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« Going on vacation – coverage will continue with Jim Nail and Shar VanBoskirk | Main | Back from vacation and thoughts on Katrina »

August 25, 2005

Getting Real About Podcast Adoption

While Charlene is enjoying a well deserved break, I'll be tending her blog. Today we have a guest, guest author, Ted Schadler, another colleague on Forrester's Devices, Media and marketing team. (Why does it take three analysts to fill in while Charlene is on vacation?!). Here are Ted's thoughts on the reality of podcasting:

Podcasting feels like the Internet first did: a whole new way of experiencing the world. But at the end of the day, radio is radio and consumers will only listen to things they find valuable. So what will podcasting adoption look like? In Apple’s view of the world, podcasting is radio reinvented -- as long as it runs on an iPod. To the rising tide of podcast hosts, podcasting is better than blogging for becoming famous. To venture capitalists like Kleiner, Perkins Caufield & Byers, Charles River Ventures, and Sequoia Capital, podcasting is a bet on the next big thing. To commercial operators like Clear Channel, it’s yet another channel for selling advertisements.

Each of these groups expects podcasting adoption to mirror Internet adoption with giddily exponential growth. Alas, there is another precedent that all must consider: Push. Push exploded on the scene with Pointcast, landed faddishly on millions of desktops, and then just as quickly died away. (Of course, Push has been rehabilitated as RSS, but Push’s big problem -- content overload -- remains.)

A sober view will acknowledge podcasting coolness -- how else could Dawn and Drew reach beyond Wisconsin? -- but will also consider the fad factor. Like other Internet-enabled things, podcast listening will follow a natural progression: enthusiastic experimentation, disenchanted abandonment, and value-driven adoption.

With podcasting a click away for an iTunes user, it’s easy to experiment. Want to know what Al Franken has to say? Click the subscribe link. Need a Dawn and Drew fix? Click. Want to know about fly fishing, a lonely single’s sex life, life in the Alaskan bush? Click, click, click. This early stage of enthusiastic experimentation is what gets podcasters and investors excited.

But by the dawning of the new year, enthusiastic experimenters will find that most podcasts aren’t worth listening to and even the useful ones pile up unopened in the podcast corner of the hard drive. After all, who has an extra hour a week to listen to a radio show? Disenchanted, consumers will abandon most podcasts.

But somewhere in the midst of the experimentation and abandonment phases, podcasting will become valuable to consumers that want control over radio or access to niche content. Thus, value-driven adoption will characterize the mature phase of podcasting. Based on an historical analysis of Internet radio adoption and a forecast of broadband and MP3 player adoption, Forrester expects 12 million households to be regular podcast listeners by the end of the decade.

Along the way, podcasts will divide into mass-market and niche programming. Startups will aggregate niche programming and battle for audience and advertisers in a quest to be acquired by Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Live365, or Clear Channel. Mass-market programmers will use podcasting as a feature to attract listeners and advertisers. From where we’re sitting, subscriptions are a non-starter except for Sirius and its Howard Stern show.

Here are more of Ted's research on podcasting.


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» Forrester Research says podcasting is just a passing phase from A PR Guru's Musings - Stuart Bruce
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Brad Hill


Not many entertainers have the talent of Dawn and Drew; those who do will continue finding audiences. They are legitimate alternatives to both radio and TV programming. Aside from those rare gems, I agree that the millions of minutes of talk programming will sink into a forgotten swamp.

Podcasts cannot stand up to radio until there is a statutory or cooperatively bargained solution to music licensing. I don't see why podcasts shouldn't be governed by the same royalty mechanics as Webcasts, or perhaps even friendlier rate schedules since it is arguably more difficult to copy a song out of a podcast than it is to streamrip songs from Webcasts.

Only when podcasts become musical will they add up to a substnatial entertainment genre.

Chuck Tanowitz

I agree that Podcasting, as it is today, has all the hallmarks of a fad.

But let's move a bit into the future. When I see an iPod I don't see a music player, I see a hard drive with plenty of storage. I also see a device that is crossing age barriers. My mother has one, so does President Bush, as well as the 20-somethings who work in my office.

Let's move that hard drive to a car and play it through those speakers, BMW already makes this easy. Now you essentially have TiVo for your commute. Another option is a hard drive in the car that downloads content whenever it senses a wireless connection.

Really we're just talking about content directed where you want it, when you want it whatever format you want it in. If there is interesting content that is worth hearing, reading or watching, the right audience will use it.

Just look at the magazine options today, publications exist for every possible niche. Why not radio delivered through the Internet to a hard drive? Or better, why not video delivered the same way?

Still, the evolution is interesting to watch.


Podcasting is about choice (what to listen too) convenience (when & where to listen too), combination (how we listen - PC, ipod, car).

The mass market of podcast downloads will be recordings of mainstream broadcasters programs but what podcasting is really doing is disintermediating the private/expensive radio broadcasting (frequencies)channels.

Regarding information overload, the work going on with Attention.xml will probably help us address this problem and will also help us find information (blogs, podcasts etc.)to match our preferences.

It is only the beginning of the journey ...

John Furrier

I doubt it will be a fad. It's hard to compare podcasting to push technology. Push had so many things going agaist it - web 1.0.

Podcasting will be remembered as the beginning of a new shift of media consumption that highlights the connected-web true value - a social grid. Podcasting will develop into a platform for communications especially mobility. The debate is not about radio - the web has already won that round. It's about web 3.0 and web 4.0

Chris Gilbey

Interesting thoughts... but how did I find your blog? I was listening to a podcast interview with Charlene, thought it sounded interesting so came to the blog and read your comment. Now I have blogged about it at perceptic.com and linked in back to here. Blogging and Podcasting are the early indicators of a wave of consumer created content that is going to drive entertainment. Regardless of the views of some that people only want to see blockbuster entertainment, look at the data. People are staying away from big blockbuster movies at cinemas in droves. Instead they are getting involved in community entertainment whether those are multiplayer games, blogs, or going back to parlor games with friends and family. The days of big entertainment as we have come to know it are over. That doesn't mean that the big players wont remain as brands, but they will have to go through massive change if they want to survive.

In spite of their protestations to the contrary, they just dont get it. See the recent article in Newsweek to see how totally they don't get it. When you see people from Sony pictures talking about the value of the content on a DVD being approximately $20 you have to see that these people are not paying attention. The reality is that the movement of data download to upload has moved in the last year from 6:1 to 1:1. Why is this so? It is Voip and P2P file sharing - and that ain't buying iTunes. If you check the stats with the record companies you will find that the ring tone business drives more revs than legitimate downloads.

Content from movie studios will follow the same principle. And that will be driven by the free access to hi value content that SOME people will create.

This is a content revolution we are in and blogging and podcasting are a small part of it....


Interesting thoughts...

Geoffrey Ramsey

If there will be 12 million households downloading podcasts in 2010, how many are using them today?


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