So many podcasts…so little time

On a conference call yesterday with a client we were discussing the many forms of new media (e.g., blogging, podcasting, vlogging) they might use and I was asked point-blank, “So Steve, you had a nice podcast. If podcasting is so great, why did you stop?

I did the obligatory humma-humma dance and recovered by stating that it no longer met my communication goals. Totally true, but it made me step back and ponder a bit more deeply about why I stopped.

Part of the reason was lukewarm feedback. Though I had a few dozen hardcore fans (many of whom were vocal and emailed me often), my base of podcast listeners pales in comparison to my blog efforts and audience size. My monetary return on investment for blogging is huge (many clients come to me specifically due to my blog) compared to primarily personal satisfaction I felt with podcasting which was nice, but the few hour investment of time to perform, edit and deliver a podcast wasn’t worth the effort.

The other reason?

There are simply too many podcasts making it extremely difficult to be discovered and an audience built. Take a look at the screenshot in iTunes. To find a podcast (other than the top ones or those promoted to the front page) means browsing by clicking “Browse” under “Quick Links” on the upper right hand corner of iTunes.

If you click that you’ll see that there are 16 categories of podcasts each with 1,000 shows listed! As an experiment, I chose a category, clicked on a podcast, loaded it and listened to a snippet of the first show. Did it again-n-again for ten times. Guess what?

Reviewing just ONE podcast took THREE MINUTES. Do the math (3 x 1,000 = 3,000 minutes or 50 HOURS for one category) and you’ll see that no one is going to do a whole lot of browsing to discover which are the good shows within any given category.

Even if someone just bounced around categories at random to find shows, they’d invest hours and hours to do any meaningful browsing which means any show is unlikely to be discovered.

There is a part of decision theory concerned with the paradox of choice (and there is a book by that name, The Paradox of Choice-Why More is Less, by Barry Schwartz here). Basically there is a tipping point where the number of choices causes people to simply become paralyzed and overwhelmed and thus their natural human reaction is to NOT CHOOSE.

I submit that there is a paradox of choice with the sheer volume of podcasts out there today. The barrier-to-entry for podcasting is a headset with microphone and free software so any schneeb who wishes he’d gone into broadcasting in his early twenties can make one (that would be me).

That’s why I “podfaded” as it’s called and only deliver podcasts as part of my efforts with my clients. Does this mean that you shouldn’t podcast? Nope. If it meets your communication goals and is part of your overall go-to-market strategy, by all means do it. I’d recommend delivering short shows (less than 10 minutes) unless it’s high value content or your audience will stand for (or appreciate) long shows. Also, deliver these short shows with a Flash player so that your audience can listen to them right on your web page or blog so they don’t have to download the mp3.

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2 Comments

  1. Jeff on December 19, 2007 at 10:26 am

    Steve –

    Long time reader, first time commenter. I agree with your thoughts on Podcasts. There are just so many of them out there, that it’s nearly impossible to choose a single show from the thousands of options.

    I prefer to read blogs/news sources because it is much less of a time commitment. With blogs, I can scan posts for vital information, speed read them, and get an understanding of the subject matter within a few minutes. By nature, Podcasts/Audio content are not conducive to scanning, so I can’t create efficiency by listening to them faster. Also, I find it difficult to multi-task while listening to a Podcast, because when I concentrate on another task while listening, I stop paying attention to the Podcast.

    Generally, I don’t have enough time in a day to devote to a podcast or video post unless it is 5 minutes in length or less.



  2. Steve Borsch on December 19, 2007 at 1:09 pm

    Jeff — Great point on the scanning of the content. You know what? I’ve been seeing this same theme over-n-over again as others talk about things that *should* be, say, text or images and instead someone does a screencast, a video or podcast.

    Case in point: I host 8 sites at Media Temple and they have how-to’s as a looong knowledge base page with snippets of text…a screenshot….another snippet of text…another screenshot…and so on. Incredibly efficient since I can scroll down past the basic stuff and get right to what I need.

    I also follow 160 blogs in my reader. I can skim posts REALLY fast and cut to the essence and decide if I want to continue reading. No way could I do that with audio or video. The latter two, by their very nature, require some level of time commitment in order to consume the message.

    Guess it boils down to the using of the right tool for the job. Some things can only be done with video, audio or screencasts since each can convey rich information (like demonstrating an application, a complicated product feature, etc). But for what most of us have to say, a text post with image(s) in a blog often is the best method to convey the point.

    Thanks for reading!



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About Steve Borsch

Strategist. Learner. Idea Guy. Salesman. Connector of Dots. Friend. Husband & Dad. CEO. Janitor. More here.

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Podcasting hit the mainstream in July of 2005 when Apple added podcast show support within iTunes. I'd seen this coming so started podcasting in May of 2005 and kept going until August of 2007. Unfortunately was never 'discovered' by national broadcasters, but made a delightfully large number of connections with people all over the world because of these shows. Click here to view the archive of my podcast posts.