Innocent Bystander

A little tech, a little current affairs, and my view on whatever has my attention at the moment...

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Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The Downside of iTunes Featuring Podcasts

I first wrote about iTunes new support for Podcasts a week or two ago, this sudden change to iTunes seemed to take everyone by surprise from iTunes users to the Podcasters who with no warning found that their Podcast was now listed in iTunes.

At first glance it would seem like a godsend for the average blogger... For a few months they could be plugging along in relative obscurity, buried in some Podcast directory and only able to attract a handfull of subscribers. Then WHAM out of nowhere they're up on iTunes for millions of people to see, and overnight they go from just 4 dozen subscribers to a few THOUSAND subscribers! Now this would seem to be a good thing, unless the website you host your Podcast on has restrictions on the number of downloads you can have a month. Now to support the sudden explosive growth in subscribers many podcast owners have had to spring for more costly hosting options that can accomodate their new bandwidth requirements.

Just as surprising, iTunes managed to dredge up a few defunct podcasts as well. People who played with podcasting on a whim and quickly got bored with it all of a sudden found their podcasts listed in iTunes and have gained hundreds of new subscribers... when they haven't published a podcast in months!

I've also heard a few complaints from various podcasters as they work to make their podcasts "iTunes Compliant." In order to allow you to subscribe to a podcast, podcasters put special XML coding on their web page which does some magical things that tells iTunes or whatever software you use to subscribe to the podcast that the author has updated their podcast and it's time for you to download a new episode. Apparently there is some special coding that podcasters need to use in order to get their podcast to update and display properly in iTunes. It seems that some podcasters already happened to be using the needed code for iTunes, but a great many were not, and they've been having fits trying to get the code working properly with iTunes.

Check out this article in Wired on the issues podcasters are dealing with...

Wired also touched on something that I'm guessing many people who have started looking into podcasts have discovered.... While there are some pretty good podcasts out there, a great many of them are just utter CRAP!

Take for example this one that I've been listening to, it's the HDTV Podcast and as the name suggests is on everything HDTV. Definately a simple production, two guys talking about the HDTV news they have, defining terms, and evaluating devices. But it's well put together, has decent audio quality, and is reasonably interesting. I had pretty low expectations when I subscribed to this podcast, but I've been very surprised and will continue to subscribe to them...

On the other hand there's This Week in Tech. I had high hopes for this one, it's done by Leo LaPort and the gang that used to host "The Screen Saver's" a mildly amusing, by highly geeky show that used to be on TechTV, and with a name like This Week in Tech, I figured it had to be a good recap of the week's tech news right? These guys have traditional media experience so surely this would be a well put together show right? What it really is, is a weekly recording of a 6 way Skype conference call between these guys where they spend most of their time just chatting about... well anything! Amazingly enough, this steaming pile of crap is number two on the iTunes chart right now too!

Which has me thinking, iTunes could be just the shot in the arm to launch podcasting into the mainstream. Millions of people have access to podcasts now without having to go uber-geek and play with some arcane piece of software to do it. As many podcasters are now discovering, this can be a real shot in the arm for their podcasts...

On the other hand, with the huge number of podcasts out there that really are just unlistenable garbage, all these new potential podcast subscribers could get turned off by the whole concept. The frustration born of having to wade through all the lousy podcasts to find the few decent ones that are out there may just prove to be too much for many and turn them off to the entire concept of podcasts in general.


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