Archive for October 18th, 2004

The Invasion of the Pod(caster) People

Monday, October 18th, 2004

It’s the killer app – the one that’s going to revolutionize content and media distribution. Your life will never be the same. It’s a truly disruptive technology that will completely shake up the industry. Billions will be won or lost as companies race to become the leader in this new wave of technology (oops, strike that – my mistake. Nobody except Apple will make a dime because it’s mostly open source). Developers and geeks will pounce on the podwagon, afraid of being left behind the next great wave of technological progress.

Yep, another earth shattering technical revolution is being hyped up the wazoo. And having lived through so many of these earth shattering ultra-hyped revolutions, I great this one with a resounding… yawn.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Many of the things people are saying about podcasting are absolutely true. The trend towards large number of individuals producing content, already prevalent on the Internet in text form, is certain to spread into audio and video. The tools are getting better. And with video and audio editing almost routine among kids today, the trend is clear. And using RSS (or it’s successors) to subscribe to content, along with tools to automatically download it to a media player, are innovative, yet at the same time logically inevitable advances.

But there are some additional forces at work that lead me to question the hype in this case.

Podcasting is essentially a distribution mechanism for audio content. But while some people do best with audio, it’s a relatively inefficient way to acquire information. Most of us read faster, and given that we are already overwhelmed by far more information than we can process, the idea that audio will somehow gain comparable traction to text blogs is questionable.

Yes, audio is important – commuters who currently listen to talk radio or audio books will find podcasting useful, and those represent large niche – but a niche nonetheless.

Podcasting is getting a lot of hype, and bleeding edge geeks are jumping on the bandwagon, figuring out how to launch their own audio-blogs, and they will meet with some success and gain listeners. But today’s exponential growth curve is going to hit a wall, and soon. And the growth will slow and maybe stop, and the media will write in dismay about another failed technology, until at some point, maybe a few years from now, maybe more, the world will catch up and podcasting will become routine. Except it won’t be podcasting – it will be vidcasting – with automatic downloads to tommorow’s handheld video player devices or cell phones, and the feeds will be short comic bits from places like The Onion and the Daily Show, or short news clips from CNN.