Podcasts: Hot or Not

27 Comments

Are podcasts hot or not? Charlene Li, an analyst at Forrester Research, in her controversial report says its not. She points out that a mere one percent of online households are regularly downloading and listening to podcasts. That number will be around 700,000 in 2006, she predicts. (Those who disagree with her point to The Diffusion Group report.)

I think its easy to work yourself into a lather over Li’s report, but I see it as a glass half full. Sure it is a highly fragmented market, but still, that’s a large pool of listeners and certainly larger than the number of users on most Web 2.0 start-ups.

If you look at the iTunes podcast page by popularity, you see more and more mainstream fare, like ESPN Radio. People know NPR or ESPN and are comfortable with downloading familiar or favorite shows, aka time-shifted radio posing as podcasts. I have argued about this before, but Don Dodge does a better job of explaining the problems with podcasts.

I do a weekly podcast with Niall Kennedy and one thing I know – it is hard work. You really need to bring a value proposition to the table, and hope that listeners like it. We will soon touch 700 listeners, and given the feedback we get, they actually listen to the weekly show. For me, that’s pretty darn good. Who cares if they add upto only 0.1% of all podcast listeners!

Update: James Enck: On demand radio is going great guns in Europe and in UK. He points to BBC data. Maybe we should stop calling them podcasts?

27 Comments

Jake

Success or failure, the reality is it’s WAY too early to be forecasting success OR failure.

Erik

Does Don also think TV shows and films should only be 5 minutes long? Should all authors restrict themselves to novels of three pages?

Of course not, that’s precisely the point.

Different media, different rules.

Cameron Reilly

With all due respect to the man, Don’s comments on podcast length amuse me. It tickles me that people are still making those comments 18 months into this podcast journey. I’ve been trying to explain to people for the last year that podcasts are NOT blogs. Yes – blogs are ADD central. We’re reading them while we’re sitting at our PC with a million other things to read and do. Podcasts are often listened to while our audience is driving, commuting or exercising. These are exercises which can easily take 30 – 60 minutes or more each day and in which there is little else to concentrate on. Another great thing about podcasts is (sit down while I tell you this) – you can pause them. Stop them. Fast forward them. WOW. Amazing, I know. If you find yourself not digging any particular show, skip to the next show. This ain’t radio folks. At any one time I have 100 podcasts on my ipod to listen to. One for every mood. :-)

Does Don also think TV shows and films should only be 5 minutes long? Should all authors restrict themselves to novels of three pages?

And I concur with Todd’s comments. The Podcast Network has over 200,000 unique visitors a month and I’m pretty sure we don’t have 30% of the entire podcast audience tuning in.

Whether Charlene is right or not, anyone can see three things are true:
– five years from now there will be more podcasts being produced than there are today, bringing unheard of variety to the content we have available to consume
– five years from now every mobile phone will be a portable media player, which is easily one billion devices in the hands of the people
– five years from now there will be more people listening to podcasts than there are today (18 months in)

nate pagel

When we have verifiable numbers of 200,000 downloads per day for single podcasts, I’m sure that fact makes it clear that Ms. Li is way off in her estimate.

pwb

Podcasting strikes me as quite lame. Making a popular radio show downloadable can hardly be called podcasting.

Rangachari Anand

I have been listening to the Om and Nial podcasts since the first one. I love them! You guys always seem to come up with interesting new stuff every podcast.

Erik Lagerway

Ahh yes, to podcast or not to podcast. Some think that podcasts are a great way to catch up on niche happenings that are not covered by traditional media or at least not covered well.

Frequency has a major impact on listener acquisition but throwing a podcast up just to say that you did, with no real substance is even more damaging. I am guilty of both and concur with you Om that it’s hard work.

There should be an easier way to produce and publish acquire and listen. For my interviews I use an eclectic plethora of software and hardware including a decent softphone, flash tools, Mac editing software and a blog to put it on. Again, it’s a lot of work.

Between work and blogging/podcasting my wife sometimes wonders if she married a man or a peripheral mouse.

Nuno Barreto

Just like to add a few words to encourage you and Nial to continue doing the podcast.

