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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Podcasts don't need polish and professionalism; they just need a groove

There have been some very interesting issues raised following my recent post about podcasting, particularly when it concerns advertising. Podcast listeners clearly don't have any problems with advertising. They accept that as long as there is no practical way of charging them to listen to podcasts then they may have to be exposed to some commercial messages. People who carp about this kind of thing have their heads in the sand. If you hold the view that in the future all media will be free than you must accept the concomitant erosion of the traditional division between editorial and advertising (what Time Inc used to refer to as "church and state".)

On the other hand it's not an issue as yet because most advertisers don't see how they can get value out of podcasts. As Phil says, they're afraid of being alongside anything the listeners have a powerful affection for. I'm determined to challenge that with the Word podcast. I can think of quite a few advertisers who ought to be able to see a benefit in having their product associated with the idea of private time. But it's certainly true that the few advertisers or sponsors I hear on the podcasts I listen to regularly (which are mostly football ones) are sports betting sites. They're not seeking to build up brand loyalty. They're trying to encourage people to place a bet and it stands to reason that the people who want to spend a lot of their time speculating about what might happen when Saturday comes have a greater than usual predisposition to do that. In addition these people are just as likely to bet if they support Tranmere Rovers as if they support Chelsea. And these companies' only cost is marketing so they have more money to splash out than anyone at the moment.

Far as I can see the BBC don't do podcasts. They just make their radio programming available to time shift. This is fine but it's not podcasting. Podcasting has an emotional tug that most radio doesn't. I have this discussion/argument all the time with radio friends like Trevor Dann of the Radio Academy. They think radio does most of this stuff and I don't think it does. Radio is organised to minimise the likelihood of people changing the channels. Radio is push. Podcasts are pull. At the exact moment you worry your podcast is getting too obscure or self-indulgent or detailed, it's probably just finding its groove. Face it. If you wanted a balanced diet there are no end of places to get it. Podcasts shouldn't be trying to be professional and polished. I can't abide podcasts that begin with a menu that tells us what's coming up. What's the point of that? It's more likely to make you change your mind about listening to it than persevere. I also hate the feeling that people are reading from scripts. I wince when I hear journalists trying to crack the same kind of jokes that look OK in print. We don't need any of that print or radio or TV baggage. Podcasts are punk rock. They're the first thing that comes into your head. They're an evening down the pub. They blitz the divisions between the speaker, the thought and the personality. They have little use for conventional professionalism. They're so direct they're hardly media at all.