Like Jeff Nolan and Russell Glass have recently expressed, I am struggling with the excitement surrounding podcasting. Yes, I understand that it is an extension of user-generated content into another media type and that it rides the wave of digitized sound files becoming ubiquitous with portable listening devices. I’ve listened to a fair share of technology-related podcasts myself (most of which have been forwarded to me by others), and they often provide unique insights (like Dave Winer’s May interview with John Palfrey and Jim Moore a month before they announced their RSS Investors fund).
But I think that the main difficulty I have with podcasts stems from the fact that they are temporal in nature. Unlike static text or still-photographs, audio files (and video files, for that matter) possess a time component to them. This attribute poses two issues: first, the content cannot be easily scanned and adjusted accordingly by the reader. I can skim an article or a set of pictures to determine if I want to read the whole thing or view one in more detail. Instead with podcasts, I am required to listen to the content in its entirety to fully appreciate the value contained within it. In addition, temporal content doesn’t allow for easy and direct pointing from other user-generated content. One of the great things about blogs compared to mere “old-fashioned” websites is the ability to trackback and point to another part of the conversation because an entry is permalinked. The ability to do this with audio files is more limited.
On the content creation side, no matter how easy the technology is now, it is still a larger production hurdle to create an audio file versus typing or taking a snapshot. Although I consider myself an avid blogger, I don’t feel the impetus to create in these formats.
Perhaps I am thinking of this content type too much in a blog paradigm and not in a news/analysis/entertainment one. Yet because of the limitations above, I am having trouble seeing the kinds of content that would uniquely find this medium best, as opposed to the extremes of purely text or a full audio-video file. While the full audio-video format enabling vblogging posses the same limitations enumerated above, it appears to me to be a much richer experience that transcends these drawbacks for many types of content.
But one person is just one datapoint (especially myself). Obviously there is a lot of enthusiasm surrounding the phenomenon, including blue-chip VC investments. Perhaps over time I’ll begin to see it myself; although I am just not there yet.