When Apple launched podcasting as part of iTunes in February 2005 (creating the second wave of podcasters, fact fans) it seemed a victory for user-generated content, the new media vs gatekeeper approved old media – Hollywood and the big broadcasters. Soon though it became clear as independent podcasts got shoved off the homepage and then the chart for NPR, BBC and major media players that despite the Ghandi ‘you too can be a creative!’ spiel that Apple was in thrall with the old media and not the new.
Now with the (re?)launch of AppleTV* Steve Jobs calls such non-Hollywood content ‘amateur hour’ – this doesn’t surprise me given the level of Hollywood cocksucking Apple has been doing, from DRM to podcasts and iTunes programming – but it might be to those older guard that bought the message that Apple was the 1984-style revolution, rather than the same-old same-old. RCA rather than FRB, as history has proved.
This is partly what killed podcasting, stopped it being a true revolution with real voices and ended up with pseudo-‘real’ vox pop shows, stealth subvertising and sublebrity gossip pap. The voices were there, the content was there, and the old guard who had the fire – and still do – are still going, but really as a force to threaten the monopoly of old media it is dead. The other part of this was the terrible and inept attempt to ‘monetize’ podcasting before it ever had a chance to mature – a goldrush which also took the wind out of it’s sails. Interesting that most of the podcasters or people who made a big thing of this are either no longer podcasting or part of their companies (like Adam Curry who has left Mevio, formerly BT Podshow, formerly Podshow…) or not carrying advertising or co-pro deals anymore.
The ones left do it for the love of it…and mostly were the original old guard. They didn’t jump on it as a money making scheme, and so thus when the sponsors and PR-puff has evaporated they’ve kept going. We never needed Apple, nor BT Podshow/Mevio or NPR or BBC…but it’s sad to think what might have been, a real revolution in user generated content actually threatening the mainstream, rather than podcasting now seen as a rather quaint adjunct to blogging, and a passing fad, or as another output dumping channel for pre-done broadcast shows, a marketing option ticklist along with RSS and email lists…
As has been pointed out with the iPhone and now iTunes Ping Apple likes it’s closed systems, walled gardens, control. I suspect this is the reason for the push of gatekeeper approved old media – it’s reliable, inoffensive, bland, readymade and easily repackaged and keeps the advertisers and sponsors happy.
What it lacks is independence, creativity, new ideas and truly new content – and this is surprising for a company that used to pride itself in having those values. Apple really has become a mainstream media whore, from DRM, iTunes and iPod sucking up to the music industry to Apple TV and iTunes video now doing same to Hollywood and TV companies. But how sustainable is it to serve up the same old slop – how can Apple really differentiate itself by repackaging content like that – especially when unlike the novelty of new devices like iPod watching video on a computer screen is well out the gate – see YouTube, iPlayer, Hulu et al for that. I do think in the near future we’ll see the walled garden approach as quaint and rather old-fashioned.
So maybe Apple shouldn’t be so sniffy about ‘amateur’ content – because independent producers can and will produce all those, if Apple lets them, rather than sidelining them as a freakshow. Seems strange to be simultaneously associated with podcasting because of early adoption and support, then , or keep them off the podcasting page in preference for repackaged old media shows you can get elsewhere? I’d have thought having unique content was a priority, maybe I was wrong…* a product that will probably go the way of iTunes Ping because really, non-techy people do not associate computers with televisions, even after 20 years of trying to ‘synergise’ them into one device. The wins that Apple and others have made putting a computer in nearly every home, that separation still exists despite Microsoft and it’s media centre and AppleTV’s lack of takeup. I’m not surprised, it’s similar to HiFi – yes you can get a combined system to do everything, but why settle for a device that does everything but at a price of limited quality or features – when existing and more socially acceptable separate devices do so much more at higher quality? Consumers are not dumb…