I spend most of my time out of the office in business. In those business trips or even on the daily commute I usually take the opportunity to catch up on the latest tech news or sector news and the only way to do this while driving is by listening to a podcast on my PocketPC PDA.

I listen to yours on a weekly basis and I find them both entertaining and educational, so just keep up with the good work.

aye

I don’t know a single person among my tech oriented friends (let’s say 20 or so people) who listens to a single podcast. I’m amazed it’s 1%.

Brian Breslin

as someone w/a vested interest in seeing how this whole thing pans out, i am curious as to how she came up w/that number? Previous reports had it at over a million by now, and projections into the tens of millions soon. Aren’t there something like 40 million ipods out there? As far as a marketer is concerned, i think a 5-10 minute podcast would be ideal, any longer, and the user loses their attention, and the ads at the end would be lost in the midst.

Steve

So Forrester says… Usually these Analysts do nothing if they are not payed for and if they get payed by a particluar party, those parties almost always end up hearing what they want to hear. There is not statistics that cannot be bent.

If the market were just 700,000 listeners and below, why would on the other hand corporations like Apple change entire product ranges (like iTunes and GarageBand) to incorporate podcasts? Sorry, but this is not because Steve Jobbs think it is so cool. Apple won’t do a thing without intensive market research these days and if there is some gold to be digged, they’ll go for it.

With a population of approx. 298,290,000 a mere 700,000 seems rather a stupid figure to start with, and then, how would this Miss Li (who, by the way is also a blogger: http://forrester.typepad.com/charleneli/ ) ever come up with this figure after all?! And: on which number of people questioned did she calculate that figure? And what about anybody outside the U.S.A.? English language podcasts are listened to world wide, and even the German podcasting scene is a rather active one.

So, again with most of these “Forresters” and “Gartners” and “FUDs & Company” around this figure was ment to please a customer and I would not be astonished if the customer in this case was some obfuscated Microsoft affiliated company. Have Microsoft got hold of podcasting so far? No. No own software, no own gadgets. But Apple has them and propably all podcasters are Open Source fans anyway, so M$ will have a point in belittleing Podcasting.

Wait till someone drops the “Web 2.0” or the “AJAX” buzzword with a higher Microsoft official and see what will happen once they realized they again over-slept a major technological or ideological move. There will be all the nice little analysts right at hand again to proclaim that it is no market at all and that those using it are a bunch of hippies anyway.

Why is it that such estimations and analytics never seem to come from the real people in the know. Why is it that noone listens to, say M.I.T. or any University anywhere when it comes up to (tech) studies like these, but blindly believes in some analyst that surely might be highly educated but ARE financially and customer governed people.

Chris Brogan...

My audio consumption is 100% podcast at this point, and within that, the only time-shifted radio is NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me.

I’m a regular listener to the podcast you do with Niall, as well as a boatload of other technology and business podcasts. I get a kick out of when one of you is very excited about something, because almost always, the other of you is not. You go heavy on telco, Niall says “yeah” a lot. Niall goes heavy into coding or back-end stuff, you say, “But what does this do for ME?!” It’s one of the best things about the cast.

Anyhow, I’m a big fan of podcasts and I can’t remember the last time I listened to a broadcast radio station.

Chris of [chrisbrogan.com]

Om Malik

mark

thanks for the feedback. well, i am to blame for that, and this is the “blackberry tingle” which shows up in the audio, even though i turn the device to mute. next time, shutting the damn thing down. it is addictive though.

Mark Forman

Om,
I don’t dispute the metrics one way or another. I am one of your “700 Club” I enjoy podcast but wish either you or Niall (perhaps both) would disable your treo or blackberry when you are recording because the radio frequency rumble bleeds through and sounds like “audio ass.”Also, if you enable comments on the podcast blog I’ll comment over there and not here.

I have no negative comments about GigaOm(one of my favorites) and only that one quibble with podcast. Enjoy hearing your Asian flavored voice in my head as well.

