The Problem With Podcasts And Videoblogs?
Robert Scoble's enthusiasm for podcasts and videoblogs can't be questioned and it is that sort of enthusiasm which ultimately feeds creativity. The ideas batted around in recent posts are interesting, but as a marketer and someone who's been involved in many content-provision industries, I really do struggle with some of the assumptions.
He says "The needs of an iPod user are DIFFERENT than the needs of someone sitting on their Barcalounger watching a TV screen. Don’t ya think?" Well I'm not instantly convinced. They're the same inherent needs of the same person albeit in different locations and mental states. The person hasn't changed dramatically by dint of wearing their iPod. This is a mistake that too many tech companies make - the user isn't looking at the situation through your geeky eye, but through the eyes of a viewer/reader. The question is can you meet those needs in a superior way via podcast or videoblog? On that question the jury's out.
Would you watch a recipe videoblog in the supermarket? Isn't that only relevant when you're making the dish yourself or when you're browsing for dinner party ideas? Surely in the supermarket you only need the list of ingredients - a static and visually uninteresting list of ingredients. Moreover, if you were a geek or indeed just a time-poor consumer you'd be increasingly likely to have that list delivered to your home courtesy of your supermarket's online ordering service, thereby negating your need to be in the supermarket with your portable geek device at all. The question of whether the customer need is for mobility or portability is key.
It's always informative to look for parallels in history and, rightly or wrongly, I think back to the Walkman revolution which also dramatically changed listening habits. Did sales of non-music items other than audio books and language lessons really rocket back then? I'm not sure they did and I certainly remember some failed audio magazine ventures.
Another lesson of the Walkman is that it met a need for mobile audio - predominantly relatively passive entertainment. Is the iPod user any different? The video element is an added dimension but it's very much an active one. The user makes a greater investment in their participation. I watched an interesting chat between two high-level bloggers Joi Ito and Loic Lemeur but, in hindsight, think their informative ideas could have been summarised in notes which would have taken me five minutes rather than fifty to digest. Am I typical or are there enough people out there who will subscribe to a podcast or videoblog on a regular basis to ensure cashflow or stimulate sufficient advertising income?
Regardless of the answer to that question, I'm also puzzled why geeks are seemingly so obsessed about selling non-geek products to geeks - sure they're the people you know but that's surely taking the social network thing too far? There's an element of the scout cookie drive to that (i.e. selling to friends) which concerns me. How many times does it have to be said? The majority of bloggers aren't geeks, nor are the majority of iPod, PDA and internet users. The distribution methods may be geeky, your content customers probably won't be.
Now I never wish to dissuade optimism. But the basic point that is applicable across all markets is that it's crucial to look at any offering from the perspective of reasons why the consumer wouldn't be interested, because if they don't think the way you expect them to think, your business model will be very, very shaky.