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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