Om Malik

guys,

thanks for the excellent feedback. clearly we are the early stage of what could be happening, and we hope that in time, some really good stuff emerges.

i am going to take your suggestions, and try and do a short podcast, occassional one on top of that, or give audio snippets of interviews. let me know what you think.

five minutes – that’s what i am going to shoot for. thanks again for the feedback.

Dave McClure

“only” 1%?

last time i checked, that’s still millions of people.

mainstream might take another year or two, but it ain’t far off…

Anders

My $0.02…

The best podcasts are kept below 15 minutes. Ideally around 10, and when they are posted with predictable frequency but still only when there is something substantive to say. Daily is too much, especially when the subject matter doesn’t merit the episode and time gets out of hand. Publishing a podcast is hard work; focus and commitment aren’t easy.

I also don’t think podcasts have actually hit yet. Some may write them off but I don’t think we’ve even seen the tip of the iceberg yet. Podcasters are early adopters.

Om and Niall’s cast is well worth my time. It’s a niche cast, as most good casts are. I find it well focused and it helps to keep me connected to what’s going on in topics I care about. It doesn’t waste my time and I don’t have to read… or skim… I say well done, Om and Niall!

Todd Cochrane

The numbers cannot be correct, we are tracking podcast listenership very close at techpodcasts.com with our affiliates and we are seeing over a 100,000 unique listeners ourselves just on 22 shows. So I am not buying what the survey says.

moo

Om, I enjoy your podcasts a lot. Do you know what % of your readers download your podcasts? That would be an indication of its popularity.

Gary

Only 700? I feel like I’m part of an exclusive group! Seriously, your podcast is one of the best tech ones out there. The things that I like about it are: 1) You dont just repeat what I can already read on your blog. You add to it add comment on it. 2) I can tell that you are trying to add value with your podcast.

Though, I agree with some of the other posters… If I did not have such a long commute, I might not listen to it. I think over time, the weaker podcasts will eventually filter out and drop off, and when we have high speed wireless everywhere, including in our cars, the better podcasts will become like NPR for the various niche interests… They will probably cover the various niche interests like magazines have done.

Hardman

I love your podcast Om. You an Niall seem to have “chemistry”

Agree with the comment on keeping podcasts short. 20mins seems to be a good time to be able to get into the content but without dragging things out.

I subcribe to a number of daily and weekly podcasts. Much prefer the weekly casts as I don’t always get a chance to listen to the daily ones on the day they are released. I often find I end up deleting 3-4 of the daily podcasts a week just so I can catch up to the current one.

Keep your podcasts coming!

Erik

They’re mostly WAAAAAY too long.

5 minutes. Tops. 3 minutes is better.

It’s really hard to do a good 10 minute segment. Doing a daily half hour, well look at the level of writers on Colbert or Daily Show… You got writers that good?

Ted Smith

The Web: An iPod for your car
CHICAGO, April 5 (UPI) — Would you like some digital music downloaded directly to your dashboard — not just your desktop? That may be the next phase of mobile music, as automotive aftermarket suppliers and computer and consumer electronics companies eye autos as the latest, emerging market for Internet music distribution, experts are telling United Press International’s The Web column.

Last year some 700 million mobile phones were sold globally, making the cellular devices the hub for downloading digital content from the Internet. By Gene Koprowski

Ted

I’d like to see people do some audio conversations, more in the 10 minute range. Say you blog about something, then you do a quick 5 minute interview with one of the participants. Value is created because your adding value to your new items, and it’s also something that doesn’t take a long time to listen to and digest.

Breck Robinson

Just wanted to let you know that I really enjoy the podcast. It is both interesting and enlightening. Thanks for doing it.

Don Dodge

Om, thanks for the compliment and link. I followed the link to your podcast page. The first one I saw was 22 minutes long. I love you man, and I read just about everything you write, but for some reason I just can’t stop what I am doing for 22 minutes to listen to something where I’m not sure if it will hold my interest.

I have high speed broadband but still…it just takes too long. With audio and video there is no efficient way to scan ahead. You can fast forward but you never know what you are missing by doing that. With the written word I can scan super fast and not miss much at all.

The blogosphere is ADD central. Attention is fleeting and fickle. Podcasts can’t grab attention like the written word.

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