The Industry Standard On Why Podcasting Is FailingJul 19th, 2008 | By James Lewin | Category: General, Internet TV, Making Money with Podcasts, Video
“Podcasting is failing as a business platform, and has failed to make a mainstream impact.
The news that PodTech only managed to limp into an acquisition therefore came as no surprise. Former PodTech star Robert Scoble admits on Friendfeed that there were plenty of management and board problems and notes “the company burned through $7 million (plus several million in revenues).” PodTech founder John Furrier, commenting on the same Friendfeed thread, asserts “we made some mistakes but [were] directionally correct.” Scoble says a big part of the original plan was the social media star power, supplied by the likes of Scoble, Jeremiah Owyang, Irina Slutsky, and Steve Gillmor.
But even if the stars had stuck around to the end, and the management and board problems were addressed earlier, I have to wonder how well this venture would have done. This was a hyped business built on one of the most hyped technologies of 2005. Once that faded, reality set in. As I pointed out in my original post, there are a lot of factors that are working against podcasting. Making programs is a labor-intensive process requiring special skills. In addition, there is no AdSense or AdWords equivalents for podcasts — advertising has to be sold, produced, and placed by humans.
There are problems with metrics too. While the industry is working on this, there’s still a lot of work to do and it’s uncertain how smaller niche podcasters will be able to benefit.”
Lamont’s view is important to consider, even though seems to disregard the unrelenting growth of interest in podcasts, increasing numbers of podcasters making their living through podcasts and Internet media and the fact that podcasting’s adoption curve is way ahead of its commercialization.
Lamont also is straining to make PodTech representative of podcasting as a whole. PodTech failed to do the most basic task of a content company – make interesting content.
Here’s why you should consider his viewpoint.
Commercial Podcasting Is Hard Work, Like Any Business
Lamont’s key points are that making good podcasts is hard work and that getting advertisers is hard, too.
Both points are true, but that hasn’t kept both companies and individuals from making great podcasts and getting advertisers. Many mainstream content publishers, like NPR, are repurposing their content for podcasting, using it as an easy way to extend their reach. Many publishers are creating free ad-supported content and distributing it via podcasts and the Web.
And a glance at iTunes’ podcast directory highlights that hundreds of podcasters are using the technology successfully to compete for your attention against global media companies.
While Lamont’s argument is weak and ignores basic technology adoption patterns, it is important to consider because his skeptical attitude is one shared by many.
Many people made wild predictions about podcasting in 2005, even suggesting that it would kill off radio. They are now disappointed in the technology because those wild predictions didn’t happen.
Most podcasters probably won’t make commercial quality podcasts. Most podcasters won’t build successful podcasting businesses.
But there are many podcasters that are doing both, and if the success of popular blogs is any example, the best commercial podcasters will change the media landscape.
Update: Mashable’s Mark ‘Rizzn’ Hopkin has posted an interesting response to Lamont’s article:
“Podcasting has evolved a bit since PodTech was founded, and those getting into it now have a much clearer vision of what it means to go about podcasting in a profitable manner. For those with established brands, it isn’t particularly difficult to make a profitable go of it (there are a number folks out there doing that, including us here at Mashable).”
It’s interesting to see Hopkins countering Lamont’s “podcasting is dead” arguments.
Just six months ago, Hopkins was critical of podcasting’s commercial potential, because of problems he’d encountered in generating interest his own podcast. It’s clear that his perspective has evolved.
“A lot of us early adopters got stars and money signs in our eyes when we first started playing with podcasting,” notes Hopkins. “Podcasting isn’t dead, it isn’t a failure, and it isn’t impossible to build a business around.”