iTunes - Podcast Subscriptions

A few thoughts about the new subscription functionality in iTunes

As a contributor on a (small) piece of jPodder, I am pretty familiar with the "podcatcher" category/vertical and the surrounding UI/subcription management issues. I think Apple has done a great first pass with their UI. I'm not sure how they derived their top-level directory categories (different than, but useful nonetheless.

Here's a screen shot of Adam Curry's Daily Source Code podcast:

A few things of note:

1. Apple has given the DSC link some primary real estate. Not sure if Adam is renaming it to "Podfinder"?

2. Subscription is easy - a simple click and nothing more. Hopefully the PSWG spec can do the same outside of iTunes.

3. The running time is "Unavailable". Adam populates his feed with the enclosure attributes like so: <enclosure url="" length="15893494" type="audio/mpeg"/> However, the enclosure spec does not include a run time, only file size.

4. Release date is not shown

5. The price is "Free" - looks like moving to a micro-payment model won't be very hard. It could even turn into the old Netscape model where you could download the browser for free or purchase it from a retailer. It was amazing how many people chose to purchase rather than download. This could turn out to be the same as iTunes becomes a user's central app for subscriptions/downloads.

Numbers 3 and 4 above are due to the fact that Adam's feed does not support the iTunes namespace yet. That seems like something Apple would have pushed for the launch.

iTunes - Podcast Directory?

Does anyone know if Apple is going to open up the iTunes Podcast directory (via OPML, etc)? I've been digging around their site and reading various news articles, but I have yet to see any mention about them opening the directory. (Adam Curry said during the Gillmor Gang panel that he "hoped" Apple would open it up)

If Apple does open the directory up, it would be a boon on many levels.

There are a few major issues with the directory including:

1. Updates/additions - I've seen quite a few emails complaining about the lack of responsiveness on updates and additions.

2. Stability - My personal experience has been that the directory is pretty unstable.

3. Duplication - the decentralized hierarchy of the directory can mean that there is duplication in different nodes. This makes it difficult to get a "true" picture of podcasts in the aggregate.

I am not aware of the infrastructure running the service (maybe it just needs another server, etc) but it is unstable enough that I'd welcome the stability Apple could bring. Having a centralized data repository could certainly help the tools/analytics vendors that are sure to pop up.

Google and Podcasting

Seth has an interesting take on the Google rollout of video.

In particular, Seth states

This is exactly where I see podcasting going. If there was an easy and cheap (and possibly subscription based) way to pay for podcasting, there'd be a dramatic increase in the quality and quantity and accessibility of the stuff available for a listen

Isn't this what Apple is doing with iTunes? They already have a micro-payment model in place and working. Seems to me that charging for a podcast available via iTunes will do just this - "provide an easy and cheap ... way to pay for podcasting"

Clear Channel Expands Podcast Offerings

Clear Channel has announced that they are expanding the number of stations offering Podcasts. Interestingly, they provide an actual download metric:
In less than two weeks of the "Phone Tap" segment being available, 20,500 pieces of content have been delivered via podcast, download or stream from America's most listened to radio station's Web site
Based on the quote, it would appear that Clear Channel includes streaming in its' podcast counts. I'm not sure if that is good or bad, but it does seem odd. Additionally, Clear Channel is going to offer more content, rolling it out faster than they had planned
Clear Channel Radio's accelerated roll-out of its podcasting initiative will provide nearly 20 new feeds of popular on-air content from 12 more stations, with an additional 10 expected to launch later this week.
The one year chart for Clear Channel (CCU) looks like this: As many people are aware, Clear Channel is facing a number of challenges on the revenue front. They have been moving aggressively in several areas, including HD Radio and podcasting. The fact that they are accelerating their rollout shows that they consider the potential growth and future revenue worth pursuing.

FeedBurner support One-Click Subscriptions

FeedBurner announced yesterday that they are now supporting the newly created "One-click Subscription" spec for podcasts.

If you aren't familiar with this spec, the Podcast Subscription Working Group (PSWG - wiki is here) spent quite a bit of time going over different options. Several rounds of voting were held on the ipodder-dev email list. The "winning" spec is what FeedBurner is now supporting.

Personally, I'm glad that *any* decision was made. Removing the difficult aspects of listening to podcasts is an important step. The PSWG is not an IETF group, so there are of course some grumblings about it all. It is too early to tell if the spec will be widely adopted, but FeedBurner quickly adding support is a good first step.

Bloglines support podcasts

Looks like Bloglines is supporting enclosures/podcasts now. Very cool :-) Here's a screenshot of The Daily Source Code - notice the "Enclosure" link The "Enclosure" link pulls the media file from the link in the item's enclosure object. I was expecting Bloglines to pull down the file and serve it from their boxes. Wonder if they'll do that in the future? The doc also says:
Plus you can save podcasts to your Clippings folder, or post them to your Clip Blog to share with others.
This appears to do the same thing - the actual media file is not captured. What happens when it is no longer available on the host server?

Clear Channel Offers Podcasts!!??

Clear Channel announced today a major overhaul of their Net strategy. The company plans to
add original video programing to some 200 local radio stations' Web sites
begin offering subscription online radio services, the ability to buy songs digitally or in CD format, or even ringtones directly from their Web sites
and (unbelievably)
make some of its live morning shows available for downloading, commonly known as "Podcasting."
Clearly, the demise of radio is affecting the company (guess the Wired article was on target, eh? - here, here and here) A quick look at the trajectories of Apple (APL) and Clear Channel (CCU) tell an interesting story. Obviously, the two companies are not in completely comparable industries, but on the other hand, one has embraced The Shift, and one has not.

SF Podcasting March Meetup

I attended the SF Podcasting March Meetup, which was held at Tommy's Joynt on Geary and Van Ness tonight. It was a great place to meet, decent food, lots of beer -- very informal setting.

Michael Butler of Rock and Roll Geek Show fame was kind enough to setup the meeting. Approximately 30 people turned up - podcasters, listeners, budding entrepreuners, etc.

Doug Kaye guided a 30-45 minute discussion where the group talked about several different topics, including:

- Eric Rice/Warner Brothers/The Used announcement (Eric showed up a bit later and gave us a run-down of the sponsorship).

- Doug discussed and the relationship to the Internet Archive. He provided some interesting stats on the staggeringly large amount of bandwidth that IA has available

- Jack Herrington gave a brief overview of the O'Reilly title he is working on entitled "Podcasting Hacks"

- Equipment and recording. Lots of comments about prices, specific setups, etc

There was quite a bit of energy to the meeting. Definitely feels like people are psyched about Podcasting and the future. It was great to be able to put faces to the email IDs and voices .. and I got to razz Michael Butler about his GPS :-) I think about 40-50% of the people there were recording in some form or fashion. As I was leaving, the Beercast crew was just getting rolling, along with the SayYum husband/wife team.