Business blogs are abuzz with discussion of Charlene Li’s Forrester survey summary which states that:
“.. only 1% of online households in North America regularly download and listen to podcasts. And when you include all of the people who are just interested or have used podcasts, they strongly favor listening to existing content like Internet radio or broadcast radio, not necessarily new content.”
On its heels came a FeedBurner report telling us that the number of podcasts:
“now exceeds the total number of radio stations in the entire world….Podcasting is also one of the fastest growing technologies of all time. The number of podcasts feeds managed by FeedBurner is growing 15% per month. The number of subscribers, though, is growing even faster, at a rate of 20% per month.”
And the not-so-subtle mention: "Recent reports of podcasting's death appear to have been premature."
The Forrester report summary on Charlene's blog has had some indignant backlash, but I don’t think it's necessarily negative other than the subtext of ‘are we hyping the wrong thing yet again’. One per cent of the US online population is a huge adoption rate for a newish technology.
In the general population, I think the understanding of the podcasting concept is slightly limited by its name. Really it’s any online delivery of audio/video content in a time-shifted manner. The Forrester report makes the excellent point that much of podcast listening is time-shift radio, rather than original content. I’m sure the warning is for the purposes of their clients’ marketing strategies. But I think greater adoption of podcasting, in any form, will lead to greater understanding of the overall concept, and hence the greater adoption of original content. Eight weeks ago I still had to explain the concept of podcasting half the time I mentioned it, but that is changing quickly.
Also, I'm sure the time-shift radio notion is going to change the way radio operates (eventually), both from an editorial and advertising perspective. So while not a brand new concept, it contributes to the ‘my content, in my format, on my time’ idea of convenience. We've seen that media channels don’t die, but they do get replaced when there is a better mouse-trap. For example, Kevin Restivo at the National Post writes about the growing trend of VHS rental abandonment, with Blockbuster only the latest to go this route. It will be interesting to see how radio will change in the next five years.
No question with the funky names people are coming up with for the latest iterations and use of the Web, we’re in a renewed state of excitement, and that also leads to lots of cynical ‘don’t you remember last time’ naysayers. Perhaps Forrester is just being cautiously pessimistic.