The Past of Podcasting
slipstream n. ... The area of reduced pressure or forward suction produced by and immediately behind a fast-moving object as it moves through air or water. intr. v. To drive or cycle in the slipstream of a vehicle ahead.
The sucking sound you hear in Mitch Ratcliffe's post "More on the Future of Podcasting" is his effort, on Audible's behalf, to slide the company into podcasting's slipstream. Nothing wrong with that. Audible has every reason to climb onto the podcasting bandwagon, even if it's over the tailgate. Audible is a pioneer in downloadable audio, playback devices and much more. It has a lot to contribute, just as Apple did before the podcasting market leveraged the iPod and after Apple joined that market by adding podcast subscriptions to iTunes.
While Mitch makes a case for enlarging the concept of podcasting to include Audible's, he also has nasty remarks about Dave Winer (or Dave's "perspective" it isn't clear) and incorrect (though respectful) remarks about my positions as well. The first responses from Dave and myself are here and here.
Now I see (at 1pm Pacific) that Mitch has replied to both Dave and I (though mostly Dave) at even greater length here.
As I said in my post, podcasting is a market that began with the demand side supplying itself. That's what IT Garage is about, and why I've been writing about podcasting here (more than elsewhere) since the post on September 28, 2004 when I noted that there were just 24 results for "podcasts" on Google.
Today that number is 102,000,000. It is into this slipstream that Audible made an announcement memorably titled Audible Unveils Audible(R)Wordcast at Podcasting & Portable Media Expo; For the First Time, Content Creators Large and Small Will Be Able to Build Audit-Ready Advertising-Based and Subscription-Based Podcasting Business. In Audible's silo, that is.
Because that's what Audible is proposing here: a silo. And what Mitch is proposing as well. It's also what Real and Microsoft and Apple and the whole 'content' industry wants to do, with the noble intention of giving Content Creators a safe place to control sale and use of their "intellectual property" (a misleading term that conflates copyrights, patents, trademarks and trade secrets suggesting all are forms of simple property when that is hardly the case with any of them).
The problem here, once again, is that the supply side continues to think that 'free markets' for 'content' are Your Choice of Silo. Nothing wrong with having any number of silos in a market, of course, as long as nobody confuses the part or the sum of similar parts for the whole.
The podcasting market (like the blogging market before that, and the Web, and the Net itself) is hard for the Content Industry to understand because podcasting was created and grown by small independent developers and users, working together. That's why it was designed (like blogging, the Web and the Net) as an open place where commercial activity was welcome, but where single commercial interests couldn't run the whole world. That's why Apple, which created the iPod (after which podcasting was named), which is itself disrupting the recording (and now the video) industries, is working with the podcasting movement (for example by embracing MP3s) rather than dissing it.
Which Mitch does, for example, here:
The claim that any departure from the basic technology of MP3 and the business model of "no commerce has its claws in us" is like trying to freeze broadcasting in the era of amplitude modulated low-power broadcasts. If you want to live in 1924 or 1480 (which is what year Dave Winer says it is), then I wholeheartedly urge you to avoid anything but MP3s. Stop using iTunes. Stop using Rhapsody, Yahoo! Music and, for that matter, audio CDs, which carry anti-copying language and technology.
First, it's a minor thing, but Dave didn't make the 1480 remark. I did. Specifically, I said we were still in the Web Noir dark ages Craig Burton described in January 2001, where he called the firewall mentality of silo builders a modern expression of a city-state in constant hyper-vigilant siege modea castle with stone walls, turrets, parapets, a moat and a drawbridge through a single entrance under a threatening portcullis.
Second, broadcasting grew because amplitude modulation in 1924 (basic radio) was something just about anybody could do. The AM band didn't belong one vendor. You didn't need an NBC radio to get NBC network stations, a Macy's radio to get WLS ('World's Largest Store') or a McAlpin Hotel radio to get WMCA. (Hell, you could get it with crystal, a whisker on a razor blade, or a coil wound around an empty oat box. The rest of radio's history, right up to modern streaming on the Web (your choice of Real, MP3, QuickTime and WindowsMedia) and inconpatible satellite broadcasting systems (your choice of licensed equipment from Sirius and XM) is a freaking mess.
Third, there are a world of businesses, and business models, made possible by the popularity of MP3s. Just ask Apple. As I've said elsewhere, most have to do with making money because of MP3s, rather than just with them.
Between the last paragraph and this one Steve Gillmor called to get my podcastable thoughts about this whole thread. I'll repeat here what I just told Steve: that I'm sad and bothered that Mitch has chosen to anchor his perspective almost exclusively with the supply side of the marketplace, when Audible (his client here) needs to understand and take advantage of what the demand side has already done to supply itself. This paragraph, for example, makes me cringe:
Having a level playing field in a variety of formatsI'm not saying .aa in the current offering will or necessarily should win, because Audible is only beginning this processgives consumers a variety of ways to send positive messages to publishers about which business rules they want to live with.
wtf? Consumers? Business rules? "Live with" (you mean, like, endure?) Mitch, come back! This is the Dark Side talking. It can't be you.
Earth to Audible (not to Mitch, who probably has this memorized by now):
we are not seats or eyeballs or end users or consumers.
we are human beings and our reach exceeds your grasph.
deal with it
Our reach now includes production. We produced podcasting. We're still producing it, all over the place. You can join us if you like. But you can't if you dis or dismiss what got us to 102,000,000 results without you.
As for "giving the producer a choice", good luck. You may have something going there. But I wouldn't call it podcasting.
Interestingly, nor does Mitch, in that same comment (at Om's blog). That's where he says "a system like Audible’s could facilitate listening to corporate material with equal ease as one subscribes to a podcast".
Corporate material, indeed.