November 30, 2015

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First Mediaworks

06/20/05 Is Podcasting The Cable Access Of Today?

Thousands of minutes of MP3 audio are just waiting on the Internet to be downloaded onto your iPod. No doubt about it, podcasting is cool - but will it replace radio?

The first question we must ask about podcasting - indeed about all personal media - is, “What is the revenue model?” If it's pay-per-listen for specialty programming, like audio books, there's a chance that podcasting might make money. For people to pay, however, the programming must be a high value to users. I don't believe that advertising will ever be viable in a personal-media environment.

As I listened to San Francisco's WYOU, the first podcast station in America, I questioned whether podcasting is right for radio. Other than the fact that it's a cool way to let the community know you're on top of the latest trends, most of what I heard was uninteresting, poorly presented (one guy had nearly a minute of dead air) or otherwise not a good fit in a traditional broadcast radio environment. Something about it seemed utterly un-radio.

Maybe that's the appeal of it.

Is it possible that I'm so much of an old-school radio diehard that I can't understand how “bad radio” might be perceived as good? Cultural trends are definitely leaning toward “real,” rather than packaged. And iPod radio is definitely un-packaged.

Remember the huge fuss about cable-access TV shows when cable was first introduced? TV would no longer be about slick Hollywood productions. It would be about average men and women having their time on television. Cable access would deliver the 15 minutes of fame prophesied in 1968 by Andy Warhol. Cable access, like today's podcasting, was heralded as the savior of the medium and the forerunner of things to come.

Considering the current trend toward reality television, perhaps cable access did provide a glimpse of things to come. Who among us looked at yesterday's cable-access craze and foresaw today's reality television? Although my hindsight is 20/20, my crystal ball has been on the fritz for most of my life. Then I went to the Roy Williams conference in Dallas - attendees will forever remember his opening session. (Don't you feel you gained the ability to perceive shifts that others don't yet understand?)

So let's get down to the question: Should you podcast? I say yes, absolutely. I think every talk show should be made available as a podcast, allowing people to listen at their own convenience. Likewise, special or occasional programs, such as weekend countdown shows, are perfect for a podcast. But podcasting should be more than just repurposing your shows; it should be its own specialty programming. What might you deliver to your audience as a podcast that you can't do on the air? How about the best jokes from the morning show? Might your personalities offer a daily show of the things they couldn't say on the air? Are there cultural programs you might create to serve the needs of your audience?

Although I believe a few new stars will emerge from podcasts, it's important to remember that cable access didn't shove aside Leno or Letterman.

Our culture is shifting in a giant way, and podcasting is a perfect fit in the cultural shift. Podcasting won't replace broadcast radio, but I do see it competing for listening time, which means it's a trend that should not be ignored.

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