New York Times: Web Content by and for the Masses. The tone of John Markoff’s article is fairly laudatory toward the efforts by various large corporations toward what I am starting to think of as Our Internet—the part of the Web featuring content that touches our lives or that we generate ourselves. Markoff’s examples include Flickr, the applications that have been layered on top of Google Maps, Yahoo’s My Web, Apple and Microsoft’s embrace of RSS in their browsers, Will Wright’s Spore, Technorati, and the infamous LA Times wikitorial experiment.
So what about the most recent corporate foray into Our Internet: Apple’s new podcasting support? The subscription model is clean, the price is right, you can grab individual episodes or subscribe to a podcast indefinitely, clean model to take the content with you, and clear instructions on how to publish your own feeds (even if the namespace is funky). What’s not to like?
Well, take a look at the Podcasting Directory (iTunes required, or see screenshot). Who creates the content in this directory? How deep do you have to go before you find true user-created content? On first glance, it looks to me like podcasting is about Disney, ABC, ESPN, public and commercial radio, and Adam Curry. if you scroll down there’s “Indie Podcasts,” but that’s a tiny percentage of the directory’s public face that looks like Our Internet. Everything else is business as usual.
The irony is that if you dig into the directory through one of the category links on the lower left, the balance is redressed: there are 816 audioblogs (as of this writing) listed, compared to probably three hundred other listings. But from a promotional standpoint, it’s all about big content (and maybe about ad or sponsorship revenue for Apple; surely the presence of ABC, Disney, and ESPN all above the fold suggests some kind of promotional package with ABC Corporate).
And because podcasts are just audio, there are none of the attention-sharing features (like searchability, tags, or even hyperlinks) that might help provide automated ways of discovering and surfacing new voices. Unless I’m missing something? But it seems like we have a level content publishing model but a very un-level content promotional and discovery market.