Monday, November 27, 2006

podcasts are still poor communication tools

Podcasts are catching on, sort of. But are they any good? Most are boring and too long to keep anyone's interest.

Usage numbers are escalating, but most internet users are not getting it yet. I think shopping, news gathering, photo sharing, music downloading, video viewing, and text communications (email and blogs) are still the primary online activities.

According to a new Pew Research podcast usage report, in the Pew newsletter that entered my email inbox today, only 1% of internet users download a podcast, on any given day, for later listening. But 17% of internet users have downloaded a podcast at some time in the past. I would be more interested in how many have subscribed to podcast channels and how many are doing their own podcasts.

My guess is that people are far more interested in hearing music, than in hearing lectures, interviews, and other verbal ramblings. Why download a podcast that you'll only listen to one time, and maybe not the entire thing if it gets boring, which most are?

Podcasts violate just about every rule for effective communications, and the perpetrators seem to not care. Thus, most podcasts seem to be done by egotistic people who think we hang on every word that comes out of their mouths. (See my recent post on "Mouth as Weapon").

Podcasts are ill planned. Poorly recorded. Way too long. Don't contain much meat. Have very little of value to others. Podcasts are mostly "me me me". Podcasters screw up more than bloggers or videocasters do. Podcasts waste time introducing people or rambling on myopically.

Since I have to interrupt my computer usage and lie on the floor every 1/2 hour, due to Steve Ballmer-type back and geek neck problems, I seek interesting, relevant, instructional podcasts to listen to while I'm resting my spine. But you know, I usually just read a book or listen to music.

I like the Jason Calacanis podcasts, because he has a nice voice, good guests, and relevant, marketing oriented topics. The podcasts are really long, but sometimes I'm in the mood for a long sonic adventure.

I have suggested to Jason that he group all his CalacanisCast podcasts (in Beta now) in one place, in a category on his blog sidebar. It is a pain to try to hunt through his blog for all the podcasts. I am downloading and saving them all.

For myself, I'm gravitating more to podcasting, and away from video. Even though I believe in video as a more powerful medium. It's just that I cannot figure out how to effectively use video. I feel much more at home in a writing medium or a talking venue.


John Cass said...

I think you are making a good arguement for good design, in blogging and podcasting.

steven edward streight said...

John: So nice to hear from you again!

Yes, actually I kind of contradict myself when I complain about podcasts, then declare that I am gravitating toward podcasting.

I was really excited about video, but ran out of ideas for webcam productions.

I have merely toyed with video and podcasting, and have not done anything with them for clients, who are rather nervous about exposing themselves so intimately.

But yes, I mean to argue that podcasters put more thought into their podcasts, and not ramble so much, and not waste time with long introductions.

So many podcasts are 30 minutes or more, even up to 2 hours long. I lose interest after about 20 minutes. I need to find some research on podcast listener attention spans, which I predict will be more like 10 to 15 minutes.

Videos are better at around 3 to 5 minutes maximum and a minimum of 2.