All Hail The New Podcasters (Again x 10)

It seems every few years someone comes along and claims that not only did they and only they fashion podcasting in their own image, but that the revolution is finally here, and the money will fall from heaven shortly.

The latest is this hyperbolic Verge article and video called hopefully ‘The Future Is Podcasts’ – something you’d expect in 2005, not 2014. Sorry, you’re a bit late. Or very very early. My money is on the former, after doing podcasts for ten years.

It’s funny this video even mentions failures such as Odeo (mostly remembered now as the springboard for Twitter), but conveniently forgets Podshow/Mevio (probably just as well, many people with not so great memories about them) and all the other attempts to do this. They are correct that iTunes in my favourite American phrase ‘screwed the pooch’ and that it came in and just smothered the creativity. But it wasn’t alone in doing so, you need to add BBC, NPR, PRI and a few other corporations to that list…they just lazily dragged and dropped their content into MP3 files and called them podcasts.

It took quite a few years before they actually started making decent podcasts though, for them to ‘get’ that it wasn’t just some iPlayer/play again extension, but by then they’d saturated the iTunes chart via mainstream promotion. It was too late, people thought podcasting was people with a $20,000+ studio and not as it was originally intended, a disruptive technology with a little mic, a laptop, iRiver or iPod yet some good ideas, content you wouldn’t hear from the majors. The soul of podcasting had fled.

What’s horrifying is ESPN claiming that they were somehow a podcasting innovator (uhh…I was there at the start, back in November 2004, pretty sure they weren’t? Wasn’t really aware of any of their podcasts til now…I’m guessing second wave well after iTunes integration, or third) and that ‘two blokes with a mic’ is on the way out and chillingly it’s all about the shiny overproduced content that radio trainspotters know, love and have wet dreams about. Completely missing the point, re-purposing radio into an MP3 file, that’s not podcasting…sorry.

One of the reasons I fought to keep Radio Clash Podcast going for a decade but eventually stopped it is this, that podcasting was supposed to be revolutionary, but people chose the radio production level content already pushed to them as ‘podcasting’, that these major corporations moved to make sure their managers were kept happy and fed, to make sure that eventually nothing really changed. That ladder was pulled up, and not many people managed to clamber on board before those big guys muscled in.

A podcasting CEO manically grinning at a chair, last week.

I’m not dissing American Life (interestingly just split from PRI. So they are becoming truly indie?) and Serial, I love those shows, they are great radio (NOT really podcasting)…but not everything needs an editorial team of 10-20 or a corporate budget? In fact I’d argue podcasting like most creative endeavours is better the more personal it is, more DIY it is, the more connection you’ll have with listeners, rather than CorporatePodBot #2466754 talking via expensive mic to ListenerBot #3553252 about buying more shit on Purple Wednesday.

This was the original intention, and it’s strength – lack of regulation, lack of control, personal feel and freedom to connect to listeners directly, in ways the mainstream media never has really managed (looking at you, BBC Radio 3 with your clunky SMS/Twitter interaction!). It can’t, it’s too much of a faceless behemoth, it’s too Big Brother, it’s not agile enoough, it can’t even understand or risk any of this, weighed down with advertisers, accountants, investors, licenses or charters. But emulating the same old arguments and metrics over ‘money’ and ‘listener numbers’ then you never create innovative art, you’ll just weigh yourself down too, and create more of the same radioslop.

This was the point of podcasting circa 2004-6, but it seems the heart of podcasting is still being devoured by those who think monetising is not a dirty word…the money-men and marketers that killed it the first, second and countless times around? But you’ll still get a lacklustre response until they stop ignoring these facts, that people want stuff they can’t hear anywhere else, rather than repeated refried radio? But that very stuff doesn’t play well with advertisers, and so podcasting stays niche…unless it emulates the bland boring polished sound that advertisers think they love so much, in which case no-one really cares since you can get that same shit many other places, like on your radio dial?

It could work with a subscriber model…maybe. Again, has been tried many times before, and again people still emulate the same old tired content because otherwise it’s not ‘professional’ or ‘what people expect’, and so it fails.

So yes, this has been done before, good luck, you’ll need it. And if a bloke with long blonde hair or another with a leather jacket turns up, just say no…

Relatio Clash

Tim B Written by:

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