On Podcasts

MediaPost/July 2005

By Alex Miller

Media Circus, July 2005

When condoms and Podcasts collide, can the demise of civilization be far behind?

I’m talking about the fact that Durex, the condom maker, has purchased some ad space on the Dawn & Drew show — a Podcast known for language and topics that would make Howard Stern blush. Granted, there are still a great many more people who know how to transfer video tape to DVD than have figured out what the deal is with Podcasting, but remember: When newspapers first came out, publishers had to run around finding readers to show them they had to turn the page to get to more stuff. (And this is still true in some areas.)

The electronic equivalent of everything from the sewing circle to a gaggle of teens discussing the latest Star Wars, Podcasting represents a digital answer to that burning, all-time question: Who the hell cares about (insert esoteric subject here)?

Podcasters do. They will. And they’ll care a lot – so much so that they will walk around with a lapel microphone, iPod strapped to waist, describing every last detail of their Pomeranian’s grooming session. They will sit hunched over their laptops at 3 a.m., breathing into the mic their thoughts concerning the searing of truffles, the part in Ewan McGregor’s hair and the line of succession to the White House had that grenade gone off in Georgia.

Somewhere, someone will be listening. A guy in a Hummer stuck in traffic on his way to work in Encino will soon eavesdrop on two guys discussing their bass-fishing expedition in Florida. Or Metro North commuters can fire up their iPod to hear a discussion about Hebrew terms for hot weather on the Podcast “Israelisms.”

Podcasting makes the ceaseless, idle chatter of humans seem somehow more important — and more permanent. Advertisers, who for years wished to insert a message in that conversation between two women leaning over a fence, now have their chance. Operating on non-existent budgets, what Podcaster wouldn’t jump at the chance for a little ad revenue?

When I was a kid, I know what my Podcast would have been: My friend Mike Sheridan and I would have done one every Sunday after church, where we discussed ad nauseum the details of the previous episode of “The Six Million Dollar Man.” Chances are, our sole audience would have been ourselves an hour or two later, but savvy marketers could already have added a 30-second spot for action figures related to the show.

Still, Podcasting seems like a lot of work. As I write, I’m trying to access the latest “Dawn & Drew Show,” but in the weeks since I last toyed with all this, I seem to have forgotten a few things. It’s not really that difficult, but nor is it as simple as turning on the radio. You have get something called an “RSS feeder.” And there are separate websites and programs you must open and fool with before you hear anything. If you want to actually download it to your iPod, there’s another step to perform.

The thing most extraordinary about Podcasting isn’t the gee-whiziness of it all, but the fact that we’re adding yet again to the enormous, smouldering pile of information we have to sort through every day. Or maybe it’s a replacement technology. Could it be that it’s a tectonic shift in the direction of creating our own content, the demise of all other media?

Well, probably not. Even if everyone turned to home movies and Podcasts for news and entertainment, they creators would start shilling for ads, upping production values and, eventually, we’d be right back where we started.

Ain’t media wonderful?

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