Podcasts, the future of media
First, a quick look at how we got here:
Television is a model that has not been changed in essence since its inception. While Cable was a significant improvement to over-the-air reception, the model of channels which deliver content running 24/7 did not change with it. When the Tivo was created, the system began to fall apart. Suddenly, the time that a show was running did not affect your life. More significantly to the companies that rely on the traditional model, you no longer had to watch the ads that fund their content creation. Until recently, the powers at be seemed to accept limping along in between the past and the future. That is about to change.
Podcasting is the mechanism that will revolutionize the way content is delivered by creators and experienced by the end user. A podcast is, by my definition, a subscription based means for delivering audio/video files to users via the internet. It is extremely vague, and that is the beauty of it. A single podcaster can deliver a mix of audio and video files to their followers in whatever pattern or schedule they desire; a system that is brilliantly flexible.
In short time, we will have an entirely new way of accessing entertainment. Instead of sitting in front of the couch every Thursday night at 9:00 to watch NBC’s The Office, fans of the show will subscribe to the podcast. Every Thursday at 9:00 the latest episode will be available to be streamed to the device of the user’s choosing. The important thing is that it becomes available at that time, and they can then watch it whenever they want, as many times as they want to.
Podcasts like this will come in 3 primary flavors: ad-supported, paid and free. Some will continue with the traditional TV model with breaks for advertising. Others will cost a fee and will be presented without interruption (like watching a DVD of a TV series). This is good for content creators. They will no longer be bound by ancient TV norms that constrict the way they can write and produce shows. I also anticipate the model of once a week programming to take a major hit. It will be easier for content creators to create schedules that suit their workflow and desires for user experience. Some will release entire seasons of content all at once, a move that Netflix has gone with for its original programming. The key to the success of Podcasting is its flexibility for both creators and users.
The major technology standing in the way of this transition is the ubiquity of internet connected TVs. The majority of the population needs to have TVs with the apps to power this experience. Currently that the quality of the internet connected TVs is not high enough. Everything will change however when Apple releases its long awaited iTV (Expected Q1 2013). A TV with everything people love about iOS and the high quality experience needed to shift the way people think about TV. Apple is going to turn it into a giant screen that reflects the user experience of an iPhone/iPad. And once Apple does it, every competitor will be hot on their heels. Apple and Google already have connected TV boxes of their own (Apple TV and Google TV) but the experience needs to be integrated into the display and be dead simple for anyone to use.
In anticipation of the iTV, Apple has already made a noteworthy move. Recently, they split-off “Podcasts” from iTunes into its own app for iOS. A change in approach that has flown under the radar. Clearly, they are looking to create the future I am suggesting. They are making Podcasts highly accessible and getting people comfortable with the experience.
Already this year, household names like Jerry Seinfeld, Ricky Gervais, and Bill Nye have announced new shows. Not shows that will ever air on a TV network. Shows that will be delivered over the web. These are people with the industry experience to sidestep the networks and big name channels to create the content they envision and deliver it directly to consumers. This is going to be the norm.
Let the idea sink into the back of your mind for now, but soon you will see the TVs released with the power to make this possibly, reality.
The main question I always hear back is:
“But what about live TV?”
Don’t worry. That won’t go away, it will just look different. Companies like Google with its YouTube platform and other big players in the video industry will have high quality live streaming apps and websites that will be easy to use on near-future smart TVs. The sports, award shows, and news will all make the move to the web. It has already begun, with networks like NBC offering the Olympics and Sunday Night Football live online. The revolution will occur when the TVs are user-friendly enough to make the web your first choice.