The premise of this story is accurate: Podcasts are still too darn hard to discover and subscribe to. The process has never been easy, initially involving something like a seven-step process to transfer audio files from your stand-alone podcatching software to your iPod before Apple streamlined the process through iTunes. But because podcasts involve the constant refreshing and syncing of accounts, either on desktop or on mobile devices, it’s never really been a mass-market format, even with the success last year of Serial.
But that doesn’t mean I like the idea of Facebook becoming a podcast distribution hub, an idea some are playing around with as suggested here. And with today’s debut of Serial’s second season there’s news that seven-minute previews of new episodes are being made available on Facebook as part of that platform’s recently-announced “Music Stories” feature.
My problems with this approach stem primarily from the fact that “I don’t know, try Facebook” is not a long-term strategy for media. That’s true with Instant Articles and it’s true with podcasting. Facebook still is terrible at discovery since search has never functioned well and you’re at the mercy of the Newsfeed, dependent on how engaging something is for it to even make it into most people’s feeds. Plus, while this may aid (though to a questionable degree) with awareness, it doesn’t solve the subscription/distribution issue.
Most people are, I believe, still not familiar with how to subscribe to and receive new episodes of podcasts for many of the same reasons RSS has (unfortunately) fallen out of favor over the last five or six years. So you may expose more people to the show, but I’d be very curious what the conversion rate here. Facebook Instant Articles have tried to solve the text news problem (a term I use loosely in this case) but they don’t have an equivalent product for podcasting.
Maybe that’s what all this is leading to, Facebook creating an audio subscription service. That would go against the guiding ethos of Facebook, though, which is that you should only see *some* of what the people or brands you’ve connected with post, not everything. Podcasts are like TV, though: You don’t just watch the most-engaged with episodes of “The Flash,” you watch the whole season from beginning to end.
As my friend Doug Haslam said on Twitter, podcasting is an area desperately needing people to stop coming up with ideas. Instead there needs to be a drastic overhaul of the syndication model. Only then will “more awareness” do some real good.