is replacing traditional media. Research says that advertisers will make Internet media the largest ad market within the next five years. There are also moves underway to standardize podcast advertising, which could stimulate podcast advertising further.

Big Companies Get To Make Podcasts Too

Iskold’s final point in his case against the future of podcasting is that big companies are rushing to create podcasts.

“The last problem may be delivering the final blow to podcasting — competition from big media companies,” writes Iskold. “They all quickly figured out that recycling their audio content into podcasts is cheap and easy. So many of them have done just that. NPR, CNN, and National Geographic, for example, make their content available as podcasts.”

It’s hard to understand how corporate acceptance of podcasting is somehow an indicator that it’s going out of fashion or is losing its popularity. It may mean that podcasting will lose some of its “geek chic”, as mainstream podcasts gets a mainstream audience. But, the fact that organizations like NPR, CNN, and National Geographic are podcasting validates that there is an audience for podcasts and that it can be worthwhile to make content for the podcast audience.

Podcasting Is Following Typical Technology Adoption Cycles

Alex Iskold’s article at Read/WriteWeb strikes us as a little bizarre. It sounds like his experience with podcasts is limited to audio podcasts that offer “sophisticated discussions” about tech topics. He cites the work of PodTech’s John Furrier and Jason Calacanis as examples. Based on this, he draws the conclusion that podcasts are of limited interest, limited utility, and that they are going out of fashion.

Gartner hype cycleIn fact, podcasting appears to be following a standard technology adoption cycle, right. Gartner outlines these typical stages:

  • Technology Trigger” The first phase of a Hype Cycle is the “technology trigger” or breakthrough, product launch or other event that generates significant press and interest.
  • Peak of Inflated Expectations” In the next phase, a frenzy of publicity typically generates over-enthusiasm and unrealistic expectations. There may be some successful applications of a technology, but there are typically more failures.
  • Trough of Disillusionment” Technologies enter the “trough of disillusionment” because they fail to meet expectations and quickly become unfashionable. Consequently, the press usually abandons the topic and the technology.
  • Slope of Enlightenment” Although the press may have stopped covering the technology, some businesses continue through the “slope of enlightenment” and experiment to understand the benefits and practical application of the technology.
  • Plateau of Productivity” A technology reaches the “plateau of productivity” as the benefits of it become widely demonstrated and accepted. The technology becomes increasingly stable and evolves in second and third generations. The final height of the plateau varies according to whether the technology is broadly applicable or benefits only a niche market.

We’ve seen this cycle in action recently, with the announcement of the iPhone. The iPhone announcement quickly led to a frenzy of media interest – what Gartner calls a “Peak of Inflated Expectations.” Now, we’re starting to see a media backlash against the iPhone, what Gartner calls a “Trough of Disillusionment”. It remains to be seen how quickly people understand the benefits and practical applications of the iPhone’s innovations and when they will be broadly adopted.

Similarly, podcasting has gone through about half of the technology adoption lifecycle. The Google Trends map that we noted above shows that there was a spike of hype in 2005 about podcasting. At that time, there were inflated expectations about podcasting – like podcasting would “change everything”.

Read/WriteWeb’s article is typical “Trough of Disillusionment” backlash – podcasting didn’t change everything, so it won’t survive. The problem with these backlash articles is that they frequently miss the signs that the technology is already moving towards mainstream adoption.

Podcasting is moving into Gartner’s “Slope of Enlightenment” stage. Podcast adoption continues at a rapid pace, awareness about podcasting is up about 70% over last year, podcasting companies are announcing record revenue growth, there are now two expos devoted to portable media, companies are experimenting with podcasting and advertising dollars are moving in.

Podcasting is not just surviving, it’s thriving.

No Responses to “7 Signs That Read/WriteWeb Is Clueless About Podcasting”

  1. Murphy says:

    Alex Iskold is so wrong on so many levels, I hardly know where to start.

