From where I sit there seems to be a lot of buzz surrounding podcasting, especially its use in education.
But is that genuine interest shared by a large part of the general public or even large numbers of educators?
Or just the result of the echo chamber formed by living on the web and working with a large community of techies?
According to the latest from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, it’s probably the later.
Some 12% of internet users say they have downloaded a podcast so they can listen to it or view it at a later time. This finding compares to the 7% of internet users who reported podcast downloading in our February-April 2006 survey. However, few internet users are downloading podcasts with great frequency; in both surveys, just 1% report downloading a podcast on a typical day.
The very slow growth in people using podcasts is in marked contrast to the explosion in the variety and numbers of programs available over the same period, especially those from “traditional” media sources like NPR.
The researchers at Pew only report the numbers and didn’t ask the why questions. Leaving us to do our own speculating.
Could it be that downloading and listening to podcasts still doesn’t pass the “mom test”? Is it still too techie and/or inconvenient for the “average” user?
Is there still not enough content that’s compelling enough to large numbers of people that they would be willing to move to a new means of media distribution?
The survey doesn’t even show much difference between old and young so the theory that the “digital natives” are the ones flocking to podcasts is not necessarily valid.
One poll is certainly not the definitive word on any subject. Another study from last year said “podcasts could have a US audience of 56 million by 2010”.
Still another from six months ago forecasts “an audience of just 12 million”.
The Pew survey is just one more marker of how the internet is changing everything.
Or an indication that, when it comes to the public’s use of the web, poll takers really can’t tell us what’s happening.