Podcasting and the Guy Next Door

The other day I mentioned that I was going to write on Podcasting.

I knew what I thought the limitations were, but I wanted to take some time to consider the benefits. Today, Fred Wilson, a smart and interesting father and venture capitalist, whose Blog I read literally every day, wrote an excellent post about the great potential of Podcasting, and why he thinks it will become a bigger, more mainstream thing. He said it better that I could and he even addressed some of my issues. It’s a good read and actually made me slightly more optimistic about the possibility of mainstream acceptance.

But I still have some concerns. Here are the 5 reasons I believe Podcasting will not be embraced by the masses:

1) It’s simply too hard to create one. I built the computer I am typing on now from scratch, and I wrote almost all of the pages that comprise Newsome.Org. I used to write computer games (in Basic, way back in the late Eighties) and was briefly a game designer for a small software company. In sum, I am the neighborhood computer geek. And I haven’t the slightest idea how to create and distrbute a Podcast. Yes, I could spend a few hours and figure it out. But even if I did…

2) While it is much easier to download and listen to a Podcast (I use iPodder for that, and I expect there are plenty of similar programs), it is more effort than the average person is willing to devote to listening to music/talk, etc. when there are so many other alternatives. I have smart friends who still have trouble sending and receiving email. Podcast listening is simply not something that non-computer geeks are going to learn how to do. I and certainly a few others will certainly go to some effort to access a Podcast that we can’t get elsewhere (such as the excellent Podcasts produced by my friends at Compadre Records), but in general it’s easier to get the same sort of stuff somewhere else. So I figure even if I did create a Podcast, very few people would have the desire and ability (it takes both) to listen to it. And even if they did…

3) Podcasting raises the very same issues you have with sharing other music files: the priority challenged folks at the RIAA (a better site to get the story is this one) will eventually get around to putting most of the independent Podcasters (and perhaps even some of the listeners) out of business. If I can’t download a song from Napster (meaning the original one, not the current sad reincarnation), what makes me think I can download a bunch of songs strung together in a Podcast. So that leaves people like Compadre (who own the rights to the stuff they use), marginally appealing talk shows, and public domain stuff. And even if the big boys get into the business…

4) There will eventually be ads. As I discussed last week, ads are killing traditional radio and real time (as opposed to TIVO‘ed) television. Once people start trying to monetize Podcasts, ads will kill Podcasts too. As an aside, ads are also the biggest buzz kill on independent internet radio stations like Rancho Radio. In fact, if I can’t dream up a way to broadcast Rancho Radio without the ads, I’ll probably take it off the air, again. But even if I could handle the ads…

5) I am over 40 and no one over 40 uses an MP3 player and earbuds as their primary music source. I have serveral MP3 players, but except for the occasional long airplane trip, I never use them. If I walked down the hall at my day job listening to an MP3 player, people would think I had lost my mind (often they do anyway, but for other reasons). Like many people of my generation, I do a large part of my music listening in the car. I like to burn a bunch of MP3’s onto a CD-R and pop it in my CD player. It’s safer and anyone riding with me can hear the music and talk to me at the same time (if I had earbuds in, they could do neither). Yes, I occasionally burn a Podcast onto a CD-R and listen to it in the car, but that’s simply an extra step that the average person will not take.

In theory, Podcasting is a great idea. And I’ll continue to listen to them occasionally. But I will be surprised if Podcasting is ever embraced by the masses. I hope I’m wrong.