So I’m reading this Adweek story on how young adults, those fresh out of college, are starting podcasts instead of blogs. That behavior, the story points out, is different from what it would have been several years ago, when blogging was the best way to start being noticed and build up your (sigh) personal brand. And while it may have its struggles, particularly when it comes to producing the kind of professional-sounding material people have come to expect, it also fits in better with the on-the-go, easy-to-access-on-mobile lifestyle that the target audience expects these days.
In the middle of the story I realize what it is that’s bumming me out about this. While I’m not one to stifle innovation or iteration, what we’re losing here are links. Podcasts can’t link to each other. Their associated blogs or landing pages can, but not the show itself. If Slate’s Culture Gabfest wants to reference You Must Remember This that’s all they can do; mention it. They can’t link to either the general show or the specific episode being talked about.
Not only is there the usual comment/lament about what we’re losing here in terms of historical reference points but there’s also the fact that this is just a bad user experience. “Hear something, try to remember it, then go look for it later” has never been a great model. It’s what advertisers on local radio count on, not what sophisticated media formats are built on.
So good on everyone who’s launching podcasts and particularly those able to sustain them after seven or eight episodes. There’s a lot of clutter out there for y’all to cut through, even more than there was 10 or 12 years ago when we were all launching blogs. But please keep in mind that we’re losing some important reference points with this format, something we may not feel the result of for a couple years but which is very real and which is a big hit to the idea of online communities, which used to be defined by those links and other connections.