Burning questions still need to be answered

I really don’t understand “the number of podcasts exceed the number of radio stations” comparison in the Burning Question blog.
Firstly, how can they compare an audio file available for download to a radio station? I’m going to skip over the quality differences, and the number of people listening to each medium (for a moment), to just say that the comparison is largely pointless. Even if it was a good comparison, the DVD Talk Radio podcasts they give as an example are probably each equivalent to one interview, on one program on one radio station on one day! A single podcast is more akin to one webpage than a radio station. Some well-produced podcasts may be equivalent to several pages. In general, lets say that a series of podcasts is equivalent to a website. So I’d argue that a comparison of feeds vs. the number of web sites is more appropriate. I think you’ll find podcasts hardly rate in that comparison.
Secondly, even if we did know the number of unique subscribers, I doubt that this would translate into anywhere near an accurate analysis of people listening to podcasts. I currently subscribe to about 20 podcasts, yet I rarely listen a complete podcast. In fact, looking over my list, I don’t think I’ve listened to ANY of almost half of those I subscribe to. Subscribers do not equal listeners. Using me as an example, halving the number of subscribers would be a more accurate measure of listeners (and remember I rarely listen to a complete podcast! I’d love to hear from other people the number of subscriptions vs. listens).
The Burning Question’s entry concludes with a prediction that with the current phenomenal growth rate, by the end of this year FeedBurner “will likely manage well over 100,000 podcasts representing upwards of 5 millions subscribers”. Lets assume a subscriber does equal a listener; the prediction suggests that each podcasts is listened to by an average of 50 people. With a click through rate of 0.8 percent, that’s four views. For those in sales, how many click throughs translate into sales? For those like myself more interested in communicating information, my time might be better spent handing out flyers on a street corner…or randomly calling four people.
I realise I sound anti-podcasting. I’m not. I believe it’s here to stay, and used effectively it can be a great way to communicate. However, lets not over-hype it and pretend it’s something it’s not. I also firmly believe that we need to start more rigorous analysis of the medium and conduct research in to why people are podcasting, what they want to achieve, and what they are actually achieving.

One comment on “Burning questions still need to be answered
  1. Lynette

    Great comments. I’d like to mention that I have 12 preset radio stations in my car – don’t listen to ANY of them. I also have 120 channels on my satalite radio – only listen to about 5 of them. Even when I am listening to satalite programs, I tend to ‘tune out’ a bit, using it as background noise. And yet the FM/satalite broadcasters count me as a listener just because I either own a satalite receiver or live in their coverage area and fit their ‘demo’.

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