Adam’s Million Listener March

Over the past few weeks, Adam Curry has talked about the “million listener” march for podcasting. Everyone has seen that as a laudible goal. And all of us hoped that Apple’s iTunes 4.9 would be the first major thrust toward that goal. Well, Apple has posted some amazing results from the first couple of days. How many of us thought that we would see over a million subscriptions in just two days? Truthfully, I didn’t think so – although I hoped so.

So let’s think about these numbers. Let’s assume 1*10**6 in 2 days. And I am subscribed to fifteen (15) podcasts on my laptop. On my home system, I am subscribed to five (5) different podcasts. So I am one person subscribed to twenty (20) unique podcasts. And I have to think that I am not the only person with so many subscriptions. Indeed, I suspect that the newbies will subscribe to a whole lot of stuff. They may sample it for a couple of days/weeks and then delete it. So let’s assume that I am somewhat above average and the average podcast listener on iTunes subscribes to ten (10) podcasts. That would mean that there are over one hundred thousand (100,000) listeners – through iTunes alone.

Who knows how many real listeners there are right now. But let’s accept the 10% mark. If true, that’s pretty darned good in the first couple of days. Of course, time will tell. I am sure that the numbers will stabilize after newbies settle on the content they want to hear. But it is important to note that Apple has opened a door to a much wider audience.

My hope is that as we grow our subscribership, we don’t lose the differentiating content that is flourishing today. I would hate to see popularity drive out diversity. I want to make sure that there is a place for Rick Wezowicz’s I.C.M. Raw as well as a place for Area 51. I want to see more instances of novellas (like EarthCore). And I want to see interesting new content sources emerge. For example, I have been thinking that one of my kid’s soccer coaches ought to do a training podcast. It might be fun – and it might drive some new folks towards our club. Indeed, podcasting will open up whole new opportunities for many organizations.

In the meantime, I love the analogy that Apple includes in their press release:

“Podcasting is like cappuccino,” said August Trometer, developer of iPodderX. “Gourmet coffee was around for a long time, but it took Starbucks to put it on the map. Apple is like the Starbucks of Podcasting and advertisers will take us more seriously now.”

Talk about brand identity. Apple is now thought of as “the Starbucks” of podcasting! Well, at the risk of abusing the analogy, Starbucks has every flavoring agent known to mankind. And they can build you a drink with any number of shots. They have caffeinated and decaf drinks. They have whole milk, skim milk or even soy milk. Indeed, they have it all. And it is the same drink whereever you are in the country – or the world. This is all goodness. And Apple is poised to become the place for podcasting – just like Starbucks is the place for coffee.

But let’s not forget that there is still room for the Mom & Pop coffee shop as well. I would hate to see podcasting become wholly commercialized. Like Starbucks, the ingredients can be bought by anyone. And anyone can make a cup of coffee. Starbucks has done what Dell has done; they have taken ownership of the distribution channel. Well, Apple is on the verge of doing the same thing. I would hate it if Apple got to choose which “coffee growers” they would buy their beans from. More precisely, I would hate it if they discrimanted against certain growers. My fear is that monopoly channel providers might give in to the temptation to limit/sanitize/censor content. For example, I would hate to see Al Franken end up at the top of the podcast list simply because he has friends in the distribution channel.

Nevertheless, I love the fact that podcasting is still something that can be done w/o immense capital. And I love the fact that Apple appears to be soliciting “indie” podcasts. Let’s hope that this is not just a nod to the podcasting archons. Instead, let’s cling to the hope that Apple is making a broader statement about the freedom to create any kind of content. And let’s all pick up the challenge. Since we all still “have a microphone” to use, then let’s use it. Go make a podcast. Make it for yourself. Make it for your friends. And maybe millions of people will listen. After all, we live in a society where we proclaim a marketplace of ideas. Don’t miss your chance to join into the converstation!




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