iTunes and Star Trek and Fark! OH MY!

The Nielsen name has been around for some time giving us our US television ratings so we know without actually having to bother to judge for ourselves what programs are so popular that we’ll be pariahs if we don’t watch. With the gradual fall of the big three networks (four if you count Fox, five if you count the other one) because of cable and satellite TV, they just don’t have enough to do I guess so they are also apparently checking out who’s doing what online.

Now they are looking into podcasting. For those living in a cave (or still using dial-up, I’ve heard there is some difference), podcasts are in essence downloadable radio shows that you can listen to as you like on your own schedule from any digital music player that can also play mp3 files. Since Apple’s iPod and by extension iTunes is the most popular player, these audio programs were nicknamed podcasts. Seems silly now, but if Apple hadn’t made the iPod, we might be calling them RioCasts, ZenCasts, or NoMadCasts instead.

As popular as these podcasts are becoming, most people doing podcasts don’t actually make money doing so. For every Dawn and Drew on Sirius Satellite, there are countless others just putting there stuff out with little hope for compensation for their efforts. Tim and Chad have been doing the most excellent (with apologies to Bill and Ted) podcast (with the DashBoard Minute by yours truly among other segments) for almost 2 years and whatever money comes in from advertising mostly just pays the bandwidth bills. Unless they’re holding out on me. Hmmmnevermind.

For the last few years, people have been trying to figure out a way for someone other than a corporate shill to make some coin doing this. The biggest problem in my opinion is that there is no buzz for podcasts amongst the big advertisers. The Coca-Colas, MasterCards, and McDonalds of the world seem to have mostly ignored podcasts so far. I’m not sure why since most podcasters would gladly take a pittance for commercials on their podcasts as compared to the umpteenth rerun of Bewitched* on Nick at Night and probably have darn near the same number as far as audience goes. After all, people who listen to podcasts also eat quickly prepared cardboard food, drink carbonated acidic beverages, and amass unpayable debts just like everyone else.

So how do you get the advertisers to pay attention? Easy! Just get the Nielson Ratings company to assign some meaningless numbers to how many people listen to podcasts and what their demographics are. There’s nothing like industry buzzwords thrown into a blender to get them to take notice. You can type in this address into your web browser to read their report ( or carry on with this blog to get my take on it. Here’s a hint: Mine will be funnier, but not by much.

In the pdf they released, they spend the first sentence patting themselves on the back for how great they are. Then they start with the numbers. Apparently, 6.6 percent (9.2 million) of the US adult population have recently downloaded an audio podcast and 4 percent (5.6 million) have grabbed a video podcast. The good news is we just beat out those pesky online print bloggers (4.8 percent) and online daters (3.9 percent). This would be a great place to make fun of people who use online dating, but since I met my wife through a dating service almost 15 years ago, I’ll refrain from doing so. Now we still have a ways to go to catch up with people view and pay bills online (51.6 percent) or search for jobs (24.6 percent), but we’ll get them. We’ll get them all!

The next part is a statement from a Nielson analyst (careful how you spell that) that makes me want to retch. Not because of the words in particular, but for the sheer smarminess of how he said it. I’ve met used car salesmen with better patter than this.

“The portability of podcasts makes them especially appealing to young, on-the-go audiences (hurl mode activated). We can expect to see podcasting become increasingly popular as portable media players proliferate.”

The next statement I take umbrage with. Apparently, since I’m now 45 years old, I’m less likely to create or download podcasts (HEY, you kids! Get off my lawn!). To paraphrase; “Typical with new technologies, young people between 18 and 34 are more likely to download podcasts than senior citizens above the age of 45.” OK, that’s not EXACTLY what they said, but the meaning is pretty close. I am VERY offended. I’m down with those hep youngins and I’ll smack them with my walking cane and drool all over anyone saying different.

The next part of the report was a bit of a surprise. People who download podcasts also enjoy using Apple products and visit Apple related websites. Thank you Captain Obvious! What truly was surprising was that the Safari and FireFox were the primary Internet browsers of choice by 3 to 1 or more over Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. Microsoft shouldn’t feel TOO bad as they did beat out AOL and Netscape (snicker).

As far as where these “youth is wasted on young” types are surfing to is documented as well. Audio pod people are hanging at MacWorld, Lycos, and Slashdot for content, and Nike, Apple, and iTunes for e-commerce. Nothing too unusual there right? NOW, we come to video podders. For content, they’re hanging at (no, I’m not kidding), Live365, and Fark. Their e-commerce is dedicated to Live365, eMusic, and Nike. Most of this is fairly understandable, but Star Trek? STAR TREK? A show that hasn’t even been on the air or had a movie made in the last few years? I mean, I love the shows and some of the movies (Sorry Bill, Star Trek V: The Search for Plot, was just awful), but why spend so much time looking for Star Trek? Obviously video podders have some “issues”. Maybe it’s the whole first adopter thing that they have going on while Apple is busy creating a real iPod with video.

OK, I think I have the magic formula down now. I need to create a video podcast that can also be an audio only cast without losing focus that caters to Apple, Nike, and Star Trek. It also has to be appealing to potential advertisers, but not so multi-dimensional that I lose my “creds”. No wonder no one making money on podcasts yet.

*Bewitched: A TV show that appeared on ABC in the 1960s, featuring a then yummy Elizabeth Montgomery as a hundreds of years old witch married to a mortal named Darrin. A very similar show called “I Dream of Jeannie” was on at nearly the same time on NBC and starred an also very yummy Barbara Eden. None of this has anything to do with Apple, iPods, or Podcasts. I just like thinking about Elizabeth Montgomery and Barbara Eden.


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