Friday, July 08, 2005

My response to Mark Cuban's thoughts on Podcasting

Even though you may not guess it from the comments so far, Mark’s cautionary tale was meant for a specific audience: the individual podcaster. It's good wisdom from the blogsphere to the emerging podsphere (podcastersphere?, podwaves?, pod-people-invasion?), about the current state of affairs in long-tail digital media. And as such, he was careful to exclude extensions of other media into podcasting (radio shows, conferences, etc.) and the business of providing podcasting infrastructure. Restated in my words, he said, “podcast for the love of podcasting, not because you are hoping to make a buck off it.”

Still, equating streaming radio with podcasting is like equating Geocities with Blogger. On the surface they accomplish the same result. Deeper down the creation and consumption experiences differ in significant ways, many of which have already been noted in other comments. It was pretty clear from the start that streaming radio had limited capacity for change, because while it freed creators, it shackled consumers (to their computers) and adoption depended major technological developments taking place. Ultimately we're just not in the habit of embracing inconvenient media platforms, even when the content may be better (sorry Dan & Scott).

While it would be difficult to make a living off podcasting right now, it is too early to say that it could never be done. While streaming radio was hamstrung by limited technical adoption, podcasting has grown out of a consumption culture shift embodied in the iPod. Blogs, podcasts and RSS have changed how we *think* about digital media. In this sense, podcasting is more like cable TV. Sure, cable in the 80s offered more channels and greater freedom for creators - but c’mon, Springsteen told it straight, “57 channels (and nothing’s on).” Cable was adopted because it made watching the nightly news more convenient. Award-winning content like the Sopranos came much later.

All that said, the high quality of Kingsley’s Corner and the thousands of people listening to Coverville are nothing to snuff at. We should all hope a sustainable model emerges to support them.