Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Would you listen to a podcast (radio) station?

I recently saw a claim that in just two years, the number of podcasters has become greater than the number of radio stations in 100 years. To me this is a stupid comparison, because a podcaster may produce one or two shows a month, but most radio stations are on 18 hours a day and more. But the comparison invokes the idea of a podcast station. What would that be, and who would listen to it?

I'm imagining that within a few years, it will be easy to buy "radios" that can receive audio from any URL, rather than from many frequencies. Some companies will set up URLs to broadcast audio continuously. We'll set our "radios" to one of these URLs hour after hour, if we like their content. Deciding how to mix and match from existing podcasters, and make a schedule, will be the new hard marketing challenge for these "stations". But who will produce podcasts for such stations?

Podcasters enjoy freedoms that "stations" cannot grant. Podcasts vary in length, even from one provider, and could not easily be forced into a schedule. Podcasters manage their own ads, or have no ads and no convenient moments to splice ads in. Podcasters generally vary their subject matter a lot, so that it's hard to think of them as gears meshing into a station's machine of controlled variety. Podcasters are also pretty free with their speech. Would the FCC want to regulate podcast stations?

Despite all the disadvantages I've just listed - and I'll soon think of more - I believe podcast stations are inevitable. I'll probably prefer to listen to them than to other URL-based stations that continuously broadcast fiction in the public domain read by automated computer text-to-speech voices. Those URL-based "stations" are inevitable too.

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