I’ve been a fan and active consumer of podcasts for many years. Over the past eight months, I’ve spent a lot of time on the road and so my interest in podcasts, especially as a free way to enjoy content from some smart and funny people, has grown. They can really help a 5-hour drive fly by.
For the sake of clarity, when I refer to podcasts I’m talking about audio programs hosted on the internet that are automatically kept current on your device. Using a podcasts app (my favorite is Castro, but Pocket Casts and Instacast are pretty snazzy), you can subscribe to a show (or discover one that fits your interests) and new episodes magically show up in the app. It’s like custom radio with no commercials*.
(I know that some folks will point out that there are video podcasts (vodcasts?) available, too. But for me those are useless. I need something to listen to while driving, walking the dog, or doing the grocery shopping. Any content that requires me to look at the screen is not solving any problem for me.)
But, the thing that I keep thinking about is that podcasts have been around for awhile, and yet most people (outside of a nerdy core of users) don’t listen to them. Despite their great content, convenient availability, and more widespread knowledge of their existence, they have not taken off with the non-techie crowd. I often compare podcasts to RSS feeds in this regard. That’s another tool that I use to consume content, and one that has been around for years. Yet, very few people make use of them. That scares me a bit because lack of adoption sometimes leads to services and products disappearing.
So, naturally, I felt some measure of hope when I listened to the latest episode of “The Talk Show” in which the guest host was Mike Monteiro who leads the Mule Radio Syndicate of podcasters. His take, which is obviously biased toward a positive fate for podcasts, was that we are on the cusp of something great. As soon as the hardware and software evolve to the make consumption easier and more seamless–they used the example of Apple’s new CarPlay in-dash interface–people will begin enjoying this form of entertainment in huge numbers.
So, which is it? Are podcasts getting set to take off? Or, are they heading toward a drop-off? What do you think?
*Commercials in podcasts are similar to public radio: short promotions for products that usually appeal to me. When they appear, they are less than a minute long and happen only 1-2 times per hour.
BONUS: Here are my favorite podcasts right now