The 'Next Big Thing' for Podcasting

Is the next big thing in podcasting video? That is just too obvious. But if you are talking about the next big thing for audio-only podcasting, well, that is a more interesting discussion and one that I think will have more impact than video podcasting in the short run.

Podcasting is in a fast content-growth stage, but a slower listener-growth period. For podcasting to grow faster, we will need to see even better usability of podcasts capturing software from Web-based companies like iTunes, Yahoo, Google, and possibly Microsoft. We also need mobile phone podcast-catching software companies, like Seattle-based Melodeo and Groove, to keep building out their content provider directories and software usability. The last major piece is to deploy low-cost and ubiquitous WiFi, EV-DO,GSM, and WiMax wireless broadband networks. The low-cost part may actually take a few years to reach the $20-30 per month price range, as it is currently in the $60-70 range.

All the current research points to real growth in podcast listeners, which will speed up over the next 12 months. Year 2006 will also see mobile wireless broadband get faster adoption, and smart phone software getting easier for listeners to use. The facts are that only 6.2 percent of the U.S. population has ever heard a podcast.

The truth is that it is going to take years before podcasting is a mainstream medium that impacts a majority of the world’s Internet connected population.

The other trend that is starting to occur is that major media are starting to try and rebrand the established brand of podcasting into new names like Netcast. I believe that the time has come and gone to rebrand podcasting without massive listener or viewer confusion. We are currently seeing CBS and MSNBC using the term Netcast to brand Internet delivered content. Even downloadable media delivery company has launched a podcasting services division called Wordcast. The rebranding or renaming of podcasting has only just begun.

With this new podcast service comes the dawning of the commercialization of podcasting. This will include auditable listener tracking, file hosting, dynamic promotional spot insertion, and sponsorship referrals to help podcasters large and small to earn some income.

Major TV networks are trying to rebrand the name as they view it as free advertising of the Apple iPod brand. The terms Netcast or Wordcast have never been common terms to describe a Webcast or now podcast. The other motivation these media companies have to rebrand podcasting is to use a term that will be generally understood to describe Internet sourced content without linking it up with a specific platform or device. While it is a good strategy to create a unique brand position, the truth of the matter is that the term podcasting is here to stay. This is only reinforced by Apple introducing their latest video-playback-capable iPod. The term ‘video podcasting’ will be the new term for downloadable video files as well.

Early on in the development of podcasting, I believed that the term podcasting would mean a type or format of content, but I have now changed my view. The introduction of the video iPod has changed the digital media downloadable landscape. The term podcast now means audio and video. This is a dramatic change for the term podcasting and thus brings podcasting back to its roots as a term that means XML or RSS media file enclosure delivery to media playback devices. Thus the term podcast or podcasting is taking on a much broader meaning over the coming months and years.

Rob Greenlee is host of the WebTalk Radio Show, a Tacoma-based nationally syndicated radio and webcast show featuring technology news and interviews.