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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Do podcasts work for news?

ReadWriteWeb wrote about podcasts recently in response to eMarketer figures showing the US market is expected to rise to 38 million users in the next two years.

There's clearly some passion out there for the format. As ReadWriteWeb put it:

"Podcast content is easy to digest. Most podcasts that are downloaded are usually short and focus on specific topics or genres, making it easy for people to listen to exactly what they are interested in and skip the fluff.

"Also, there is a much greater awareness and much more promotion for podcasting via large online news and media networks such as CNET, New York Times, and well-respected blogs [Ed: see our own ReadWriteTalk for example]. Podcasts have also become part of many people's daily lives thanks to Apple's iPod and iTunes."
All good points. And I, too, like catching up on missed radio programmes and interviews of interest when I'm pottering around online uploading pics, following links and so on.

But I can't listen and work at the same time - conversations distract me from reading and writing, my staple activities, so I have to be sparing with online audio.

And I've never warmed to podcasts as a way of delivering news. Partly for the distraction factor, and partly because I don't do much commuting, which is prime news-ingesting time. When I do commute it's in a car, which doesn't have an mp3 player in it (looking forward to the day) and I don't like driving with my iPod headphones in.

Even when I did commute by train, in London, I was seldom motivated enough to leap out of bed early, power up my laptop, plug in my iPod and download a few podcasts before running for the station. Instead I hit Shuffle and read the paper.

I notice that Stuff and the Herald seem to have avoided podcasts so far, and the Telegraph in London recently dropped its daily audio podcast - a news roundup with beat reporters sharing their thoughts on the main stories of the day - because the interest just wasn't there.

Video, without doubt, is king. But I think specific, well-edited audio interviews and features also have a place on news sites - allowing readers to grab what they're interested in to listen to on the run or while they're moseying around online (or an art gallery, say). It may be that newspapers don't need to manage all these audio features themselves but partner up with radio or specialist suppliers as required.

Any thoughts?