Questions about Podshows

I’d like to look at the hypothesis that Podshows (and any other schemes like it that may come along) are more likely to restrict and reduce creativity than they are to increase it.

There are a number of factors involved here:

1. Power – the delivery mechanism that podcasts use can be entirely decentralised – I am responsible for the distribution and delivery of my podcasts. The distribution system is available to many people for relatively low cost. Some intermediaries have provided added-value hosting services, but essentially the model remains the same. This means I have greater power – I can decide when to create, what to create, what to include and what to exclude. I can choose to work with other people or to work alone. I can choose to re-use and add value to existing material or strike out and create entirely new material. Compared to an environment where I am entirely dependent on a corporation that has to continue to invest in an expensive distribution infrastructure, I am set free, my creativity flourishes, the only critics I listen to are those I choose to.

2. Courage – the freedom and unstructured nature of podcasting literally encourages me to have a go. It doesn’t matter if I screw up. A radio station or music company that has overheads to cover and shareholders to satisfy is likely to be more risk averse than I am purely as an individual – I have much less to lose. If I depend on the corporation I have to take on some of their fear of failure. Creativity thrives on the courage that comes from having nothing to lose.

3. Good buddies – Podcasting has generated a sense of camaraderie, we’re all in it together, we share ideas and formats – we comment on what works and what doesn’t – we forgive eachother’s mistakes, we snigger at some, but we also build each other up. We share hints and tips on equipment and software. Some naughty people even share software that they’re not allowed to share by law. We collaborate more than we compete. I don’t create podcasts to stop you listening to someone else’s, I create them to express my voice and my voice gets richer when I know I’m talking to people who appreciate what I’m doing and are doing the same thing. Greater creativity comes from a confident enriched voice.

4. This stuff flows quickly and easily. I podcast from London in the UK. I have listeners in London, I also have listeners in Continental Europe and across North America. They all have equally fast access to what I create and I have equally fast access to what they create (as long as we’re awake at the same time). So we hear each other faster, we feed back on each others work faster, we learn from each other faster – what works, what doesn’t, what’s been tried before, what hasn’t. And if I want to make something quick and dirty and get it out NOW, I can – I don’t have to wait for someone else to greenlight me.

5. Diversity – you can make a podcast about anything you like – you cannot make a radio show or sell CDs in Woolworths about anything you like. Anyone with access to modern computing equipment and the internet can make a podcast – a much smaller number of people can create a radio show or sell CDs in Woolworths. Podcasting can be done by atheists, buddhists, muslims, jews, christians, hindus, daoists and slightly worried agnostics. Podcasting can be done by english speakers, dutch speakers, french speakers, swahili speakers – heck, Suw even did one in Welsh! Podcasting can be done by incredibly bright people and incredibly stupid people. It can be done by Sid in the postroom or by the CEO. Your skin can be any shade between Ronald McDonald and Laurence Olivier as Othello. You can podcast regardless of any disability (except one that precludes you from making any sounds at all). In fact it’s better if we are different, if we’re all the same, if we all think the same, we all do the same and we continue to do the same again and again – creativity thrives on diversity and on people who are allowed to be themselves.

These I see as steps forward along a path. That’s how I see things, it just is, that’s why I called my company and my blog Perfect Path – it’s the path we tread between chaos, disorder and stagnation.

I’m not saying that this new model will take us back to where we started, but I think what I’ve heard so far is sufficient to show that the Podshow model pushes us back towards the position that we used to be in before we had podcasts. So what do you think?

  • Does the Podshow model further de-centralise power or does it concentrate it in fewer hands?
  • Does the Podshow model encourage new talent to have a go or does it introduce the need to manage risk and fear of failure?
  • Does the Podshow model create richer human relationships between podcasters or does it foster separation and competition?
  • Does the Podshow model make it easier and quicker for everyone to make podcasts or does it introduce stalling mechanisms?
  • Does the Podshow model celebrate difference and let people be themselves or does it value sameness in the name of, say, brand recognition?

I don’t think there are simple answers to these questions (except perhaps the first) but I think they’re good questions to ask and we should keep talking about them.

PS I don’t think I’ve ever published anything this long on this weblog. It’s not generally the way I like to write these days, but it kind of needed to all be said and I didn’t want to stretch it out over a number of posts. I know I don’t generally read all the way through posts that are this long, but if you have, thank you very much.

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