My post about podcasting earlier this week attracted a lot of insightful comments. There were also a few insulting comments, but overall the feedback showcased what makes podcasts worth consuming: passionate voices. Not coincidentally, passion is also what makes blogs a vital part of the media world. So the point of my article wasn't to disparage podcasting. As I made clear, I subscribe to and regularly listen to podcasts. The point was that podcasting hasn't changed mainstream media as much as blogging. But after reading through all of those comments, I've come to realize that maybe it doesn't need to. With that in mind, here are at least five reasons why podcasting rocks. Just trying to help get the word out...
1. An Ever Increasing Range of Podcasts To Choose From
The best podcasts, like the best blogs, are niche ones about specific topics. And thankfully, there is no shortage of quality content in the podcasting world. For example if you're into cooking, iTunes has a good list of cooking podcasts for you to choose from.
What's even more encouraging is the rise of independent podcast networks, like Dan Benjamin's 5b5. 5by5 is a tech focused network, featuring tech luminaries like John Gruber, Merlin Mann and Jeffrey Zeldman. It even has an iPhone app, allowing you to listen to shows live and get notifications. 70 Decibels is another tech podcast network worth checking out (thanks Jon Mitchell for the suggestions).
2. Podcasts In Your Car
Finding time to listen to podcasts can be challenging. Sometimes the only chance you get to attentively listen to something is on your commute - which is of course the traditional domain of radio. But car connectivity is rapidly advancing and as a result podcasts are becoming more accessible inside the car.
Noah Shanok, the CEO of popular online radio and in-car app Stitcher, commented that podcasting "is still missing easy, in-car connectivity." However, he noted that this is improving, thanks to mobile integration with large auto manufacturers like Ford, General Motors and BMW.
3. Podcasters Are Influential, Too
Mignon Fogarty, better known as Grammar Girl, took exception to my comment that few podcasters are known outside of their respective niches:
"Not recognizable outside my niche? Last week alone I was quoted in Wired and the Wall Street Journal (in an A1 story). In the last month I was on MPR, WYPR, WOSU, CBC, and a couple of smaller stations. My first book was a New York Times bestseller. I may be better known in language and education circles than other circles, but I believe I'm known outside the niche. Whaddaya want? People to ask me about nuclear policy? ;-)"
OK, point taken :) I didn't mean that as an insult, by the way. I consider myself a niche blogger and I'm not widely known outside of the technology sphere. But I agree with Mignon's point: that being influential in your niche often leads to respect and success.
4. Podcasts Can Nicely Augment Other Media
Daniel J. Lewis made an interesting comment on my previous post. He noted that traditional media is "pushing consumers to seek content and entertainment in new media, like blogs and podcasts." In other words, podcasts can complement mainstream media. Daniel mentioned his own Once Upon a Time podcast, based on ABC's drama show. He says the TV show has "created an audience of thousands for my content."
5. Create Your Own Schedule!
One of the best things about podcasts is that you can listen to them whenever you like. Unlike radio, you don't have to tune in at a specific time of the day. You can also listen to old podcast shows, anytime. I tend to listen to my favorite podcasts on walks, when preparing dinner or when cleaning up.
Dave Raven is a long-time podcaster, with a blues show called Raven & Blues. He has some interesting thoughts on the subject of scheduling:
"I've been podcasting the Raven & Blues for almost 8 years and in that time have gone from a few hundred to around 20,000 downloads a week. The growth curve was great for the first 5 years and then leveled out around 2009. It does seem from the feedback that I get, the main problem has been that many people have never fully understood what podcasting could do in refining their radio and audio listening. I listen to virtually no live radio after my morning fix of news and weather, and I know that many of my subscribers have my show earmarked for a certain day and time, just like a radio schedule - but of their own making.
The odd thing is what I call the long tail - each week, around 2-3,000 downloads are for old shows, sometimes going back to 2005. How or why they found that particular show, I never know, but many go on to become subscribers (and download over 400 hours of back programmes). I gave presentations to UK radio groups back in 2006, 2007 on how podcasting would change the face of radio. I've been proved wrong - So far!"
I don't know about you being wrong, Dave. In fact, what you do is precisely why I love podcasting: it's passionate, niche content and I can listen to it whenever I like. While blogs have undoubtedly changed news reporting for the better, podcasting is quite different to radio and it deserves to be appreciated on its own merits. I still hope more of you become stars though!