Why Didn’t Podcasting Get a Social Network?

I know I’ve been skeptical about aspects of podcasting, but I approach this topic with no particular agenda. I was talking to Travis about this topic today, and I’m genuinely puzzled.

When I think social media, there’s a leading social network for each media type:

Photos = Flickr
Bookmarks = Del.ici.ous
Video = YouTube
And so on…

Flickr, Del.ici.ous and YouTube (and all the other sites like them) are like public art fairs, where each user has their own stall. It is:

  1. A place to store stuff.
  2. A place to show off stuff.
  3. A place to have a conversation (possibly about the stuff, possibly not).

In talking about the success of Flickr, co-founder Stewart Butterfield emphasizes the importance of the third item–the people.

Returning to our list of media and associated sites, when I think of podcasting, I think of iTunes. Judging by the traffic data for podcasting sites, that’s a pretty common association. And only more and more common, as podcasting goes mainstream and iTunes is the easiest way to start listening.

iTunes, really, is only a place to store stuff and a place to show it off. There’s little or no conversation there (sure, there’s ratings and reviews, but that’s not really a conversation is it?). To mix my metaphors, it provides the fire hose of content, but doesn’t provide the public space for conversation.

How did this happen? Here’s my theory: Podcasts are usually identified with an individual site. So, just like blogs, that’s where the conversation occurs. Despite podcasts being a different medium than blogs, they are site-centric as opposed to media-centric.

What do you think?


  1. Odeo? It is, however, more like a giant directory.

    Also…I agree with the “being connected with the site” aka heavily branded.

    Does blogging have a social network?

  2. When podcasts are done well, they ARE the conversation. Good podcasters establish that conversation with their listeners and there’s no need for a third-party to get involved as “host.”

    I advocate maintaining blogs, forums, e-mail and toll-free telephone contact for podcast listeners to keep the conversation going.

  3. Odeo? Please! Podcast Spot will be released in the next couple weeks. Let’s see what you think after that!

    In more general terms, I think it’s too early to suggest that podcasting will never get a social network. There’s what, around 40,000 podcasts in the world? Pretty tiny compared to the others you have listed.

    I don’t know Scott. I see your point about podcasts being the conversation, but there’s no reason not to have some support infrastructure (beyond blogs and email) to further facilitate conversation and exploration.

  4. I don’t see why podcasts can’t have a social network…it’s just being done through the blogs that they’re associated with. But that’s not so different than something like del.icio.us which serves as a gateway to other sites where the conversations take place.

    If anything podcasts should create MORE conversation than blog posts, photos, video because they’re the closest we have to real conversation. If a conversation starts and stops with 1 podcast, I’m not sure it’s been engaging enough to be of huge value.

    Maybe when voice recording/podcasting is easy enough and ubiquitous enough to hit mass market appeal (or close to it) we’ll start to see real conversation: where I listen to a podcast, record my thoughts/response and post that. And so on…

  5. I think there are social networks that exist, and a few have been mentioned. PodShow is trying to do that with their stuff, attempting to be a MySpace for podcasting.

    There’s so many flavors of social networking sites that you can get into for all types of mediums. It’s a matter of picking one and going with it, or doing your best to blanket them all. It gets a tad insane for some, and that really depends on what kind of podcast you have and the type of audience you are trying to hit. At the same time, you’re constantly missing the people you want to target simply because of time and effort. There’s simply too much ground to cover.

    All social networking sites, when it comes to podcasting, are good. It’s just a matter of how much work you want to put into making the network work for you. At the same time, there is not a single network that is great. It’s a constant battle.

  6. Could it be that podcasting is more intune with other media such as radio (satelite or otherwise) and television news where the programmers are focusing their discussion towards the passive audience rather then looking for active participation from the audience.

    Similarly, each station has their own site or affliate site with a larger corporation such as CBC.ca

  7. Isn’t Todd Cochrane’s “Blubrry” site trying to accomplish a social network for podcasters?

    In addition, a lot of podcasters maintain blogs to keep the conversations going. On the podcast blog (www.insidepr.ca)that I maintain along with my co-host, Terry Fallis, we post audio comments from listeners as they come in to complement any comments on the podcast show notes that are posted to the blog.

    This seems to be working pretty well for us.

  8. I posted a comment before and it got eaten, so here we go again. I think podcasting’s main reasons for lack of a social network are:

    (a) No one has done it right yet. PodShow is trying. Blubrry is trying. Podcast Spot will try. Odeo, Yahoo! Podcasts, Podcast.net, Podcaster News Network, Podcast Alley, Podcast Pickle — they all tried or are trying. But no one has hit that magic Flickr/YouTube/Digg/MySpace zone, and maybe they won’t.

    (b) Podcasting is fundamentally different because it consumes a lot of time. I’m a voracious podcast listener (and watcher) as well as blog reader, music listener, and Flickr viewer. But I still only subscribe to a couple of dozen podcasts, because each one is a huge time commitment. Worse, someone doing a Digg-style “hey this podcast episode is cool” link is recommending a similar long commitment: at least 5 minutes, maybe 30 or 60 for a single episode.

    In contrast, you can check out a Digg or Flickr or even YouTube link and get a sense of whether it’s worth it within seconds. You don’t know if a podcast is good — or how to find the interesting bit — that quickly. So maybe it’s not suitable for the same kind of social community that’s not based around the sites of the podcasts themselves. We’ll see.

  9. Personally, I think it’s because podcasting is the bridge between blogging (one person getting their message out there w/ a way for others to play) and the more social ways of sharing represented by YouTube. It’s where podcasting feel in that transition and the fact that you frequently play w/ it outside of your computer — on your ipod — which isn’t a very social tool at all (and a camera, inherently, is).

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