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Podcasting's Perfect Storm

Sebastien Chorney is head of operations at Podzapper, a producer of branded digital media for the online and mobile space. Sebastien has a long background in audio and music production, and is a consummate storyteller.

One Degree: Sebastien, my guess is that humans can only absorb so many podcasts into their lives. I’ve been listening to podcasts pretty much since “Doc” and “Dave” got the ball rolling but it’s rare that a new podcast unseats the 20 or so I subscribe to in iTunes and already have trouble keeping up with. Does this give an advantage to early adopters that “late comers” (in a two year old industry?!) will have a hard time overcoming or is there a way for future podcasters to unseat my current favourites?

Sebastien: I think there’s a bit of a perfect storm going on in the podcasting or “media on demand” world right now that strongly favours the so-called late comers. There are probably three main reasons: one having to do with content, one with distribution and the other with demand on the consumer side.

You’re right that there’s an inherent advantage to being first to market with any new product or service, but 2006 may well be remembered as the year during which many of the poster children of podcasting faded into obscurity. It’s been nothing short of astounding to watch established media companies and other brands muscle their way into this space, particularly over the last 12 months or so.
Up-and-comers looking to unseat your favourites would do well to align themselves with an established brand and create content that is highly differentiated, useful, relevant and/or entertaining with good production values. It seems obvious, but bears repeating!

On the distribution end, there are so many syndication options, which makes it easier than ever for users to discover and subscribe to new "casts". Depending on the audience, iTunes and/or RSS may not be the front door that people walk in through, so it makes sense for new podcasters to offer a variety of file formats, have an embedded Flash player and/or syndicate through email, an interface that everyone can understand. For those who publish ads, it also makes sense to drive subscriber traffic directly to your site rather than to an aggregator. YouTube, Revver and now Brightcove (current website is down) have different revenue sharing models that up-and-comers should explore.

Finally, on the demand side, this explosion of content plays to our insatiable curiosity as consumers, and for the moment at least, the economics of producing niche content really do favour the so-called "late comers". Aspiring podcasters looking to produce more mainstream, broadly targeted content will be held to a higher standard (both in terms of content and production values) and have a tougher road ahead of them.