Audible Kills Wordcast Service; Podcasting Not Quite Dead Yet

May 30th, 2007 | By | Category: Audio Podcasting, iPods & Portable Media Players, Podcasting Networks, Podcasting Services

Audible WordcastAudible has announced that it is shuttering its proprietary podcasting alternative, Audible Wordcast:

Dear Audible Wordcast customer,

Regretfully, as of September 1, 2007, the Audible Wordcast service will no longer be available for public use. In the coming 90 days, we’ll provide you with details regarding the process of shutting down or moving your podcasts to another provider.

Thank you for your business, we genuinely appreciate your patience during this process and apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

Sincerely,

Glenn Rogers, COO
Audible Inc.

From the start, Wordcast appeared to be a solution looking for a problem. Podcasting took off at the end of 2004, in large part, because podcasts were based on established standards (MP3s & RSS), they were interoperable and they were free. Wordcast, on the other hand, was proprietary, exclusive and designed to be a platform for paid podcasts.

When Wordcast was introduced, advocates of Audible’s approach went as far as predicting the death of podcasting. Mitch Ratcliffe, who consulted for Audible, suggested that Wordcast was the future of podcasting:

And if podcasting is going to plant its feet firmly in the ground of the legendary summer of 2004, when it was invented and canonized, then, I’ll bet, based on all the experience I have as an observer of and participant in technological markets, that “podcasting” will give way to smarter, more flexible approaches that make no pretensions to be immovable doctrine. So, there, you have my “death of podcasting” prediction: It could perish one foot outside of Dave Winer’s garden gate, because he seems intent on stomping on everything beyond that threshold.

Despite Audible’s best intentions, though, Wordcast appeared to be dead on arrival. It was almost universally panned in the blogosphere, and it never gained any traction with podcasters.

At the time of Audible’s announcement, we questioned whether Audible Wordcast would be accepted by podcasters:

Audible has made a bold move to transform itself from an audio content provider to a service provider for the infrastructure of commercial podcasting. Whether its service will be successful or not will depend on how open podcasters and advertisers are to proprietary formats and user tracking.

While Audible managed to generate a tremendous amount of buzz with the Wordcast anouncement, little of the positive buzz came from people involved in blogging or podcasting.

At the time of the service’s introduction, PR blogger Steve Rubel summed up the mainstream media reaction to Audible’s introduction like this:

The whole shebang started with an exclusive article that ran in the Wall Street Journal on Friday, November 11. The article talked about Audible’s Wordcast service – a tool that will measure podcast listeners for advertisers. The Journal wisely made the piece available on their free site. It was fair and straightforward. More importantly, it set the tone for the press, which took the same tack. So Audible largely won in the eyes of the media – the sole basis for how we used to define PR.

Unfortunately for Audible, podcasting was pioneered by indie media gurus that valued the power of open standards. Rubel noted that Audible was doing well in tradition PR, but losing in BR (blogger relations):

Audible and its consultants should have recognized that the proprietary file format would be an issue in a blogosphere culture that thrives on showing love to open standards – RSS, MP3, etc. They also, I am sure, knew from prior incidents that Dave Winer would not be on their side. What’s worse, they didn’t care what one of the Founding Fathers of podcasting had to say.

BuzzMachines’ Jeff Jarvis also raised questions about the financial viability of Audible’s approach:

Look at the Audible economics: They’re charging 3 cents just for measuring listenership. That, in ad math (if I have enough fingers and toes) is a $30 CPM just for measurement — $35 for inserting ad ad. That’s a high rate for advertising online these days — very high. So there’s no profit. That won’t work.

Podcasting pioneer Dave Winer, who created the RSS 2.0 format that podcasting is based upon, prophetically characterized Audible Wordcast as “the shitty DRM-based service that Audible provided before podcasting wrecked their business.”

Many see Wordcast’s failure as the end of proprietary paid podcast alternatives, and an endorsement of free or ad-supported podcasting.

“Let‚Äôs face it, it is tough to sell your product when 99.9% of the market is providing their content for free,” notes podcasting pioneer Michael Geoghegan.

via John Frederico

6 Responses to “Audible Kills Wordcast Service; Podcasting Not Quite Dead Yet”

  1. [...] Hate to say I told you so: Audible is killing its Wordcast proprietary podcast distribution and measurement service. [...]

  2. [...] Audible Kills Wordcast Service So just how well does DRM-ladden files and a proprietary interface work with the general podcasting community? Not to well, Audible has learned. (tags: audible drm worldcast mp3 proprietary podcasting) var sb_url_to_rate = “http://www.funanymore.com/20070604/delicious/links-for-2007-06-04/”; var sb_rated_title = “links for 2007-06-04″; try { var sb_rated_creation = new Date(Date.parse(‘Mon, 04 Jun 2007 00:20:31 -0700′)); } catch (e) {} [...]

  3. [...] The networks fade, and take some shows with them. PodcastPEN has shut down.. I’ve been hearing that Trypod is in trouble. Audible is shutting down their WorldCast service. That’s to be expected. The industry is maturing, and not everyone will make it over the current hurdle. It’s a bummer, and I will miss the shows that go, but it is inevitable…all good things must come to an end. [...]

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