Podcasting has risen steadily in popularity over the last few years and the recent ruling against patent holding company Personal Audio LLC suggests that podcasting could experience even more growth in the coming years. High profile podcasts, Adam Corolla's show probably being the most prominent, were targeted by Personal Audio LLC under the dubious claim that they owned a technological patent on the on the basic distribution of podcasts.
This claim, while seemingly absurd on technical merit, was most likely part of a strategy to harass podcasters and force them to settle for a much smaller amount than the original claim just to avoid the annoyance, cost, and time to defend against the claim. The judge, however, ruled that the supposed patent was not valid in the first place and was therefor unenforceable.
This does not end the fight against patent trolls but it does strike a blow for the good guys. It also gave some attention to podcasts that, for many listeners, were just another category to be ignored in iTunes.
Podcasting is often portrayed as a competitor to traditional radio or even just another way to listen to traditional radio. Indeed, popular radio programs like “This American Life” also have popular podcasts that are just releases of the original show, but some shows are using podcasting to experiment with new styles and formats.
The “Serial” podcast recently earned well-deserved accolades for its storytelling and production quality. “Serial” follows the story of a Baltimore teen convicted of the murder of his girlfriend. The most interesting thing about the podcast was that it was released while the reporter was researching and reporting the story. Each episode was a snapshot of a real moment in the investigation. Probably the most frustrating part of the podcast that, unlike traditional stories, there was no concrete resolution offered at the end of the series.
Some of the most popular podcasts are long form interviews or conversations. These sorts of conversations would be unwieldy or even impossible in a traditional radio format. They would be too long and the conversations would be forced to fit neatly between ad breaks. But as podcasts, they can thrive.
Many podcasts aim to be just the right size for the average commute. A solid 30 or 45 minute podcast fits nicely into that timespan that might otherwise be spent listening to terrestrial radio along with the ever-present advertising.
So what is the future of podcasting? With the Personal Audio LLC ruling, the way is somewhat clearer. Advertisers are starting to take notice and with that notice, rates for advertising within podcasts will rise. Will this drive out the creative independents and turn the medium over to large corporations who can deliver better produced content at a higher rate? That remains to be seen. I certainly hope that increased podcast popularity further broadens the range of perspectives available and broadens the audience taking part in the conversation.