Earlier this year, we looked into the ways that podcasts are a rarity in today’s digital media landscape: an underserved digital niche.
Indeed, while it seems like every other form of digital media has a robust ecosystem supporting it—from the boom in streaming music services to the myriad outlets for digital video—podcasts remain the sometimes forgotten cousin. As we discussed, podcasts suffer from several deficits in the system that supports them, including cumbersome download interfaces on smartphones and a lack of real metrics for podcasters to use to find advertisers or understand their listening audience.
This week, we saw news that at least some of that status quo might be changing. Apple, whose devices serve more than 60% of podcast listeners, reportedly met privately with top podcasters last week, according to the New York Times, to hear their grievances about how the company has seemingly let podcasts die on the vine.
As the Times reported, the meeting covered some familiar ground with anyone who has spent time struggling with Apple’s existing podcast services. Podcasters singled out, in particular, the “black box” nature of Apple’s podcast system which provides them with virtually no data on their listeners, as well as the fact that it is impossible for them to make money from subscriptions through iTunes, as 9 to 5 Mac notes.
But the Times also noted the irony in the situation, too: Apple was the company that singlehandedly introduced the podcast to the general public with the launch of iTunes and has been the most popular source of podcasts for more than a decade. Yet as the medium grows, podcasts run the risk of outgrowing the very company that first popularized the form.
So will any of these discussions make a difference to everyday podcasters, both professional and amateur? Well, the fact that Apple is holding these private discussions at all is a good sign, and the fact that podcasting is now a million-dollar medium doesn’t hurt either.
Let’s hope that, for the sake of the industry, this “private” chat paves the way for a much-needed public discussion.
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