Every once in a while, you read something that makes you just shake your head. Dave Slusher mentioned David Coursey’s anti-podcasting article. I’m not so opposed to his opinions on the grounds that he’s a knee-jerk-off (although he does seem to fit the description) but rather from the simple fact he’s hopelessly off target in his criticism.
If you go and spend a few minutes reading his article, you’ll find that he’s really all over the map. First off, he begins with a rant about iTunes and iTunes Radio Stations. What this has to do with podcasting is anyone’s guess, but he goes off four the first four paragraphs about it, so he must really have felt it was worth saying, given that he introduces his article with it.
And then drops the topic entirely.
He then accidently strays into something which I actually think is likely to be the truth:
Over time, I expect the “most listened to” Podcasts will be products of existing media companies that use Podcasts as a means of repurposing content.
While I don’t think this is entirely correct, it doesn’t immediatey fail the sniff test. After all, existing media companies do possess large libraries of licensed and copyrighted content that they can draw on which are unavailable or expensive for others to acquire. Even independents will be tempted to adopt the trappings of traditional media companies as they grow in popularity, so the “successes” in podcasting will likely be less different from big media than you otherwise might imagine.
That is, of course, if you are looking at the most popular end of the curve. The question is really what happens in the Long Tail.
The existing media industry works really well at the big end: selling hundreds of thousands to millions of units of works. It basically has no real coherent strategy for creating and distributing content to a few hundred to a few thousand individuals. It is in this end that I think that unconventional business plans and to a certain extent, just creating media for its own sake will rule the day. Ordinary media outlets will find it difficult to adapt their business to operate in this more rarified environment, but that doesn’t mean that we won’t find players in this arena. After all, the barriers to entry and the risks are signficantly lower than trying to follow the traditional path to wide media distribution, even if the payoff is somewhat more limited.
Coursey then strays off into what I think is really a short sighted argument:
Personal Podcasting, like personal blogs, is a fad and will fade. Just like personal sites were a fad in the early days of the Web. People experiment because content creation can be fun, sort of like finger-painting was back in preschool, but people also run out of creative energy, and the maintenance of a site, blog or Podcast becomes a chore. And the content gets boring, and the audience goes away.
First, I don’t know what Internet Coursey is using, but I’m baffled why he thinks that personal websites have gone away. The Internet is chock-a-block full of them: we call them “blogs” and everyone seems to have one these days. Yes, many of them peter out because they do become chores for people, but for many, they are not chores: they are significant outlets for personal creation and expression. I suspect the same will be true of podcasting.
He goes on:
Pioneer Webmasters quickly found that creating an interesting Web site required more art and photography skills than most of them possessed. They also learned that creating and maintaining an interesting site was a lot of work, with little reward.
I must admit, I do spend a fair amount of time each day working on my website: gathering content, tweaking software, uploading digital photographs and the like. But to me it’s fun. Interesting. Even exciting at times. Would it be cool if I got hundreds of emails or comments each day? Maybe. But even with my modest level of success, I consider it fun, not a chore. It’s just part of what I do.
Coursey closes with this gem:
I’ve been in the media all my professional life and have spent years trying to understand audience behavior. I can’t always tell what the masses will like, but I am pretty good at calling losers. And as a mass medium, Podcasting will be one of them.
Allow me to use the Brainwagon Universal Translator:
UNIVERSAL TRANSLATOR ENGAGED
TRUST ME, I AM GETTING PAID TO WRITE, SO I MUST KNOW WHAT I AM TALKING ABOUT. THE EXISTENCE OF A MEDIA WHERE INDIVIDUALS ARE GRANTED THE SAME PRESTIGE THAT I ENJOY SIMPLY CANNOT BE TOLERATED.
THESE ARE NOT THE DROIDS YOU ARE LOOKING FOR.
DISENGAGE UNIVERSAL TRANSLATOR
Your Jedi mind tricks won’t work on me, old man.