Podcasting on the Rise

Now that the Turkey Coma has worn off, I am back to reading a little bit. In my feeds this morning is a pointer to a new podcasting report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Instead of pulling it apart for you here, I’ll link to it and quote the research brief’s abstract …

Some 12% of internet users say they have downloaded a podcast so they can listen to it or view it at a later time. However, few internet users are downloading podcasts with great frequency; just 1% report downloading a podcast on a typical day.

Even though 12% seems low, let’s not forget that it was somewhere around 7% last year. As I am a part of the 12% I think it is a good thing as more and more good content hits the scene. One thing I am curious about is if I am in the 1% or not … I don’t listen to podcasts everyday, but my iTunes Podcast client certainly does. I wonder what that really means. I didn’t see that question answered in the report.

On top of it all, the short report wraps up with a discussion of iPod or other MP3 ownership …

While an iPod or MP3 player is not necessary to listen to or view podcasts, the proliferation of mobile media gadgets has helped fuel the demand for digital content that can be both time-shifted and place-shifted for listening and viewing on-the-go. According to our February-April 2006 survey, 20% of American adults and 26% of internet users report ownership of an iPod or MP3 player. Young adults, those with broadband access and parents are considerably more likely to have an iPod or MP3 player.

That last little bit there suggests to me that we are on the verge of a “perfect podcasting” storm of sorts … with a huge percentage of our students showing up on campus with MP3 playing mobile devices the interest in ways to fill them will continue to rise. I don’t care if it podcasting lecture materials or not, the fact of the matter is that the mobile education market may be one filled with opportunity for growth. The questions I have are around the types of content that will be delivered. When will audio versions of textbooks in chapter versions become common? I am wondering why more foreign language courses aren’t taking advantage of the excellent podcasts that are freely available? I know there are other ways, but what are they and what will they mean to us? Now that the pieces are lining up I am excited to know many of us have built an infrastructure to support it. No idea what “it” will ultimately be, but it is exciting.

3 thoughts on “Podcasting on the Rise

  1. Obviously I’m on board with the podcasting movement (I don’t know where I’d be without PTI every morning). In terms of audio textbooks, though, I’m not sure yet. I got something of an audio textbook for Criminal Law, and I couldn’t listen to it for more than half an hour. I think the problem is that my generation is so uncomfortable with having to sit down and listen to content in the way the creators intended. The CD was divided up into 25 tracks or so, but they were all at least 10 minutes long. They represented chapters, but I would need them divided up more than that, and better yet with a searchable transcript/lyrics. This might be unique to me, and I might be more of the “visual” learner anyway.

    I’m not sure if that’s the type of audio textbook that you’re concerned with, but those are my experiences thus far and it seems like the production side has a long way to go.

  2. That is an interesting thought — that the production hasn’t yet gotten to the point where people will listen. I think about the podcasts that I listen to — there are only a couple. This American Life is so well done because it is a story … every week they tell a story that is both very informative and entertaining. I don’t think the textbook people could get that part right.

    I am actually starting a new venture that will take academic content and deliver it in a way that may make students want to listen. It is too early to comment on here, but I am hoping that by putting the technology, the student voice, and the conversation together I will get something that is compelling and effective. Time will tell.

  3. I am, by these measures, a podcast fanatic. When I think about what I do for a living and what I’m stealing from to listen to podcasts, I don’t know if 12% is a bad number even if it stays there. Yes, I take some time away from paying attention to the “right” things when walking the dogs, driving, etc. – but I also take it away from television, e-mail, general web-browsing, and reading. And yes, my profession will arguably keep me at the high end of the consumption-of-podcast scale. Even so, I’m inclined to wonder is many mediums will flatten out, with few mediums dominating but rather events – Super Bowl, the first South Park Xmas video, etc.

    When I was growing up, a Presidential address to the nation competed with one UHF channel and public television. All of the networks – TV and radio – covered the address. Now when he speaks, there are countless channels on both of those mediums with which he competes – along with the web, podcasts, multi-player gaming consoles, etc. The conclusion I’m slowly coming to over time is that there will be N dominant broadcast mediums where N is likely to end up being in the 5-10 range (depending upon how one defines things) and right now podcasts are clearly going to be one of them for at least a little while – and probably a long while.

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