There’s a letter in this week’s LEO about the newsweekly’s podcast recommendations. It argues that podcast versions of radio shows–particularly public radio shows–are not technically podcasts.
Public radio did the independent podcast movement a major disservice by releasing their radio shows as “podcasts.” I remember when you used to be able to look at the top 10 podcasts on iTunes, and it would list shows like “This Week in Tech,” “Keith and the Girl” and other original content being produced by podcast enthusiasts. Look at the top 10 now, and it’s dominated by NPR shows. The independent voice in podcasting barely has a chance anymore.
It is true that many of the top podcasts out there are radio shows. But does that mean these shows aren’t podcasts? I suppose it depends on whether you look at podcasts as a delivery mechanism or a medium. It’s technically both, and some radio shows have done extremely well online. For instance, in 2009, more than a quarter of the This American Life audience was listening to the podcast instead of the radio show. And the podcast audience was younger. If most of TAL’s listeners were getting the show via podcast, would it still be considered a radio show?
But outside of that question, the letter writer’s point is clear: radio shows have an advantage over podcast-only podcasts. This American Life has a staff, home station, healthy listener support and the instant credibility all those things bring (listeners know they’ll get a certain degree of quality). That makes it tough for independent podcasters to get their work heard. There are plenty of excellent and popular homegrown podcasts, too, and the medium is an excellent source of tech talk and comedy.
I just took a quick review of the podcasts I listen to and just over half of them are affiliated with another media outlet (newspapers, public broadcasters, etc). Who is producing your podcasts?