Leader: Podcasting over-hyped

It's not really all that new or revolutionary...

It's not really all that new or revolutionary...

It's been a good few weeks for podcasting fans, with updates to Apple's iTunes software supporting the phenomenon and predictions that podcasting is going to expand at an extraordinary rate over the next few years.

There will be nearly 60 million podcast users in the US alone by 2010, according to forecasts from research consultancy The Diffusion Group, which predicts that 75 per cent of digital music player owners will be downloading audio broadcasts by 2010.

Other research published earlier this year calculated that nearly a third of US adults who own iPods or MP3 players have downloaded podcasts.

And on top of this, Apple has tweaked iTunes to make it easier for iPod fans to listen to downloads - and make it easier for content providers to make money from the craze.

So the future is podshaped, then?

Possibly - after all it's hard to argue with the enthusiasm of bedroom DJs who can now parade their fine work to the broadest audience. And who would want to argue with the BBC, ABC or NBC, who are all now offering podcasts?

But then again, radio shows have been available on the internet for years.

And so has the ability to listen to chunks of that content when you want, rather than when it is broadcast.

Podcasting is simply the ability to download that content onto an MP3 player or the ubiquitous iPod so you can listen to it on the move. Is that really enough of a leap in customer experience for the level of hype that we are experiencing?

Looked at another way, is podcasting simply a neat way of making a virtue of the fact that the iPod doesn't have a built-in radio, even though some of its rivals already do?

Predicting how many podcasting fans there will be in five years time is a tricky business. Who can tell what innovations - especially in terms of wireless - may develop and which of those will swing the market in a completely different direction.

Podcasting certainly looks likely to bring good fortune to Apple. And it is an interesting - and cool - development. But does it deserve so much attention and these bullish predictions of so many millions of users?

We have to say no.