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Is Podcasting Viral?

Darren Barefoot has an interesting take on Podcasting and why he’s ‘Not Smoking the Podcasting Dope‘. He raises some good points which are similar to some of the concerns I’ve written previously. He writes that podcasting has a shorter tail than blogging and that its less accessible to podcasters than blogging is to bloggers (to paraphrase just two of his main points).

I agree (with regret) with a lot of what Darren says but still hope that with time Podcasting will take off – I especially think it does have potential to be a powerful medium in some niches and that it has some fascinating applications especially internally within businesses – but overall I think it going mainstream could be a while off (if ever).

Two of the books that come to mind when I ponder the differences between Podcasting and Blogging are The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell and the Unleashing the Idea Virus by Seth Godin. Both of these books talk about how some ideas spread like viruses whereas others do not. I wonder if some of the principles in these books might add to what Darren Barefoot has written. I guess the question I am asking today is ‘Is Podcasting Virus Like?

One of the reasons I think blogging has spread so prolifically over the past few years is that it is so easy to spread or sneeze for a number of reasons:

- Blogging is Easy – systems like Blogger make setting up a blog a 5 minute task. If it wasn’t I wouldn’t have started my first one.
- Blogging is Free – similarly most blog systems are free (or relatively cheap) – internet access (even dial up) is all it really takes.

Ok – as I’m typing I can hear my Podcasting friends rebutting my argument – blogging wasn’t always so free and easy – in the olden days (a few years back) it was more complicated. It took time for tools to be developed to make it free and easy. Similarly Podcasting is getting easier and will get cheaper to do which should make it more virus like in time.

I agree with this arguement but there is still one principle of the above books that I’m not convinced about with Podcasting in comparison to Blogging.

- The power of the Link – blogging is so powerful because of the hyperlink. The beauty of the blog that I don’t see in the Podcast is its amazing ability to quickly and easily create conversations between bloggers around the globe with a simple link. These links and conversations ensure a complex network of relationships that make the blogging community a dynamic and addictive one to participate in.

I think this is an element in the virus like growth we’ve seen of late in blogging but it is something I’m not seeing (so far) in PodCasting. Perhaps someone will come up with the ‘audio link’ or some new technology that brings more interactivity to podcasting – in fact I’ve no doubt that some smart cookie will come up with something that takes it into a more interactive space – but until they do I remain a little skeptical about the medium.

I’ll finish by saying these are unfinished thoughts and I put them out there not to condemn Podcasters but because I’m fascinated by the medium and am interested this conversation – share your thoughts below.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Duncan says:

    I couldn’t agree more, the tail is much shorter, but you missed one point which I think sums up the difference: Blogging is quick. Whether reading blogs or writing them (although I know they can take a long time too) they are much quicker from a listerners view and that of a producer. I can write a post whilst at the same time having my son playing at my feet and be done in a couple of minutes with a blog, with podcasting you’ve got to have silence, the software is often tricky, and you need hours to produce it, from the actual recording to editing and the other bits. As a consumer I don’t have all day to listen to say 20 or 30 podcasts or for that matter even more than a hanfull. In bloglines I can read 50 blogs in half an hour, and thats taking my time.

    Having said all of this though, like yourself, I mean no disrespect to the many good people pursuing podcasting, its just that the market is never going to be a big, at as a consequence it will be harder to be sucessful.

  2. Darren says:

    Good point Duncan. I agree and am sure I wrote something about that at one point too – I only ever listen to one podcast each day but I read hundreds of blogs. Of course not everyone is like me but time will always be an issue for podcasters I suspect.

    Having said this TV works and that takes more time than reading a newspaper…. (probably wrong analogy) People are drawn to it for other reasons – maybe comparing podcasting and blogging is a futile exercise and people will be drawn to Podcasting for completely different reasons than people are drawn to blogging.

    Hmmm

  3. I think it’s wrong to try to compare blogging with podcasting. They’re different mediums, with different strengths and weaknesses. Blogging is good for some stuff, and podcasting is good for other stuff.

    Blogging is sort of the online equivalent of newspapers, putting the power of publishing into the hands of the masses. Podcasting is more the online equivalent of radio, allowing anyone to host their own talk-back radio show.

    I have a 35-minute commute to work each day, so I have 1hr 10min per day where I’m essentially doing nothing productive. Since the podcasting thing has taken off, I can now put that time to good use. I’ve subscribed to feeds from ITConversations.com to keep me on top of developments in my field, and I mix it up with some other entertaining podcasts and even the odd audio book to keep things interesting.

    There must be a lot of people like me out there with long commutes or exercise time they’d like to fill with something a little more interesting.

  4. Michael Huckabee says:

    I have to respectively disagree that podcasting won’t be as powerful as blogging. Podcasting can create the type of interaction you speaking of and if you are looking (like most of us) for the next generation of podcasting I think I know where you can find it.

    Last week I listened to the Chris Pirillo Show and he used a new tool throughout the show that allowed me, one of his loyal listeners, the chance to see what he was talking about online in real-time. It was great. I do have to say, that the last hour was better than the first two because he opened his phone line and the conversations that followed between those that tuned in was terrific.

    This type of show has that viral buzz that you are talking of and I think that youll agree that it can surpass blogs as the interaction grows.

  5. Michael Huckabee says:

    I have to respectively disagree that podcasting won’t be as powerful as blogging. Podcasting can create the type of interaction you speaking of and if you are looking (like most of us) for the next generation of podcasting I think I know where you can find it.

    Last week I listened to the Chris Pirillo Show and he used a new tool throughout the show that allowed me, one of his loyal listeners, the chance to see what he was talking about online in real-time. It was great. I do have to say, that the last hour was better than the first two because he opened his phone line and the conversations that followed between those that tuned in was terrific.

    This type of show has that viral buzz that you are talking of and I think that youll agree that it can surpass blogs as the interaction grows.