Wasn't sure whether to start a new thread about this, but I think this is the best place for it. In the last month or so, if you're a podcast fan, shows have been arriving late in iTunes, both for subscribers to podcasts as well as if you're just looking for a new episode in someone's catalog. The podcasters themselves (Chris Hardwick, Sam Seder, Dave Anthony & Greg Behrendt have all talked about it) have tended to say something to the effect of iTunes is overloaded with podcasts and it's making some changes to its system. Frankly, I thought nothing of this info every time I heard it.
Until I read this interview with Kevin Pollak late yesterday. The site interviewed Pollak because of the news of his show being part of this new AOL block of "late-night" programming at 10p ET, but he added
I’ve been working for the past 6 months with the podcast section of iTunes on a precident-setting new infrastructure, by which the most popular podcasts can charge a small fee from your iTunes account, instead of asking the audience to leave the site and link to the show’s site and sign up for a whole new subscription. In the coming days, in fact, you’ll see us roll out a new super small fee per full (over 2 hours, in most cases) version of the Chat Show on iTunes. For years now, music lovers have paid $9.99 or more for an album that’s usually an hour or less in length. This experiment of ours dares to declare that the time has come for the audience to pay 99 cents, or $1.99, for over 2 hours of entertainment in the form of a podcast. Steve Jobs and Apple didn’t change the way we get our favorite music and support our favorite artists by giving the content away for free, so why should those of us who work every day to provide a live weekly show not have the same relationship with our audience?
And there you go, folks: The innocence is over in podcasting. I support people's right to make a living, and I want the people who make my favorite podcasts to keep doing it. I donate to CaEE, WTF, MaxFun, and Sam Seder's MajorityFM. I buy all of Doug Benson's one-off specials, and I am a charter subscriber to NNF. I understand that the current system to buy a special Doug Loves Movies, for example, is clunky, because it has to be listed in albums and not with the rest of the podcasts.
But my fear is that this pay system, when considered in the light of the service problems of the last month, is going to create a caste system where the largest podcasts not only get all the promotion from iTunes (which will take 30% of these fees), but also new episodes will show up faster, they'll get premium bandwidth for faster downloads, etc. The experience for fans will be wildly different if you're a Kevin Smith fan versus a Dave Anthony fan.
I fear that it's going to be that much harder for upstart podcasts--and ones not backed by big-media companies or being made by names from mainstream Hollywood--to build an audience. Basically, I worry that the success of a Doug Benson*or Marc Maron in podcasting may not be possible, or at least it's going to be much, much harder, once this system is put in place. I hope I'm wrong. Would love for Matt or any other podcast producer or creator to weigh in here.