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November 06, 2004
Attention Scarcity and Podcasting/Broadcatching
As excited as I am about podcasting (and broadcatching) (and, heck, I podcast myself and will be doing even more in the near future), I think it is important to note one of the significant limitations of the medium.
I can read dozens, if not more, blogs every morning (thank you, aggregator!). Depending on their length, I can only listen to a handful of audio shows everyday. This means that my attention is much more scarce with regard to podcasts than blogging. This, I believe, is going to have important effects with regard to the audience and producers of podcasting.
This attention scarcity is particularly true for the talk shows (such as IT Conversations), as opposed to music shows. The reason is that talk shows really demand attention. It is very difficult to read or perform work while listening to a talk show, whereas music goes really well in the background.
What are some of the likely effects of this? Here are some of my initial speculations, there are probably more differences and I will most likely be quite wrong on some of them:
- Powerlaw: For those who are concerned about such things, less attention will probably mean that the distribution of attention for the most popular shows will be quite steep. Of course, if you think about simply talking to the right audience, as opposed to the biggest audience, that makes a difference.
- Information Richness: Not to harsh on cat bloggers and many others who add voice to their blog with personal anecdotes and what not (including yours truly), but because I don't have as much attention to spend on audio, I don't want too many digressions. Of course, if I want digressions, I will choose fewer people that I want them from. Perhaps, of course, there is a technical fix that will make it easier for me to skip or fast forward through parts of shows I don't want. Nevertheless, I think we will see the most popular podcasts be relatively information rich, with a few exceptions for those with compelling, charismatic personalities.
- Formatting. Blogs have posts. Generally short, with the occasional longer post. Currently, podcasting is linear - relatively long format shows that are not easily broken up. There are technical issues, of course, but I think that we will see a shift in the way podcasting occurs. Rather than stream-of-consciousness, we will see people be a little more structured in their podcasting. Social conventions for podcast "posts" will be developed.
Don't get me wrong. Podcast/broadcatch are much more democratic multimedia creation/distribution than anything that has come before. However, I do think that they ultimately will look somewhat different than current blogging paradigms.
Comments, thoughts, etc. Greatly appreciated.
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