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Hypecasting

March 4th, 2005 · No Comments · Internet

There are people here and there who are practically breathless about the brave new world of “podcasting“.

What is podcasting? Basically audio blogging meets XML. Remember how I felt about audio blogging?

Well, podcasting is certainly a more useful form of audioblogging, since it lets you subscribe and download an audio feed that you can stuff on your favorite portable audio player to listen to later. Basically, it is time-shifted radio delivered via the Internet.

Former Blogger co-founder Evan Williams has left Google to start his next project Odeo, which is all about podcasts. So there’s something to this, right? Could it be the next big thing in web publishing?

I doubt it.

That’s not to say that it isn’t a neat way to use the Internet, or that there aren’t talented people making entertaining and worthwhile podcasts. Both things are true. And there’s certainly no reason not to encourage people to listen to podcasts and if so inspired, to make their own.

But podcasting is always going to have a much smaller set of publishers than weblogging, and a smaller audience as well. Podcasts aren’t indexed, don’t contain links, and can’t easily be skimmed. A thirty minute podcast takes thirty minutes of your time and attention. And the contents of the podcast are basically separate from the Internet. That generally moves away from the model of a user-driver Internet experience and takes us back to passive audiences. There are times, like being in a car or on a long commute, that being a passive audience is nice, but those are niche times.

Making a good podcast is much harder than writing a blog post, and takes more work and more time. I also thing the skills that make someone a decent podcaster are more rare than the skills it takes to be a decent blogger. Even if a podcast is nothing but songs, there a licensing issues and costs involved. And since podcasts aren’t “linky,” it will be very hard for a new podcast to get noticed. If you think there is a brutally steep power curve of popularity in blogs, imagine it one hundred times worse for podcasts.

So in the end, we’re left with a form of Internet publishing that has a smaller audience than the web, demands more of the audience than the web, is more work to create than the web, and misses out on several key web features.

That doesn’t sound like a revolution to me.

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