Recently, the American media strategist and commentator Mark Ramsey wrote a very interesting article on this topic, although his piece was somewhat less doomsdayish than my title would suggest. He points out a series of current shortcomings that are near-universal in the podcasting community. As hard as some of his argument may sound, Ramsey can't be faulted for his reasoning and approach. Let me summarise:
- podcasts generally are too long
- they are too loose with direction and focus
- statistics are vague and unreliable
- only branded (think ex-radio show) podcasts are easily accessible
- it's too difficult to find new good productions.
Keeping in mind that Ramsey is coming at this thing from the professional media angle, he's pretty much spot on. Podcasts are usually too long - especially if you are used to hearing short, slickly-edited radio shows filled with snappy sound bites hosted by aspiring comedians. And yes, sometimes you can't help but wonder about the point in some podcasts. Very much like a lot of conversations generally, isn't it? Stats and accessibility are big issues, I admit. Unfortunately, for the most part, this side of the art is out of the hands of the podcasters themselves - good metadata will only take you so far. The science of statistics is already murky at best, and only a fool would rely on stats provided by hosts and accept its complete veracity. I liken the current podcasting climate as being similar to the music industry a couple of decades ago. New bands were discovered through word-of-mouth, occasionally from the radio, always via a peer group. So too does it work with podcasts. If we only ever rely on iTunes to tell us what's worth listening to then we are stuck with ad-heavy, commercial monetised shows featuring the latest and greatest in repackaged radio productions, and pop philosophy. There's nothing like, however, stumbling across a bit of gold, and usually any brief search unveils a sweet little gem or two. But here's the clincher - you have to want to actively explore the possibilities yourself.
To those who would claim to see the end, I would ask that they not lose sight of the fact that podcasting at it's essence is DIY - a bit punky, a bit seat-of-the-pants. It's meant to be. Yes, it can be slick, utilising good production values, staying focused and entirely on topic, even sticking to a script, but that's not what people love about it. Whether it's a 10 minute short, or a three-and-half-hour-plus behemoth, if it's uncensored, not controlled, an honest conversation, and true to the podcaster's ideals, someone, somewhere will love it.
podcast: koopspodcast.libsyn.com + somewhere in iTunes