Podcasting and the Fediverse

Mastodon might change the game

This is Part I of a two-part rant about podcasting. It was triggered by Tim Chambers linking to the summary podcast stats at Listen Notes. This part asks what the fediverse might do for podcasting. Part II will look back in an attempt to understand how we (I) got here.

”There are at least 3,263,564 podcasts and 185,596,664 episodes in the world.”

Once again, as I work towards a new season of Eat This Podcast, I am faced with the wicked problem of podcast promotion. How do I persuade people to listen, subscribe and, ultimately, support the show? I’ve given up on Ex-twitter and although I do use Instagram and FB to announce new episodes, they don’t engender much interest. I’m reluctant to embrace Threads. But I am enjoying Mastodon, so maybe that’s where I should focus my promotional energies, such as they are.


In that frame of mind, I couldn’t help but notice Tim Chambers’ recent thought that “federated podcasting needs to become a thing”. I asked for clarification, because obviously he meant more than sharing episodes with the fediverse. Tim was kind enough to point me to Blubrry’s documentation of Podcasting 2.0.

I happen to use the Blubrry podcasting plugin to manage my podcast and gather some stats, and yet I seem to have missed this development. I read the page with interest, keen to see what it might offer in the ongoing struggle to get people to listen and, better yet, subscribe.

Podcasting 2.0 expands RSS, which is how podcasts tell directories and listeners about episodes, to include more potentially relevant information. Blubrry says that the ability to include a transcript, and thus to offer a podcast player that supports closed captioning, is the biggest success so far. That does sound neat, I admit, and lately I have been making much more of an effort to finalise transcripts before I publish an episode, so they are there from the get go. I also take the time actually to read the transcripts and edit them so that they are both correct and, as far as possible, readable. But they are not time coded. So how exactly would my transcripts work as closed captions?

Seems like in Podcasting 2.0 the close-captioned transcript is provided by software through a (paid?) partnership. If that is true, I would still want to offer a nicely laid-out and readable transcript for everyone. Still, if embedded transcripts really would help with accessibility, and it seems like they might, then this is definitely something I should look into, although I cannot imagine correcting both the closed captions and the transcript I provide as a PDF.

I expect I could make use of the Locked function, to prevent “a nefarious character” stealing my episodes, although I have no idea how effective it would be in practice. Funding, per episode? Yeah, I’ve seen that one come and go in various guises and it has not so far done anything for me. Chapters are not something I currently need, nor Location. Text and Credits would be superfluous as I do everything, even, on occasion, being both host and guest.

At this point, Blubrry’s list of Podcasting 2.0’s benefits spirals off into thin air, ending up promoting some sort of crypto stuff. Not for me.

So, yes, I can see the potential of transcripts and enabling donations. Even those, however, do not, for me, seem to involve the fediverse much. I'd like to be corrected.

What about Castopod

Then, because Tim brought them on board, I decided to take a look at Castopod, a “free and open-source solution to your podcasting 2.0 journey”. As a sign of my own befuddlement, I am not at all clear what it offers over and above, say, Blubrry. I don’t need a place to host audio files. I’ve had that since the start, and it works just fine.

Interact with my audience in the fediverse”? I can do that well right now, should anyone choose to respond to the posts I publish announcing new episodes. My podcast site is hosted with ClassicPress, and Bridgy sends fediverse comments back to the site. I don’t POSSE with Bridgy because it does not give me enough control over what it sends automagically to Mastodon.

Promote my podcast, with video clips, soundbites and “tools to post easily on all social media”? I saw no great impact when I used to create video clips and soundbites by hand, though I might be willing to try again. As for “all social media”, sounds like POSSE, with no backfeed.

My old-fashioned podcasting 1.0 RSS feed already allows my show to appear everywhere that siphons off Apple’s podcast directory. Better analytics might be handy, although I’ve never seen much value for me in making episodes guided by analytics rather than what interests me. Monetisation? Yes, subscriptions and micropayments would be nice, although I already have ways in which listeners can support the show. I’m not sure what a “listen to click ad” is, although I’m fairly sure I don’t want ads on a show that is a labour of love and that also asks for donations.

Overall, then, I’m not really understanding what kind of difference it would make (to me) if federated podcasting were to become a thing, as @tchambers would like. Still, the discussion so far has been interesting and I will continue to listen in.

The original problem persists; how best to get people to listen, subscribe and maybe, ultimately, support my podcast. A new season will start in a couple of weeks. We shall see.

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