In defense of podcasting as a medium

My friend and fellow MSDN Regional Director Scott Hanselman thinks "podcasting = verbal incontinence". What he's describing is his experience of listening to the podcasts that are avaliable now, and he has a point. The stuff that people are publishing is sometimes hard to listen to. It's done mostly by bloggers now, and people who have techie commentary, etc. Nothing wrong with that, but that's what we have today.

I want to encourage you all to think about podcasting as a publishing process or a new form of media. When the first video signals were sent across the air and there was no real broadcasting process yet, the content was rough. But the media itself had been established and it was just a matter of time until it was perfected.

From the non-techie perspective, podcasting is about pushing content. It's more than that, however. It's about pushing only the stuff that the customer wants, and filtering out the unwanted stuff. In the age of information overload, that is a breath of fresh air.

Blogging works for the same reason. I subscribe to that which I'm interested.

Now use your imaginiation. I belive that in a very short time, you'll be able to log onto,, or any news content provider, provide a list of keywords or topics that you're interested in, which can be very very specific, and let a program like iPodder fill your mp3 player with the news that's relevant to you. Every day.

One of the things I love about blogging is that people can publish to a small crowd effectively. Small in numbers, but large geographically. So, all sorts of really niche shows will pop up, much like magazines. Not for the purpose of reading slides or conveying complex technical info, like Scott says, but for the purpose of creating community and keeping people plugged in and informed about the things they care about.

I see podcasting being used by a new breed of journalists who specialize in not just a topic but a particular story. Better than sending journalists all over the world to cover this and that, immerse them in a story and have them report on it daily, hourly, or what have you. Podcasting gives them a direct connection (effectively) to the people who want the information.

So, while I agree that it's early and the medium doesn't work well for reading code, or trying to convey ideas that are better suited to print, I think that podcasting as a media has just been born, and it (or something that smells like it) will someday soon perhaps be the foundation on which audio and video media, and perhaps even software, will be distributed.


  • Carl, every time some new form of communication there are always people to say it's unnecessary or no one wants it. I've even been one of those people from time to time. ;->

    Your friend's mistake is that this isn't a replacement for PowerPoint, it's a replacement for drive-time radio, or radio listened to while exercising, or radio not listened to on long airplane flights or drives. (Where reception is non-existent or only idiotic right wing idealogues are available. They can be entertaining, but after a while you yearn for some adult conversation.)

    Anyway, PowerPoint, which btw, I had a hand in inventing, is a disaster for communication, it should be wiped off the face of the earth, a crutch for freaked-out speakers, and the people who have to listen to someone wade through a PP presentation know all too well that as soon as the first slide is up, people start falling asleep, checking their email or reading blogs. Now they'll have a new choice, put on the headphones and listen to one of the verbal incontinents your Luddite friend is so dismissive of.

    Anyway... Thanks for the stimulating post!

  • Carl

    I'm the fellow who (on Scoble's site) rather hastily dismissed your Pwop website's pitch of podcasting as a drivetime tool for corporate motivational messages.

    I'm happy to see that you may indeed recognize some of podcasting's potential. But I still reject the notion that we will soon get through this messy homemade stuff and regularize podcasting as another broadcast medium. I believe that the use of podcasting by the established sources will be the niche, and the decentralized uses of it will be the majority of media out there.

    I also continue to question your characterization of podcasting as "pushing" content. As long as the listener chooses to subscribe, it will continue to be opt-in, and the appeal and usefulness of the offered programs will determine whether they are heard.

    As they say, to a person with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. To someone looking to start a business, this looks like an opportunity to push content to consumers (or employees, in your web pitch) or to provide services to corporate communications professionals. But push was a buzzword whose time came and went. You'll have to be able to hold the elegance AND the messiness of this medium in your mind (and your business plans), or you'll miss it.

  • Also Dave...

    > [I] hastily dismissed your Pwop website's pitch of podcasting as a drivetime tool for corporate motivational messages <

    For the record, I never said podcasting's calling is to use it to brainwash your employees. What I said wasn't clear, and was misconstrued, so I removed it from the site, but let me tell you now what I was TRYING to say.

    Look at .NET Rocks! It's nothing close to "corporate motiviational messages" and yet it has had a motivational effect on our listeners. I have a stack of letters to prove it. It's content. In the same way that reading Motor Trend might motivate you to go down to the garage and fix your leaky radiator, or to start saving for that car you've always wanted, so can audio content have the same effect.

    Since we have already done this, and Pwop is just a way that we can do it for others, I was merely trying to convey the positive effects of good content. Bad choice of words.

    I sense that you're getting hung up on the symantics. That's ok. I'm trying to talk to people outside of the tech world and explain podcasting (and it's benefits) to those who don't have the benefit of our technical understanding.

    Of course, I welcome any suggestions to that end.

  • God I hate buzzwords; And I really think thats all Podcasting is. I mean, I was doing Podcasting back when it was called 'burning mp3's onto a cd'. All that has really been added has been a way to automate my downloads of audio content - an audio aggregator.

    That being said, anything that makes my internet stay more efficient (not having to repeatedly visit a website to see if the new show is availiable or getting an email that a new show is availiable 2 days after the show has been published) works for me.

    I think people are trying to make 'Podcasting' into more than it is.

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