Chris Brogan asks:

But now, think about podcasting. Where is THAT going? If you can guess that one correctly, get back to us all. It’s been a crazy ride so far.

iPod Touch home screenPodcasting is going exactly where it should be going, which is away from “shiny object of the day, one solution will solve your problems” to useful platform in the right context. That’s why events around podcasting like PodCamp have evolved to include other forms of new media besides just podcasting, because podcasting is part of the mix.

Consider what podcasting is for a moment.

+ Audio or video
+ Consume on demand
+ Subscription based for push delivery
+ Some level of interactivity with content producers

These features give podcasting unique advantages and disadvantages. For example, podcasting is NOT a wonderful platform for delivering anything time-sensitive, because you don’t know when someone will tune in. Podcasting stinks at clickstream, because it’s very difficult to track where a user came from unless you’ve bought and exclusively use domain names just for people to remember.

Podcasting is terrific at delivering a lot of information in alternate formats. For people who prefer to listen or watch instead of read, or who listen at certain times of the day (on a commute, for example), podcasting is a perfect way for them to get content they want.

If you are trying to deliver material that doesn’t conform to the context of podcasting and the context of people who enjoy podcasts, your efforts will not be rewarded.

The sense of disappointment or disillusionment with podcasting that a lot of new media producers seem to have lately can basically be summed up as such:

Podcasting by itself is not enough if you’re looking to educate or promote. It’s one channel among many, and it’s not appropriate for every subject and context.

Podcasting is a LOT of work. There are many more companies, services, and ideas now to make things more streamlined than there were in its infancy in 2004, but it’s still a commitment of time and energy.

Podcasting is not a get-rich-quick scheme, any more so than Twitter, blogging, or real estate. This, by the way, is one of the key sources of discontent, as a lot of claims were made early on about podcasting being the way for you to quit your day job and solely be a new media maven.

Podcasting is a form of media, and one of the deadliest mistakes that people make in media is mistaking the medium for marketing. See this blog post for more.

My Student Loan Network CEO, Joe Cronin, recently pointed out in a meeting that he wasn’t sure about the Financial Aid Podcast’s growth prospects. The show is growing, but slowly, certainly not like its initial growth curve in the early days, when the show scooped up many of the early adopters. He asked if, in Seth Godin’s perspective, the Financial Aid Podcast was in a Dip or a cul-de-sac, and suggested one of Godin’s quotes that the podcast might not be worth continuing. Of course, Seth’s full of lots of good quotes, including this one – a woodpecker can peck 20,000 different trees and die of starvation, or it can peck one tree 20,000 times and get dinner.

Podcasting – and the Financial Aid Podcast – is still somewhere around peck 5,000.

We’re effectively nearly 4 years into podcasting’s life. Consider where Amazon.com was 4 years after its founding, in 1998. It was literally just starting to hit its stride in 1998, and Jeff Bezos had said in the Amazon business plan that he didn’t expect to be profitable for at least 5 years. Amazon finally posted its first profit in the 4th quarter of 2002, nearly 8 years later.

This is the kind of patient, long term vision you must apply to podcasting and any other new media platform. There are still hundreds of millions of iPods out there (the low hanging fruit) that have not tuned in, largely because people still don’t know how. We in podcasting and new media are too quick to give up on anyone who’s not an instant early adopter, and as such are leaving people – and money – behind in our mad, attention-deficit rush for instant gratification, instant results, instant fame.

So to Chris Brogan, Joe Cronin, and just about everyone else wondering what the future of podcasting is, stay tuned. There is far more yet to come, if you are willing to have the vision, commitment, and dedication to achieve long term success. If you’re not willing to make that commitment, that’s okay, but don’t expect the same results as the folks who are.

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