I was pretty much out of the blogosphere during the whirlwind of PME. Related to the release of Audible’s Wordcast there seems to be a lot of fumfarall about it over the weekend, with a cage match including Mitch Ratcliffe, Dave Winer, Jeff Jarvis, Doc Searls and others. There are already way too many posts to link to individual ones. Here’s my perspective: I think most of the conversation is not right and as the saying goes, it’s not even wrong.
In particular, Jeff and Mitch seem to be talking about the best way to measure the audience. One part of my talk this weekend was suggesting that we never count the audience. We all know those counts are bullshit anyway but everyone kind of winks and joins in the consensus hallucination that those things matter. That is, except when we find out things like the fact that the Chicago Sun Times has been lying about its circulation or that interns buy stacks of books at the reporting bookstores to push them up the bestseller charts. I say let’s not rebuild the corruption of previous media in our new ones, instead we should build other better ways to measure the value of a show. We’ve already seen that from Podcast Alley to iTunes, all the ways people try to gain these numbers old media style tend to be gameable. As the axiom goes, “any gameable system will be gamed.” Why bother, let’s find a better way. I don’t know what that better way is (yet), but I know that trying to find a way to count every single time an audio file reaches a person’s ears is cold potato.
I’ll note that I’ve had sponsors for most of the last year, and I’ve never given any of them a number to better precision than an order of magnitude, and not even that for a long time. I don’t even know the numbers of downloads I get, I’ve long since abandoned trying to count and have learned not to care. What matters to me are the number of sensible comments, the other shows that quote me, the number of people that came up to me and talked to me at PME and told me they enjoyed the show. These are not simple numbers, but the simple numbers are flawed and odd and full of fraud. This reality is complex, so any simple number anyone provides you is wrong and doesn’t model that reality.
I suggest that we build a new system and ignore the old one. The people from media backgrounds who have been steeping in the broth of those numbers their whole careers won’t like it. Big deal, no one ever likes having their core skills cease to apply and their business processes stop working. I see the whole discussion as a failure of vision.