Welcome to podTunes

by Giles Turnbull

Related link: http://www.apple.com/podcasting

Well, as widely predicted, iTunes 4.9 (released today) includes support for podcast subscription and management.

Given that the iPod gave the podcasting phenomenon its name in the first place, it's a clever move on Apple's part to embrace it. Some might argue that Apple is attempting to commercialize podcasting, or at least create a public perception of 'ownership' of the technology.

Several telling comments have already been made by various reviewers.

Here at O'Reilly, Elizabeth Freeman summed up her quick review of iTunes 4.9 with the words: "I really like that I no longer have to use a separate application to manage my podcasts."

Exactly. That's going to be hugely appealing to anyone who already listens to any of Apple's pre-selected podcasts and likes to do so with an iPod. The introduction of this feature in iTunes means people in that bracket are going to be drawn away from any third-party podcast management tool and towards iTunes.

Another comment comes from Edd Dumbill, in his appraisal of Apple's use of certain RSS extensions in the podcasts section of the iTunes Music Store: "What could have been a useful and reusable addition to the world of RSS is really rendered only fit for the single use of adding content into Apple's own iTunes store. Apple prove they know how to be cool, but they've got no idea about making friends on the web."

Edd's right. They're expanding the scope of the iTunes Music Store. Why? What benefit does Apple get from doing this?

I suspect the answer lies partly in how podcasts have been integrated in iTunes.

Not as a playlist, not as a plug-in like an iPod device, but as a subsection of the iTunes Music Store.

I think Apple has seen a bright future for the podcasting concept (whether or not it will still be called 'podcasting' in future is another question entirely), as a means for professional radio to undergo rebirth and amateur radio to explode from the underground and into the mainstream.

Right now, podcasts are free to listen to, but this will change very soon. Popular podcasters will start to ask listeners to pay a fee. A small one per broadcast, of course, but a fee nonetheless.

If, by that stage, iTunes has become the leading software for distribution and user management of podcasts, it will be a natural next step for those fees to be paid via the iTunes Music Store. And every time you load up another issue of the Daily Source Code or Mommycast, it'll be another few cents in Apple's bank account. Ker-ching!

Comment on this weblog


2005-06-28 11:51:59
This isn't a bad thing
Remember the concept of micropayments?

If Apple can make a few cents everytime my favorite podcaster sells me his latest through iTunes, good for them. If the podcaster gets paid, this is a good thing.


2005-06-28 11:59:02
This isn't a bad thing
I'm with you, Roger. I do remember the concept of micropayments, indeed, I'd like to think it has a bright future ahead of it.

And you're right. If the podcasters can earn something from this too, it's good news for them.

2005-06-29 06:06:54
Cost, Audible
Given Apple's willingness to host very expensive streaming content, I wonder how much this is going to cost them, especially for content that has no intention of charging.

Also, I wonder if Apple is working with Audible.com, it's audio-book partner (of sorts), or if it instead has begun stepping on Audible's toes. For instance, I see that Apple is now making available some content previously available as a free download from Audible, like Harry Shearer's weekly 'Le Show' broadcasts. Is Apple streaming one of Audible's versions (Audible offers two different quality/size versions of Shearer's broadcast), or is it offering an AAC version of its own? Will Apple turn on Audible? Or perhaps buy the company...?

2005-07-05 03:29:45
Works in theory...
Well ever since the 4.9 release my podcasts have been snailing their way to my machine. There really needs to be a bittorrent dimension added to this. I got the bittorrent versions in the time it normally takes to download my podcasts. But after a few hours noticing that iTunes wasn't going to get my podcasts anytime before the new year I was forced to go to bittorrent. The demand for podcasts since 4.9 has meant that those that were podding before are now suffering from slow downloads(maybe the new users think this is normal). It makes sense to add bittorrent, it makes even more sense if it's a popular show.
After the first few hundred users download a show then others can get it from them through bittorrent. Wait till your favourite podcast goes off the map after they receive their four figure bill. It also discriminates against the smaller shows who are operating on a shoe string. This issue is not going to go away.