iTunes 4.9 was released this week, bringing the newest internet phenomenon to everyone who uses the software. While people are already calling Podcasting the future of journalism I think they’re quick to judge.
What I like about podcasting right now is that it hasn’t really been penetrated by big business. While some podcasts are put out by ABC News and other big names, the majority of them are independent and haven’t succumbed to external bias brought on by advertising. I also like how if I want to listen to a show that covers some specific topic that never gets mainstream media coverage, it’s there…most of the time (I haven’t found one for music production yet).
BUT, almost every podcast I’ve listened to covers all the stuff that I already know. If I listen to MacCast (a podcast that would benefit from being fresher and a tad more hip) I end up listening to topics that I’ve already read earlier in the day. I know what’s going on with the articles and a quick visit to a forum will demonstrate to me how people feel about that news. I can do that quickly relative to downloading and listening to MacCast. Inside Mac Radio, however, is pretty cool. I’m subscribed to 11 podcasts and Inside Mac Radio is my favorite so far.
The reason that Inside Mac Radio is the best podcast I’ve heard is because they cover things that aren’t being covered with the daily news. They have calls from listeners, discussions, and software reviews that get lost in the shuffle on sites like Versiontracker and MacUpdate. They also (write this down podcast hopefuls) have more than one host. Shows with only one host are dry because there’s no one else to bounce ideas and jokes off of. That may not be the key, but it sure helps with the unlocking. It’s a radio show anyway. They’ve had a while to work out their kinks and it shows.
Frankly, most podcasts are BORING. There’s a reason why alot of these people resort to podcasting; they’re not funny, they don’t have much when it comes to communication skills, and they don’t make their podcasts exciting. While I don’t mind it very much if a podcast I’m listening to sounds like it was recorded on a cheap computer mic (iPod Lounge’s podcast is recorded on an iPod, therefore making it quaint…I don’t think they do shows anymore) I do want the host to be excited about their show. Some shows are hosted by someone who sounds as though it’s a chore to host. If we’re talking about the future of journalism then why is it that so many podcast hosts don’t have a certain skip in their step or sparkle in their voice that proclaims “HOLY FUCK! I’m totally on the verge of something real big here, and if I don’t calm down about it right now I’m gonna shit all over this place!!!”
Also, these indies are in for a rude awakening when/if their numbers start to catch on. If iTunes brings podcasting to the mainstream it’s also going to bring bigger bandwidth bills to the little guys (especially at around 50 megs a show). Maybe we’ll see the podcast equivalents of Blogger or Livejournal in the future, which would mean that there will be over-saturation, making podcasts tiring to sift through to find the good ones…just like blogs are now. You really only read the blogs that are written by people you know.
Maybe I’ll feel differently about it in a month, but I don’t see podcasting taking on a role that’s going to revolutionize much. Right now, it’s immature. Until iTunes came around it was clunky to subscribe to them. It’s a different beast than blogging, and while we may see companies becoming more interested in them (New Music Tuesdays is NOT a podcast, it’s a commercial), it really just means it’s going to get crowded for the little guys, which is what attracted people to podcasting in the first place.