Why I still listen to Dave Slusher’s podcast

I stopped listening to Adam Curry's Daily Source code quite a while ago. Tell a lie, I do still download the podcasts, but Blogmatrix's Sparks usually does delete the files before I get around to listening to them. At first it was interesting, well produced and a great chance to get a feel for what was going in the podcast world. However podcasting has moved on, theres a lot more choice and there is no need to know whats going on as such. (Its a bit like a blog about the blogosphere, however I do listen to blogosphere radio now and then). Anyhow around the same time as listening to the Daily Source code, I was listening to Dave Slusher's Evil Genius Chronicles.

But why am I still listening? Well simply, Dave Slusher's podcasts have a much higher level of quality and narrowing that Adam's. I mean he knows whos listening and does not do this general radio style which I and others tend to hate. The Daily source code is a radio show as a podcast, its so general and does not take advantage of the nature of podcasts. Someone once said recently, Its NOT everybody (mimicing adam's voice). And in that statement, says it all. Dave Slusher plays music he loves and talks about subjects which interests him. Adam servers more like a radio dj reporting things which he has heard and been given. Yes he has a huge audience. Yes I do not like the music Dave plays, but screw it. Dave has a quality audience and the narrow band idea tied up.
Dave actually explorers this futher in this post and this podcast. And honestly I've been thinking about this whole area myself…

Its all about metric's, and Dave took the words out of my mouth.

The Podcast Alley fracas is mostly culture clash between the old methods and the new context. The more I think about this, the more I think the focus on the sheer size of listenership is taking the worst of the old situation and applying it to the new world. We don't need to think in channel-limited scarcity mode any more. It made sense when you could only have so many FM or AM channels max in any market, but it doesn't make sense when you have a nearly infinite variety of channels.

I dont really care whos number one on podcast alley, it makes no difference to who I listen to. But I do understand that old/dead media still does metrics by quantity not quality. This is echoed by Doug Kaye who is the owner and creator of IT Conversations. Who has a couple of times asked for listeners to vote on podcast alley, saying IT Conversations should be in the top 50 at least. While he and others (like myself) who listen may not care about what position its at, advertisers will be more interested if its closer to #1 at podcast alley. Its just the way they do metrics at this moment. The question is what can be done about it? Well there's hope from Doug Kaye. But in his answer, lies the actual issue…

I pitched the idea of a ratings system like Amazon, Netflix or IT Conversations, but as he pointed out, that doesn't work for his site. Chris can't just publish an 'average' rating for each podcast, even with some minimum number of votes required. Why? Because a podcast with five votes of “five stars” each, would then be rated higher than one with one thousand five-star votes and just one four-star vote. It's not a problem for IT Conversations and these other sites because 'ranking' isn't as important as the how-good-is-it rating for each item.

Why is the ranking system on IT Conversations, Amazon, IMDB, Netflix, etc not as important as the one on podcast alley? Is it because people realise that you can not compare one thing against another? That views are subjective and relative? What if the Daily source code is number one? Does that actually mean its better than IT Conversations? or vice-a-versa? What does being number one actually mean?

I blame the old/dead mediums for not growing up and moving on. THERE IS NO SCARCITY, anyone can podcast or write a blog, and the abundance of the internet through networking keeps the statement true. Its time to reconsider your metrics, because once again THERE IS NO SCARCITY and its no good trying to create a artifical scarcity. And the other point worth making…

The podcast infrastructure is very open to narrowcasting (I'd go as far as to say it is optimized for it). The popular podcasts in sheer volume of “units shifted” will always be the more general ones. However, a podcast that serves a small niche audience and serves it superbly well will always be lower in total downloads but could be very high in the axis of serving the needs of the listeners.

This was made very clear the other day when Doug Kaye asked listeners to send emails to people who could/would be interested in Underwriting with IT Conversations. With IT conversations narrowcasting to its target audience the Underwriting Campaign was a good success because of a quality audience. What more could a advertiser in the IT world want? Dave agrees…

People keep talking about how advertisers and sponsors want to see “big numbers.” I'm not so sure that is the best way. It is certainly not the only way. If a company has a product or service that is related to that niche interest, they might be getting a much better deal in sponsoring that podcast. The high affinity the listeners have for the show coupled with the focus of the interest may make it a great deal and a more efficient use of sponsor dollars that a general purpose show with a huge listenership.

There are no simple metrics to measure the relative affinity your audience has, or to determine the aggregate influence your listeners wield. In contrast, it is fairly easy to count concurent streams or determine download numbers so that will be what things are based on. This focus on volume, on popularity, on being the top in some ordered list – it all reflects vestigial thinking from the old way of doing things.

And in that lies the problem, its hard work. Its not something you can just count and be done with. I would go as far as say this is exactly what the long tail is all about. Of course large easy to count figures work well in the start of tail but as its spreads into the long tail you need to start thinking differently. Start thinking quality conversations with a your audience, not the old style everybody style broadcasts of yesterday. I know theres been some reaction to the long tail idea. One I heard recently was from Stephen Downes talk at northern voice where he asked, who really wants to live in the long tail?

So people talk, and people have talked a lot, about the long tail and they've said “Worship the long tail, mine the long tail, the long tail is where the action is.” And all of these people who are talking about the value and the virtue of the long tail have the unique pquality of not being part of it. I live in the long tail. And I can say from my own personal perspective that people who are in the long tail would probably rather not be part of it. They simply want to be read.

Stephen certainly has a point, but I don't believe its as simple as wanting to be read. For example, if I simply wanted to be read I could host cubicgarden.com on a dedicated server and spam all friends, family and there friends about it. Yes I would be read, but honestly knowing I'm read by people who are my peers and also my worst enemy's as such is much more interesting and also much more manageable. Imagine getting 100's of comments per entry? Is that better than recieving that one which points you in a direction you never considered before?I certainly think so and its the reason why I listen to Dave's podcast (with even the music i dont really like) over and beyond Adam's.

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Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.