Paying For Podcasts

Two things happened yesterday that got me thinking about whether I would pay for Podcasts. First I listened to the Mac RoundTable Podcast Number 005. Second, my wife came back from coffee with a friend and told me about a fat, boring man who sat next to them, monopolized their time, and just kept talking at them about his life.

I am sure you are wondering how these two events are linked, and I will try and explain in a moment, but first let me answer the question "Would I Pay For A Podcast?". Answer is …… At the Moment, No.

I am a HUGE fan of podcasting, but am really new to it. I have been listening on a regular basis for about six months now and I am sure that my behavioral pattern is pretty typical. A quick look at my iTunes tells me that I currently have 37 subscriptions set up, ranging from daily news, to weekly current affairs, to humor, to (of course) a number of Mac related ones – 10 currently. In addition I have regular general technology ones set up, and from time to time subscribe to specific ones, for example Rolling Stones interviews.

Even in the relatively short time that I have been listening regularly to Podcasts, I have already established a minor addiction. I know when my favorite ones are going to be released, and I have a mild sense of panic if my iTunes library gets too many blue dots in it. If I don’t keep on top of them on a daily basis I can soon be looking at a weekends worth of catching up – and this is just for free stuff that it really doesn’t matter if I miss. Just imagine my total sense of panic if I had that many podcasts that I had paid for stacked up! Podcasts are meant to be relaxing and fun, not an obligation.

My admiration and envy of podcasters is immense, and probably the greatest thing that podcasting has introduced is the means for people to communicate on a wide range of niche and changing subjects, in addition to the more mainstream topics. I like the fact that people think they have something interesting to say, but that I can decide if I am interested in it. My criticism is that at the moment there are a lot of people trying to communicate the same stuff, albeit in a slightly different style, but for those podcasts that really just reiterate existing information it is hard to see how they will survive, so why would I want to subscribe to them. Those podcasts that actually generate something or add real value are much more likely to attract my subscription – but not yet. First I want to make sure that they will be around for a while and provide new, interesting material and secondly, and more importantly, I need to be comfortable that my own interest in podcasting isn’t going to be a fad, or that the addiction wont take hold to such an extent that I have to give them up all together!

Personally I have tried a LOT of Mac podcasts before settling on 3 or 4 that I listen to before all else, so maybe I would subscribe to these one day, but not yet. I could imagine subscribing more to the Mac Roundtable type format where I get the expertise of four individual podcasts, and the ‘best" from all four, than to each individual one.  It is hard to be interesting all the time, and I don’t always want to listen to the same "type" of podcast – after all we all have diverse music collections right?

I have an example – the excellent Ricky Gervais shows. I was a huge fan of the original 12 that he did with Guardian Unlimited, and seriously thought about subscribing to his new ones on Audible. I didn’t though. My reason was that whilst I enjoyed them because they where new and refreshingly funny, they had already become a little bit "samey" each episode. I didn’t want to become anymore obsessed on listening to podcasts and clearing them down from iTunes, and I wanted to retain the freedom to chose if and when I listened. If I had paid I would have felt obligated, trapped and pressured into listening to them, and at the end of the day that just doesn’t feel the right spirit of Podcasting. Ricky was like a holiday romance, exciting because it was unanticipated and pleasurably whilst it latest, but somehow just not enough to warrant a long term relationship – and that perhaps is the key thing to a subscription, how to make it into a long term relationship.

So where does the Fat guy come into this? In a way he was like a Podcast. He was full of information that he had determined was interesting. He provided a one way communication with limited opportunity for input. He was mildly interesting at times, but overall carried too much information that had been heard before and wasn’t that interesting in the first place. You got the impression that he was very limited in the range of subjects he could talk about (i.e. him, him and then him) and my wife certainly wasn’t going to buy his coffee for him.

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