    I suspect Iskold started with the premise that podcasting is stagnating/shrinking, and looked only at evidence that supports his premise — a typical approach by those who have an axe to grind, conspiracy theorists, or tyro journalists unfamiliar with the idea that one looks at ALL the evidence before coming to a conclusion.

    C’mon Alex ‚Äî do better!

  2. info says:

    Murphy

    Maybe Iskold’s trying to be the next John Dvorak, linkbaiting with outrageous opinions…..

    I was surprised by the article’s appearance at Read/WriteWeb, though. Usually their articles seem pretty thoughtful.

  3. […] Podcasting Thriving or Not Surviving? by Anna Farmery The debate continues around the blogosphere whether podcasting is thriving or struggling to make the strides that people thought it would. First Read/Write web has an article asking Will Podcasting Survive? Then there is a great article over at Podcasting News that challenges that theory, stating 7 Reasons that Read/Write web are clueless about Podcasting. Both articles have valid points and are worth reading. […]

  4. I agree with Iskold. I also believe Liberace landed his UFO in my backyard last night. Just to the right of the patio. Then, him and Elvis started unloading crates of Bigfoots. And by my calculations this morning at breakfast, most of them have taken jobs as Waffle House waitresses.

    Your Pal,

    Wichita

  5. Drew says:

    Well, podcasting is cool but it’s nothing compared to other online phenomenon like YouTube or Facebook. That does not mean that it doesn’t serve an excellent niche role in Web 2.0.

    As a podcaster I think it’s important to be aware of the medium’s capacities and its limitations. No need for us to get on the defensive!

  6. I think the key is to realize that podcasting does not just represent audio files. Quite often it is a combination of audio and video with a blog thrown in for good measure. It is a multi-media phenomena on specific topics. I personally don’t bother with commercial rock radio or crap like MTV when I have the Rock and Roll Geek Show, the Plan Nine Rock Show and Rock and Roll TV to feed my music habit. I believe that podcasting represents just one more nail in the coffin of traditional media. Good riddance I say!

  7. […] In her report for FIR 272 on Monday, September 3rd, ‚ÄòProfessor‚Äô Goetsch reveals that Lee Hopkins has been spotted hanging out at the CommsCafe with Allan Jenkins decrying the poor presentation skills of most professional communicators; gives her opinion on SnapKast and its suitability for podcasters; follows up on last week‚Äôs Transcraping post with an introduction to the Plagiarism Today blog and Copyright 2.0 podcast (not to mention Public Domain Torrents); laments the fact that the Rojas-Weiner-Calacanis MP3 player never got anywhere, even though Dave Weiner still hates syncing; and agrees that the Read/Write Web article asking whether podcasting will survive is misplaced. Sponsored by Podcast Stereosis.    Standard Podcast [7:50m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download […]

  8. […] Podcasting News (obviously with a vested interest) doesn’t think much of Read/WriteWeb’s post with their 7 Signs That Read/WriteWeb Is Clueless About Podcasting. Share This | | LEAVE A COMMENT . . . Have your Say and continue the conversation! Agree, disagree, call me a dill, whatever … your opinion matters to me! […]

  9. […] Podcasting News published a story from Read/WriteWeb that suggests podcasting is losing steam. […]

  10. Kosso says:

    Interesting article: About 85% of the new visitors to http://podcast.com come from a Google search for the word ‘podcast’.
    (Followed by ‘pod cast’, then ‘bbc podcast’ and ‘video podcast’.)

  11. info says:

    Kosso

    The Google search trend for “podcast” may not be good for podcast.com, then.

    Time to get some links from other sites!

  12. […] Podcasting News (obviously with a vested interest) doesn’t think much of Read/WriteWeb’s post with their 7 Signs That Read/WriteWeb Is Clueless About Podcasting. […]

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  14. […] Podcasting News has posted an excellent response to Read/WriteWeb and their analysis of whether podcasting will survive. Well worth a read! […]

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