‘This podcast only available via iTunes X’?

My father tells me that an old catchphrase for journalists is: “Two facts plus a deadline equals a trend”

Here are the two facts:
1. A free site that I use will be starting to charge for some of what they do.
2. I found out about the Volocast plugin for iTunes

Starting with the second one first, what is Volocast? If you go the the product page, you’ll see a fun little plugin that appears on a video podcast each time you pause. It adds three buttons to the iTunes video playing window, ‘Share’ ‘Bookmark’ and ‘More:’

Share is for sending information about an iTunes video to your friends
Bookmark is for sending comments and links about a video to websites such as Digg or Facebook
More takes you to other videos linking to the one you are watching (possibly related to the specific part of the video you are watching)

What do you think of it so far? Mildly interesting. Not a very compelling product. I’m not sure how long people stay watching videos within iTunes. Call me when it works on my iPod or iPhone.

It turns out that Volomedia is in the business of helping media content owners make podcasting pay a return on their investment.

That’s what fact 2 has to do with fact 1.

1. StephenFry.com will be starting to provide subscriber-only content in the coming months.

Every few weeks I check to see if there’s something new at http://www.stephenfry.com – I’m not an avid forum user or contributor over there. I sometimes read stuff there or listen to his podcast via iTunes. As Mr. Fry is primarily a writer and TV presenter, he’s been providing his site as a favour to his audience and others. He isn’t yet in the business of primarily being an internet content provider. Nevertheless, bandwidth costs money, and success breeds more costs and Mr. Fry needs to pay for his site. Instead of going in the direction of advertising (or selling information about registered members), he’s going to start charging.

Back to two… Here is what Volomedia have to say about their plugin to media owners:

VoloMedia enables some of the largest media companies to monetize and manage their downloadable video and audio assets from the PC to the portable device while providing detailed reporting on consumption of media — requests for downloads, completed downloads and played downloads. Our turnkey integration with the leading Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) enables us to quickly and easily activate our advertising management and reporting services.

It turns out that providing those little buttons in the iTunes video window also means that the software can do useful things for publishers and advertisers. One of the missing links when it comes to selling advertising on podcasts has always been that publishers have little information they can give to advertisers about who, how many and when people are listening and watching the content.

Magazine and newspaper publishing is about defining and delivering a market segment. Advertisers want to create messages that are specific to a target audience. Podcast producers need ways of defining the market segment they cater to and need to be able to prove that the segment they are targeting are consuming their podcasts.

At the moment there is only one measure of podcast success – the measure that is used at the iTunes Store: the number of new subscribers in a given day.

Apple can count how many times each podcast is subscribed to. After that, each instance of iTunes goes directly to the location of the podcast to download the audio or video. The owners of the podcasts know how many times they are downloaded, but they have no way of proving it. No-one knows if these podcasts are being listened to. No-one knows if they are being kept by people as favourite content.

Podcast producers need an independent system to show how many times their content is being used. They need to know who their audience is, where they are and when they listen. Advertisers need a simple way to get their messages to specific groups of people without having to negotiate with hundreds of amateur podcast makers.

Volomedia are trying to become both the advertising broker and ratings organisation for podcasts. They provide a plugin for iTunes that people are incentivised to use. The plugin sends information back to base about when the content used. It might even look at information gleaned from attached iPods and report back the number of plays of podcast episodes.

The plugin also allows for producers to automatically insert advertisements into podcasts at specific places – adverts aimed at specific consumers.

It seems as if this plugin has Apple’s approval, but I wouldn’t bet on Volomedia getting all the control they want over the podcasting market. I think Apple have been planning this for a lot longer, and they have all the control to make it happen.

In the most recent version of iTunes, they have introduced Genius playlists. If you volunteer to have Apple look at all your playlists and music tracks, they use the combined tastes of millions of people all over the world to select 24 other tracks that probably will go with the tune that is playing right now:

This is a feature that is useful enough for millions of people to happily hand over personal information to Apple about how they use their media. I don’t think Volomedia’s plugin is as useful as Genius playlists.

Combine this data sharing with Apple’s patenting of inserting customised advertising into any media at any point and I think we might soon get to the stage when certain podcasts, video podcasts, TV shows and movies will only be visible via iTunes, QuickTime Player, iPods and iPhones. Producers and advertisers will see this as a reasonable limitation if they want to stay in business.

Other people may try to create media tracking and ad insertion technology (Google), but Apple won’t let any of that work on their iPod/iPhone platform.

Once this is established, we’ll have the choice of how we want to pay for our media. Directly by digital transfer of money, or through others wanting to pay to sell to us:
Media payment preferences

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1 comment
  1. bosh said:

    I think feedburner provide us with a lot of info on who is doing what with our podcasts. The rest of what youre saying is very interesting indeed. I dont however agree that the majority of podcasts are available only on iTunes, or that this is likely to become the case, in fact I would expect that only a minority of feeds are exclusive to iTunes…

    Apple would love us to only use them for emdia creation and syndication of content, but it’s just not going to happen 🙂

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