Podcast Distribution

With all the recent mainstream press coverage of podcasting, barely a few days go by that I don’t get yet another offer to distribute IT Conversations’ programs. A few of the proposals make sense, but most of them do not. Maybe I’m missing the point, but here’s how I see it.

Distribution of a podcast (or whatever you choose to label IT Conversations) isn’t like distribution via broadcast radio, for example. When you pickup a new radio station outlet, you add listeners in a geographical area that you couldn’t previously reach. That’s the way you expand your listenership in radio, and thanks to Arbitron you can report that increased coverage to advertisers or underwriters. But there’s no Arbitron for podcasts (yet), so just having your MP3s delivered by another web site adds no value, again — at least that’s how I see it.

When I evaluate a distribution opportunity, based on today’s state of the Internet and podcasting, I want one of two things: either (1) distribute the content for free and report back on the number of listeners, or (2) charge for the content and share the revenues. The former can be converted to revenues in that I can add those stats to my own when I report to underwritiers.

But if you just distribute the shows for free without reporting back to me, or if you charge for the content and don’t share those revenues with me, I don’t see any reason to release the shows via your channel. At least that’s how I see it.

3 thoughts on “Podcast Distribution

  1. It’s the typical amateur’s mindset lacking any commercial understanding and the long term internet- attitude of something for nothing. The surge in podcasting (and I will be adding to it with my initial forays soon) means both a dilution of quality and the potential swamping of value content by the mass dribble – but that’s the nature of every form of expression these days.
    I am surprised there are not some comments on this post berating you for wanting something in return for your efforts.

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  2. If you build your source of revenue partially into the content (embed your promos or whatever), then dramatically widening your distribution would seem to make sense, although at what cost?

    On a different note, if you’re not reading about The Long Tail, you should be. Your content is Tail kind of content, and your challenge will be “how do I let the absolutely widest audience know what I have for them”.
    Your analogy of “why do I need the distributor” would seem to beg the question “will they reach/attract consumers you won’t?” Seems reasonable to me. I’d guess CNN gets more subscribers than any of our own sites do (grin). If CNN was interested in distribution, why couldn’t you a) track the users coming to your site to hear your streams and b) report not only the number of listeners but also the referring page?

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  3. Chris, I encourage distribution; that’s not the problem. And if other sites include links back to the MP3 files on our site, that’s okay. As you say, we get the referral data and can report the download. The problem occurs when another site just copies the MP3 files and serves them directly. In that case we get no report of any listenership activity.

    This is similar to the argument TV broadcasters used against cable TV and satellite, but eventually those broadcasters were able to include the alternative distribution mechanisms in their revenue models either by being paid for the use of their content or by being able to include the counts of cable and satellite viewership in their ratings reports to sponsors.

    For now there is no mechanism to even count listeners to orphaned copies of the files. If we had the equivalent of an Arbitron or Nielsen for podcasts/audio, the problem would be solved, but services like those can’t usually track stats in the long tail, only in the high-volume end of the curve.

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