Make Marketing History

The views of a marketing deviant.

Monday, July 24, 2006

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.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good points!

I think the iPod +is+ different mainly because of the choice it offers users. I can have thousands of songs and podcasts stored on mine. That alone creates new opportunities from old media. I could see carrying with me 300 podcasts just on cooking, for instance, that I'd just leave there.

9:24 AM, July 24, 2006  
Blogger john dodds said...

While songs are completely re-consumable, I'm not sure about podcasts. Just because it is possible for me to have 300 recipe podcasts I’m not convinced that I’d want them. I already have a repository of 300 recipes – it’s called a cookbook and works fine.

Indeed, I know from personal experience of collecting recipe cards from newspaper supplements and supermarkets over the years that unless used immediately they just lie there in a drawer unconsulted. Similarly with all those articles one retains in hard copy or on hard disk. They were going to be a reference resource or stimulate new articles or latterly blogposts, but, in reality they too just sit there. The same with some of those blogs on our RSS aggreagtors.

This leads me to believe that non-entertainment content will increasingly need to be of the sort that is consumed once and fairly instantly at that or it will not have value to the user.

12:13 PM, July 24, 2006  
Blogger kaylen said...

speaking of food and not speaking of youth marketing...

fish fat is brain food!

1:52 PM, July 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...their informative ideas could have been summarised in notes which would have taken me five minutes rather than fifty to digest. "

Regardless of the topic, that reflects really bad editing...or perhaps no editing. And I can't imagine how much longer people will put up with that once the novelty has worn off. This stuff should be more efficient than written words, but without editing--as you pointed out--it's much worse.

And I think "podcast" and even "video blog" are such broad terms that it's nearly impossible to make any general statements that aren't technical. A just-in-time reference pod/video 'cast is dramatically different from a purely entertainment piece vs. a news update, etc. Or should be, anyway ; )

I get the feeling that too many of these "communications" don't know what they want to be when they grow up. Once they figure that out, and get down to the business of crafting and tailoring and producing good, focused content, I can imagine so many wonderful uses for these audio and video 'casts, especially for learning.

Anyway, once again -- John -- yeah, what you said ; )

7:24 PM, July 24, 2006  
Blogger john dodds said...

I agree re learning but too many of these things are just people chatting with a video or mike pointed at them.

1:44 PM, July 25, 2006  

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