The YouTube Threat to iTunes?

MediaShift, the PBS blog which "tracks how new media—from weblogs to podcasts to citizen journalism—are changing society and culture," has just posted a new piece that you’ll want to check out. The article, given the snappy title "Will Video Kill the Audio Podcasting Star? Not Exactly," takes a good look at how audio podcasts are faring against YouTube-style video. Right now, YouTube is all the rage, so much so that "podcasts" almost seem passé, despite being declared the "Word of the Year" by the New Oxford American Dicitionary at the end of 2005. But according to MediaShift’s Mark Glaser, audio podcasts are doing just fine, in part because they’re more versatile. And as I explain in the article, audio podcasting should gain only more traction in the coming years.

This point deserves perhaps a bit of elaboration. Audio podcasts are at an inherent technological disadvantage vis-a-vis online video. Video streaming takes place within a familiar web environment. You call up a web page (on YouTube, for example), see the video, and click play. People know how to do that. Meanwhile, accessing a podcast is somewhat more involved. You have to own an iPod, be familiar with iTunes, and know how to sync podcasts to your iPod. Or, even more complicated, you have to get comfortable working with RSS feeds, which is no easy feat. None of this is very straightforward, and that is why we recently created a Podcast Primer.

Now, as I mentioned in the article, I do foresee the gap closing, at least somewhat. The iPod has been a blockbuster gadget.  It’s quickly penetrating our society, and the comfort level of working with iPods and related software is rising. And that means that audio podcasts should experience some good growth ahead. But will audio podcasts ever compete with web video? I don’t think so, and that’s because we been living in a video culture for some time, and that won’t be changing anytime soon.

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  • Karthik says:

    Quite true. I have had to explain to (even) my friends how to use iTunes for podcast reading. Most just see iTunes as software associated with iPod. Ofcourse, these days I point to open culture!

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