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Thursday, December 08, 2005

Podcasting: What's Old Is New Again

Just how big will podcasting become? According to a survey done by Bridge Ratings (as reported by the Center for Media Research), by 2010 between 45 and 75 million folks will have tuned into podcasts. According to the survey, there are 4.8 million podcast listeners today.

The current podcasting phenomenon shows how important a favorably viewed piece of hardware (and catchy name) can drive demand for content, even if the basic technology has been around for years. Music and spoken word audio downloads have existed almost as long as the Internet itself, and during the Internet boom many technology news publishers including the places I worked (Wired News, TechWeb) began offering news and interviews as downloads.

Startups such as Audible.com launched new business models around selling spoken word content, and even sold devices for playback. Then we had the development of hundreds of models of portable MP3 players that got the Napster generation hooked on listening to downloads instead of the radio.

Along comes Apple (which has had more comebacks Rocky Balboa) with its iPod, and suddenly every publisher, music enthusiast, and wannabe commentator is creating content specifically to be downloaded and listened to offline. And yes, the emergence of RSS as distribution mechanism definitely helped.

So what do we glean from this? Good ideas will eventually become popular, but sometimes they need an external spark to push them over the top. The podcasting hype is probably at its all-time high now, but it won't replace commercial radio or even be as popular as the optimists think. However, commercial radio and the music industry had better figure out how to get a piece of the action, because podcasts are hear to stay (at least until an even catchier name comes along).

By John Gartner at 07:07 PM | Comments (0)

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