This may come as a shock to those who believe that information should be freely distributed like so much wind-carried pollen, but a goodly portion of the information you consume—news as well as entertainment—exists solely so someone can make a buck. In biz-speak we’re talking about “monetizing assets.”
Given that money makes the Web go round, I was anything but surprised when Steve Jobs promised that the next version of iTunes would offer some podcasting features and that select podcasts would be available from the iTunes Music Store for free. Where’s the connection?
If the blogging revolution taught us anything it’s that the ramblings of certain individuals attracts readers. Readers attract advertisers. And advertising generates money to support the ramblings of certain individuals. Stir and repeat.
We were a little slow off the mark when blogging hit to webosphere. Not so this time. Sure, like blogging, podcasting was initially viewed as another way to Give Voice to the People (and, incidentally, populate the Web with loads of craptastic commentary), but it didn’t take long before mainstream media jumped on the podcasting bandwagon. Populate those podcasts with a few commercial interruptions, raise brand awareness, and bingo-bango-bongo, you’re monetizing like there’s no tomorrow.
Yet there’s a piece missing. Where do you go when you want to find podcasts that might interest you? If you’re web-savvy you travel to sites such as
Podcast Central, or check the list of podcasts offered by your podcasting aggregator. But what if you’re among the Great Unwashed Majority who can’t be bothered to find podcasts likely to appeal, much less figure out how to move podcasts from their place of origin to their portable player?
In steps Apple.
If I may digress for a second, one of Apple’s strengths is that it takes clunky technologies and makes them easy—one need look no further than the iPod and iTunes for a shining example. I’d suggest that for the vast majority of people the current method for obtaining podcasts is clunky. Making iTunes and the iTunes Music Store the single stop for obtaining podcasts and moving them to the iPod turns clunky into elegant and brings podcasting to that aforementioned GUM.
But where’s the money?
Currently Apple along with Audible.com sells select
NPR programming and Internet radio shows such as
Your Mac Life and
Inside Mac Radio through the iTunes Music Store. What’s to keep Apple from creating a two-tier podcasting service—one that offers free podcasts from regular folks and then a premium podcasting channel that features works that are already being sold as audiobooks? If Rush Limbaugh’s hint that he may sell his podcasts via the iTunes Music Store can be believed, such a plan may already be in the works.
This creates revenue not only for Apple but, presumably, for those providing content to Apple. And, again, it raises brand awareness, which attracts advertisers, which…
Well, you get the idea.
Bingo, bango, bongo.