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.