Competing Predictions for the Collapse of Podcasting

There is sort of a debate between Tyler Cowen of Marginal Revolution and Mark Cuban (i.e., of and now the impressively loudmouthed owner of the Dallas Mavericks) over the future of podcasting.

Cuban thinks it will flame out the way independent streaming radio did in the late 1990s; he should know, as he was involved in that era. But Tyler Cowen thinks the transition will have to do with the way the technology develops. He mentions that a big factor will be search portals:

Some people find blogs through Google, but most find them (I suspect) through other blogs. Podcasting may not work this way. The relative returns to "portal podcasts" will be lower than for portal blogs. Glenn Reynolds can read and process material faster than most people, but no one can hear a two-minute comedy routine in much less than two minutes (no need to write me about speeding up the tape, cutting out the dead space, etc., you get the point). So you won't find good podcasts through other podcasts to the same degree, since it is harder to serve as an effective portal. The sorting will work less well, and the categories will be harder to describe and communicate. Advertising will matter more, and institutions such as iTunes will have more influence over selection and content. Podcasting will be more in hock to MSM than are blogs.

One thing he doesn't mention is the possibility of Google or Microsoft devising audio search engines using voice recognition. I gather from friends in the industry that a lot of people are working on this, though I don't know how far along the development is. If a working version is released in the next year or so, podcasting could have more life in it than people think.

Ideally, that kind of search technology would also be incorporated into MP3 players, so you could search your own voice MP3/podcast collections in the manner of Google Desktop Search. Currently whatever content is stored in my MP3s is in a kind of black hole.

Cowen's last point about the role of the MSM seems right on. I have to admit, despite my hype-ridden posts on podcasting from a few months ago, I'm hardly listening to podcasts these days. The only one I consistently listen to is BBC4's In Our Time, because the topics are so ambitious and interesting (they are, however, currently on hiatus until September). I also listen to a fair amount of Radio Open Source, perhaps not surprisingly. Both are part of the mainstream media.

(Hint: check out their recent discussion of "Integration and extremism of Muslims in Europe" with Peter Berger and Reza Aslan.)

(Another thing: still no desi podcasts, as far as I know. I do get a fair number of people coming to this site looking for "Hindi podcast" or "Indian podcast"; sorry, not yet)