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.

Answering the Bell

As we approach the Fall semester I am reminded of what it means to answer the school bell … for me it conjures up quite a bit. With the exception of a couple of years after grad school when I was doing the corporate thing I have spent every fall since five getting ready for the start of a new school year. As an aside, it reminds of about three weeks after I graduated from High School in good old Bloomsburg, PA. I was invited to one of my high school teacher’s wedding. As you can imagine most of the high school’s faculty were there enjoying themselves — most of them had been doing a little drinking to celebrate the occasion. I’ll never forget talking to Mr. Bierschmit, my 12th grade English Literature teacher, about his decision to retire that year. He was an amazing teacher — the kind that as you grow up you realize had a profound impact on your life. I can actually count my time in high school as B.B. (Before Bierschmit) and A.B. … as if I would annotate situations like, “that was during my Freshman Year (1991 B.B.).” At any rate he told me the thing he would miss the most during his retirement was “answering the bell in the Fall.” This time of year I really feel the excitement and anxiety of answering the bell. New challenges and lots of deliverables …

That may be a stretch of a lead in on an interesting story over at MSNBC.com titled, “New idea to cut textbook costs — sell ads.” Buying textbooks have become a huge part of getting ready for Fall in higher education for our students. Not only are they paying an extraordinary amount of money for tuition to attend our classes, but are faced with huge costs in the $6 billion college textbook industry. The article discusses a company that is looking to apply the standard web model of selling ads to free up content into the textbook market. This seems like an interesting approach and will surely challenge both the industry’s thinking and higher education in general.

Sounds a lot like the music industry a few years ago … a tightly controlled industry facing major challenges being forced to radically rethink their business model. The price of a textbook versus its perceived value, hmm sounds a lot like buying an album for one song did a few years ago. This is heating up to be a a very interesting space. Something to think about as we head towards Fall. Is that an alarm clock bell going off in the background trying to wake up another sleeping industry?