In 2001, when I designed the protocols for podcasting, we were using a different Internet:
Net connections were so slow that the click-wait problem was interfering with people using big media objects, and
The mobile devices that could play podcasts weren't able to communicate.
So we designed a protocol that would make it easy for your desktop computer to gather up the media objects and move them to your mobile device, probably something like an iPod, which, by the way, didn't exist yet.
We got ahead of where the technology actually was. But it turned out well. Today there's an explosion of podcast content, all of it formed around the blueprint we put out 14 years ago.
But the world today is different, and as a result I believe we can make podcasting much easier and richer for the listener. We can remove steps, and provide more variety.
The net we use today is fast. When you click to listen to a 40-minute podcast, it's downloaded in a few seconds. And it starts playing immediately. No click-wait.
The net goes with us almost everywhere with inexpensive mobile devices.
Given that reality, one would design podcast listening software somewhat differently.
We're all looking for the next great podcast, not something to subscribe to necessarily, that's work -- rather something enjoyable, interesting, stimulating, thought-provoking and most important -- now!
Here's how the perfect podcast client would work, imho.
No preparation. When I'm leaving the house, I have lots of things on my mind. I spend time loading up my phone with fresh podcasts, when I have the time, but sometimes I'm in a rush and leave with nothing interesting on my phone.
Lots of interesting shows. That's a key point. I'm less interested in subscribing to a series of shows than I am in listening to a single good episode.
Social connection. I like to listen to the same shows my friends are listening to, because I love having someone to discuss these things with.
Variety. I had gotten into a groove, listening to a few podcasts regularly because I could count on them being interesting to me. Mostly Planet Money and Fresh Air, with a very rare RadioLab, or a NYT Book Review podcast. But there's a lot more out there, I'm finding, now that I have easy access to more variety.
Immediate. When I decide to listen I want to listen now. It should be as easy to start listening to an episode of a podcast as it is to start watching a different show on my cable TV set-top box.
Ephemeral. You listen to a podcast once, and that's it. Yet the devices we use for playback are designed for music, which is not ephemeral.
For a while I evangelized editorial organizations to create this product, but they either didn't understand the need, or didn't think there was an opportunity? More likely they don't think like a software developer. When I see an opportunity to make things work better, I want it to happen right now. Even if I don't have time to do the work myself.
Well, I finally got tired of waiting. I've made the software. I'm using it now, as are a few friends. We're smoothing things out and should have something for everyone to use soon.
We're going to start with the shows my friends recommended, when I asked them, on Facebook. If it proves useful to others, we may branch out to including shows your friends like. And on and on. I think this is the way podcasting was meant to evolve, starting in 2015.
The product is Podcatch.com.
A blog post explaining how the product came to be.