Beyond Podcast Discovery

I’m generally bored by the whole debate over whether ‘Podcasting’ is a good name for podcasting or not. It’s been a topic of debate for most of the two-year existence of podcasting, continuing to this day. In the midst of defending Microsoft’s own use of the term. (or lack thereof), Robert Scoble drops a more important gem into the discussion:

So, why hasn’t podcasting taken off more yet? Easy! It’s hard to discover new ones (you gotta listen to them).
You go to or and poke around. You have to download a file before you can listen. In that time you probably got bored and started watching Lost again.

People like instant gratification. Podcasting as a whole can’t deliver instant gratification because the entire process is geared toward set-and-forget delivery of information. As Scoble rightly points out, discovering shows in the first place is hard because you need to test the waters before you commit to a relationship with any given podcast.
Last night, while having a conversation about a video project I’m hoping to show off at Gnomedex, a discussion of online viewing habits led me to a realization about podcast discovery. Podcasts offering a play on the page option are going to win!
A completely unscientific sample of podcasts and video blogs shows that somewhere between thirty percent and fifty percent of all traffic to shows offering a stream on the Web option comes from streaming on the Web. This likely means if you don’t offer an option to playback you show in the browser, you are getting far fewer listeners.
Taking this a step further, many people (myself included) subscribe to podcast feeds but don’t automatically download the associated audio file because we don’t want our hard drives filled with stuff we don’t have time to listen to. Even when something sounds interesting, I don’t want to wait for the bandwidth throttled download from some budget Webhost to complete because my time is valuable. If you wrote some compelling copy in the post associated with an individual segment, included an embedded player in your RSS feed and offer me the option to download, I would be infinitely more likely to listen because I could click play and get instant results instead of waiting for the file.
At it’s core, RSS is just another Web page delivered in a different way. People understand the Web. People understand clicking a play button. If they like your show enough to subscribe, eventually they will understand downloading shows for offline playback. In the meantime, it’s a YouTube nation where everyone wants to watch and hear the latest show instantly without waiting to download something they’ve never tried before.


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