Where have all the podcasters gone?

20 07 2008


Scott, producer of the Guardians Tech Weekly podcast

Scott, producer of the Guardian's "Tech Weekly" podcast

Is it me or is podcasting fading? I used to be the news editor for Podcast Pickle, a once-vibrant podcasting community. The last post to the news site was in 2007 and I see my name has been removed from the masthead — only fair seeing as I had to use Google to find the address. I stopped writing because there stopped being much “news”. This is affirmed by looking at Podcasting News, whose stories today aren’t much different from those of a year ago — this survey, that survey, this company upbeat about podcasting.

As well as news drying up, where are all the podcasters? A year or so ago there was constant activity on the Pickle’s discussion boards but the main forum hasn’t been touched for over a week. Things are more lively at Podcast Alley but still the site is a shadow of its former self.

My theory? Podcasting is hard. I have two podcasts, both of which have nearly podfaded. In Latte Veritas is back with the occasional episode after nearly a year off the “air”. The Rules used to be weekly but now we might get out six episodes a year. Even though In Latte Veritas is only a five-minute show, it takes 30 minutes to get an episode up — two and a half hour a week when we were recording every weekday. We’re recording The Rules tonight but last time it took me two weeks to find the time to tweak it and get it up.

Podcasting is an incredibly powerful medium, one that Australian companies (the only ones I can really speak for) have yet to capitalise on, but it’s a demanding medium, if you’re the producer and I’ve always been the producer. There are those who argue — and they run expensive workshops in Australia — that anyone with a pocket digital recorder and a free website can podcast. They can but by that token anyone with a keyboard can be a writer. Making a quality podcast requires technical know-how, decent equipment (it doesn’t have to be a full-on studio but that Olympus-thing in your pocket isn’t it, either) and content talent. 

If I look at my own iTunes subscriptions only one, The Manners Cast, is not a professional podcast. Of the others Media Talk and Tech Weekly from the Guardian are good examples. In those two cases the content comes from professionals and they’re supported by a producer running a proper studio (see picture of Scott, Tech Weekly‘s producer, recorded by the team themselves in their Flickr group). 

I suspect those who were going to jump on the podcasting bandwagon have done so. Most have fallen off and the rest of us don’t need the forums, we’re just plugging away. We know how to promote our podcasts — if we’ve got the time — and we know that only very few will have the general appeal to cut-through and compete against the talent and production standards that media companies can put into theirs. (Radio stations in particular dominate the iTunes charts.)

It’s just a perception but I feel that’s the YouTube way. People don’t need to hang around forums talking about how to make a YouTube channel. They make one. They sink or swim. I feel podcasting is going the same way: we don’t talk, we do or we do talk, we just do it on our podcasts.




5 responses

20 07 2008
Annalie Killian

Perhaps there will be a revival with internal social media adoption? I can see great application for podcasts inside organisations.Also know that Podcamp 3 in Boston (on this weekend) was oversubscribed and going strong. What would be the reason for that? Larger population?

21 07 2008
Steven Lewis

Maybe it’s just the online communities that are fading — people just don’t want to sit around a talk about this stuff online anymore: it’s about doing or meeting in the flesh.

26 07 2008
Kate Carruthers

Suspect you’re right – previously podcasts were new, fringe & not really mainstream; but now they are just part of what happens in the mainstream. This phenomenon might just be a symptom of them going mainstream?

26 07 2008
Steven Lewis

I think so. It’s also much easier than it was. The podcasting forums were mostly about technology, editing and so on. That’s not so tough these days, especially with Garageband. The trick, as with blogging, is content; and forums can’t really help with that.

15 08 2008
Better Communication Results » We’re all talking but is anybody listening?

[…] Steven Lewis highlights what I and Allan Jenkins found over eighteen months ago — that podcasting is hard work. Goodness knows how Shel and Neville still manage to do it! […]

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