Thursday, February 21, 2008

apple pwns your podcast

A recently unearthed patent filing shows Apple looking into methods of taking podcasts and turning them into user-customizable pieces, able to be cut up and put back together as a new, single, piece of audio or video ready for download into your iPod or iPhone. What to the who now? you ask.

The podcast could consist of one or several segments selected from a predefined set of continuously updated media categories on a digital download service, such as the iTunes Store. A 20-minute customized podcast, for instance, could consist of a 5 minute segment from CNN on the day's national news, a 5 minute segment from a local news station, and a 10 minute segment on sports highlights from ESPN.

In other words: pwned

It's an audio and video version of a customized RSS feed, breaking the content away from the content provider. It's a powerful tool for users--I'd love to put together my own podcast of a few minutes of a number of different newscasts--but it's yet another blow to the people actually making the podcasts and videocasts being hacked.

It once again raises the crucial question of the 21st century: If everything is dependent on content, but the model for creating that content has been completely broken, how does the content get made?


Paul M. Davis said...

There's got to be a breaking point with content and monetization thereof at some point. It's been argued that the reason that Podcasting is dominated by pro outfits like NPR and Slate is because people really want high-quality, produced content and are not as likely to overlook the lo-fi aesthetic in a radio program as they are while reading a blog. It's been difficult for truly grassroots podcasters to gain any traction because their content largely comes off as overly amateurish (and not necessarily in a compelling way).

So there is still some value to things that require revenue to support--production values, semi-professional speakers, etc--I think that what we're seeing is that people 1) want content more than ever but 2) don't understand why that content is valued at the price it is being valued at. If people go to a restaurant and have a meal, they can easily break down what they're paying for--the physical food, the service, the ambiance, the cook's skill, the labor. When it comes to content, the public has come to think of it as just a utility--something they turn on and get without much consideration or understanding of what goes into it.

There's a breaking point for all this. If Apple wants to create the podcasting equivalent of an RSS reader, that's great from a geeky/engineering perspective, but I do believe that there's enough demand for quality content that people will come to value it at some point again. Maybe not what it was valued before, but there will be a re-valuation. Maybe we're going through a particularly violent "correction" of the market. Maybe we need to do a better job explaining why there is a cost and a value to the content that is made. At least, this is what I hope.