"Our word for the day is 'penultimate', because this is our penultimate podcast."
"Penultimate" of course means "second to last" (thanks Lemony Snicket), so that's not quite how New York Times Front Page podcaster James Barron went out - but it's close. This happened a while ago - after the New York Times had already cut out most of its wide stable of podcasts. Now, they just have one, their Book Review, and who knows how long that will last. Is the New York Times simply one institution misreading the tides, or is it a microcosm of the state of podcasting in general?
As Kyle Ryan writes, podcasting is difficult to monetise and attracts a smallish audience, and they aren't exactly easy to make. The best podcasts I listen to list a producer in the credits - these people aren't just talking into a webcam mic.
Podcasts exists in a weird niche. They kind of feel like a new media product because you get them from the internet and whatnot - but they are essentially a radio show with a new distribution method. My parents adore them, but I don't know anyone my age who does. I don't want to sound disparaging of new media entertainment, but a whole lot of it comes in under-five-minute chunks. I know that I automatically reconsider watching a YouTube video when it's longer than five minutes. Most podcasts are at least 40 minutes long, in my experience. It's quite a commitment to listen to something that long every week. There are probably a significant number of people who are just listening to the radio shows they would normally listen to in the podcasting format - think This American Life or Nine to Noon.
The audio-only thing is actually quite an advantage, in my opinion. You can do something else while you listen to podcasts: cook, clean, work, whatever. I don't think a move to videocasting is going to keep podcasts relevant in the future.
The mechanism for actually getting a podcast to a user is awkward right now. Apple enjoys a kind of monopoly on distribution, people listen to podcasts in the browser and through apps such as Stitchr, but the podcast web pages usually link straight to iTunes - that way they can tell how many people are listening and guarantee a subscription. With numbers like those they can sell sponsorships and so on. iTunes don't seem to have updated their podcasting interface for years though - it's obviously not a priority for them, and it's wrapped up in iTunes, which is becoming more of a nightmare to use with every release.
Where do you sit on podcasts? I feel like some people swear by them and some people listen to a few a year; it's hard to be in between. Is there a way to reinvigorate the podcast mechanism for 2012 to the future, are we fine where we are, or should we let podcasts die out?
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