Audio on the Desktop

In 2005, a plethora of podcasting companies emerged (Odeo and Podshow, just to name two). A few months later, most of them came to a realization. They realized that getting programming actually onto the mobile device, in a timely manner, was not happening. Most of their listeners were sitting at their computers, not listening on their iPods.

So they retrenched and focused on desktop listeners.

This is a mistake.

If forced to compete on the desktop, audio podcasting is doomed. On the desktop there's too much else going on. You are competing against video and websites and all the applications that live on a computer. These competitors bring more to the table than just audio. Users only have so much time to consume media. Using audio to take market share away from video, on what is fundamentally a visual device (the computer) is a fool's errand. The power of being on a mobile device is that your users get to consume media at times when they otherwise could not. The goal is to open up additional time to consume, not to change current consumption habits.

Phones are different from computers. Computers are essentially visual devices. At a platonic level, the phone is an audio device. It is optimized for an aural experience. Many people use headsets (wired and wireless); their handset stays tucked away in a pocket or purse. Mobile podcasting plays to the strengths of the phone.

Yes, we are aware that a lot of companies are working very hard to popularize video on the phone. I'll be covering why mobile video is fighting an uphill battle in a later post.

Erik Schwartz