Lights Go On, Some Stay Dim

I listened to yesterday’s episode of the Gillmor Gang. Dave Winer and Adam Curry were both on, as were several members of The Firesign Theater. It was really fascinating to listen to how quickly Ossman, Proctor and Bergman got from knowing nothing about podcasting to the “bingo” experience. This is a perfect example of what I’ve been saying – people in the business of creating interesting audio for other people to listen to need very little explanation to realize the value. Very quickly, one of the FT guys realized that they could podcast all their live performances when they go on tour next year. Yeah, daddy! Listen to this show, it is absolutely great. I’ll admit that I am even somewhat immune to the Firesign Theater gene (I never played them on my late 80’s comedy show for WREK because I didn’t like them) and I liked everything they said and now am more likely to go back and give them a fresh listen.

I’ve lost the link but I saw a reference to someone who points out the irony of webloggers that dismiss podcasting, because most of the arguments they use are straight out of dismissals of weblogging circa 1999. “Why do I want to listen to amateur radio?” is easily mapped to “Why would I want to read amateur journalism by random knuckleheads?” The argument “But there is more I can listen to” is the same as “There are more weblogs I can read.” The webloggers who don’t see the value in podcasting because it isn’t an exact analog of blogs are standing so close to the tree they fail to notice they are in a forest. That line of thinking, the “I can skim blogs faster than I can listen to podcasts” shows a remarkable lack of vision. If you think of the value of podcasting as tied to that of weblogging, you have your sights set waaaaaay too low. Even though much of what is out there originally were audioblogs, very soon they will be in the minority as lots of new kinds of programs go online. The fact that you can hear fresh voices talking to you about subject matter of mutual interest with such a low barrier to entry at both ends of the pipe, that is the value here. Already, we are seeing the early days of the explosion in variety of that subject matter and there is so far to go until we hit the limit that it is effectively infinite.

I’ll talk about this in the next audioblog at more length, but I also think people are attributing a weakness that isn’t there. I hear a lot “There is more than I can listen to”, but that’s a completely bogus argument. There is more anything in any medium than you can consume. You can’t read all the books and magazines published even in a small field, you can only listen to one radio show at a time, even with TiVo you can’t watch all of the TV that comes down. BFD, podcasting is bound by the same physical laws of the universe as all media. Oh the humanity! The key here is not your ability to cover completely everything published via podcast, it is whether you can be interested and engaged for all the time you want to devote to it. The important variable is not your “percentage completion” in listening to everything that came down the wire, it is the amount of time you spend bored and wishing you had something more to your liking to listen to. If that latter time is approaching zero, then mission accomplished via podcasting! As long as you are never at the mercy of listening to radio that doesn’t meet your needs just because it is your only option, this system is working just fine.

Update: Here is Rory Blyth making similar points.

2 Replies to “Lights Go On, Some Stay Dim”

  1. You’re right! Who can read all the books in the world…watch all the TV shows…or read all the blogs? You might be interested to know we played back part of your rant about the name “podcasting” on our show. Hope you’ll check it out. Keep up the evil genius work….

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