I’m totally on board with audio podcasts. They have effectively replaced the car radio for all but the shortest drives. Perhaps that’s because I prefer "talk radio" in the car and the podcasts I subscribe to are most akin to talk radio and on business related subjects.
I’ll put up with inconsistent quality in an audio podcast – after all, it’s only taking up part of my attention. That is the crucial point with audio. We can listen to podcasts and drive the car, or go to the Fitness Center or Gym (and I should listen to more podcasts there) or do housework. The audio is only taking up part of my attention span.
But add video to it and you’re now demanding 100% of my attention while the video is playing. I can’t drive and watch a video; I can’t watch it while moving around the fitness center because the screen needs always to be in front of me; I can’t watch it while I go for a walk or do housework. Video assumes I’m going to give it, if not 100% of my attention, my primary attention.
- If it’s not necessary to watch the video portion to get the value from a program, then dump the video and just go with audio.
I don’t normally subscribe to the highly regarded and very popular This Week in Tech a.k.a. TWiT, but a friend recommended a specific episode and suggested I get the video version. That one hour program has sat on my hard drive for six weeks waiting for me to have time to watch it. In that time I’ve listened to more than 15-20 hours of very similar programming. I’m still wondering why my friend had me get the video version: it’s just four guys sitting around a table in an infinite black set recorded by three cameras.
The video adds nothing. Apart from a short glimpse at an iPod Nano (is it really that old?) there were no props; no visual aids; no graphics; nothing that justified all my attention. Put the four faces in the artwork for the feed and I’d have had the same benefit.
Just because we can deliver video as enclosures in an RSS file, doesn’t mean we should. Bad video is easy. Good video is hard, and consistent regular production is very hard to do. I was talking with Scott Sheppard of Inside Mac Radio and Inside Mac TV about the difference in what he’ll have to carry to a trade show to get interviews for his iPod video show, compared with his weekly and daily audio shows. For audio: Marantz solid state recorder, microphone. For video: video camera, tripod, a basic lighting kit, microphone, radio mics, receivers… Instead of fitting in a shoulder bag or backpack with his laptop he’s now wondering whether he’ll need a custom cart to lug around – or an intern. This is, of course, because he’s trying to make the show up to something that uses the video well. You can find more ranting on this subject in an earlier post of mine: What makes good visuals
There are some programs, like Tiki Bar TV – always high in the new subscribers ranking in iTunes – that really try. While it may not be scripted in detail, it has good production values and I think I see some Apple LiveType and Motion effects in there – appropriately edited in the Final Cut Studio.
Bad video is easy. Good video requires considerably more equipment, effort, talent, skill and, most importantly, the need for video. Because if we don’t, we’re going to bore the market to sleep before they adopt any form of non-mainstream content as being valuable.
So, even though audio and video podcasts are superficially similar by their use of RSS and enclosed media files, they are not the same medium. Video requires a much higher commitment from the viewer than audio does from the listener.
Here’s a question for all the budding video podcasters out there: Is your content so valuable, compelling and well produced that I’d be happy to pay $100 an hour to watch it? If you wouldn’t, consider that is exactly what you’re asking me to do. OK, I don’t pay that to watch a "Hollywood" movie (but then again, I rarely watch them) but my time has a value and you’re asking me to give up that value to watch your program. With audio, it adds value to my time – redeeming time that would otherwise be wasted.
One media adds value to my time; the other robs me of it. That’s why they’re not the same.