What podcasters still need

Revisiting old questions

The slow process of migrating posts from old backends to new continues glacially slowly, prompted sometimes by a desire to link to something, sometimes by nostalgia, sometimes by lack of a greater priority. Today was a bit of all three. The announcement that ADN will be put out of its misery on 14 March made me wonder about updating all posts that mention it. I decided against that, and in doing so came across a post from about three years ago that continues to exercise me.

What podcasters need, I said, was a good way of finding new podcasts. Not coincidentally, that's also what people who listen to podcasts need. And we're still no nearer to either the human recommendation engines I proposed or to any kind of intelligent algorithm.

In that article I floated these thoughts for a human recommendation engine:

You could curate a link blog of podcasts, just as the early bloggers were curating links to stuff they'd found on the web. That is something I would really like to do. Spend a couple of hours a day seeking out and being sent to podcast episodes and auditing them, and then a further day or so compiling an episode of my own by snipping quotes, putting them in context and linking the whole thing with a well-built script.

This model is unashamedly stolen from a programme on BBC Radio 4 called Pick of the Week, which is just such a tasting menu of good bits from programmes aired the previous week. Producers fall over themselves to be featured on POTW, which is regarded as the ultimate validation by one's peers. Given time to gain traction, I suspect an internet version of the same idea -- let's call it POTP -- would also attract suggestions from far and wide, and would serve as a great platform for spreading and discovering good content.

I was wrong.

POTP eventually launched and lasted all of seven episodes before I threw in the towel, ground down by two things. First, The lack of engagement (and the lack of incoming suggestions) just proves how hard it is to gain listeners for an independent podcast. The very problem it set out to solve proved to be its undoing. Secondly, there remain technical obstacles for easily sharing actual audio. The main one is that too many sites hide the audio file in some way, so that a tool like Huffduffer cannot find it. And that means that I can't easily listen to a single episode, and can't make those episodes available to others to sample. 1

I'm not sure I'll ever resurrect POTP, but then again, never say never. And we do still need better discovery mechanisms.

  1. The reasons for this are many, and mostly to do with people preferring to let others take care of hosting and presenting their material. That's their privilege, and maybe they don't think it does make it more difficult to attract new listeners. 

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