When is a podcast not a podcast?

SimonGeneral2 Comments

This is one of the most misleadingly named services I’ve seen in quite a while: Readspeaker Podcaster.

It’s a text to speech service that reads out webpages, and puts the enclosure into an RSS feed. Now while technically I suppose you could say that’s a podcast (it’s an MP3 file delivered through RSS), in no other way is that a podcast.

This kind of thing makes me furious – it’s a real case of jumping on the bandwagon (in this case podcasting), without taking the time or effort to find out what this new communication tool is all about.

I don’t blame Readspeaker, as they’re just trying to make more revenue from their very good technology that reads webpages. But it does make me despair that users of this service will start promoting what they are producing as podcasts.

If the first podcast someone downloads is produced with Readspeaker Podcaster, then they’re going to get a pretty poor impression of what a podcast actually is. This will affect the perception of podcasts as something of value to listen to, and that’s a bad thing because podcasts can be a good way to reach some audiences as part of a communications mix.
For the record I think a genuine podcast needs to be presented by a human being, and is characterised by two-way communications between the presenter and the audience. That’s a pretty wide definition that reflects the wide range of podcasts out there.

However my greatest fury is saved is for the communicators who commission this kind of service and then call it podcasting.

If you want to include podcasting (or indeed any social media) in your communications mix then take the time to get to know how the channel works in detail – listen to podcasts, even produce your own, or take advice from someone who knows better.

Don’t just jump on the podcasting bandwagon. Providing a “podcast” like this won’t add to the effectiveness of your communications like real podcasting can, so why bother?

2 Comments on “When is a podcast not a podcast?”

  1. Eben

    Are you confusing Readspeaker Say IT – with their MP3 RSS enclosures? They have 2 products – one reads web pages, the other takes an RSS feed and changes the text into computerised voice – a sort of read out RSS feed.

    I agree that a podcast is typically a radio style show delivered via RSS enclosure.

    I disagree with your conclusion that there is no value in these type of ‘podcasts’

    Providing an RSS feed of TXT as a spoken word MP3 does have some value – for example to users with disabilities and users on the move who would rather listen to the news than read it.

    Did u know that some councils still send out their jobs on audio tape to people with disabilities?

  2. Simon

    Thanks for your comment Eben.

    I’d agree that there’s value for convenience and accessibility for a technology that reads out web content, whether that’s delivered by RSS or a straight HTML page.

    My point is that to call that a podcast is misleading – as you say a podcast is more like a radio show. I probably should have concluded that there’s no value in these type of podcasts if you’re expecting something like most users would expect.

    If you’re after an accessibility tool or a more convenient way to consume web content when away from a screen, then I agree there’s value (although personally I struggle to listen to synthesised voices for too long, but that’s a personal preference).

    At Medway Council we produce our key materials as audio CDs as standard – we have a statutory duty to provide accessible formats, but more importantly when you have to reach all audiences you need to do this to be effective. We also produce large print versions fairly frequently too.

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