Phil Sim

Web, media, PR and… footy

OPML for podcasts?

Just a few more thoughts on my earlier post as regards to podcasts.

Firstly, Jeremiah Owyang posted back discussing how he believes podcasts give greater control than other mediums because you can pause, fast forward, rewind. I do wish I had that much control Jeremiah. Firstly, you have to download the entire podcast till you can fast forward and I find the slider next to useless. I don’t know where I’m going and you just end up going back and forth. It’s like having to fast forward and rewind video recorders in the old days.

Via Jeremiah I found this post defending the merits of podcasting from Mario Sundar but still he suggests that podcasts should not be longer than 5 minutes.

Colin commented on my original post that: “If everything was consistently broken up into chunks so that you could fast forward meaningfully to skip a section that could work”.

Surely, OPML could be used for this. Paul Montgomery has put a few ideas up on a project he’s proposing called Table vs Jetski. He wants to use OPML to describe an outline of a slideshow-style podcast/videocast. I really like the idea but also think the same approach could be used plain and simply to break down a podcast into bite-sized RSS chunks. If could then evolve into also performing the types of things Paul has talked about.

I think this would be an enormous step forward for x-casting. It would mean I could subscribe to only certain segments in a show, as well. And it wouldn’t be too difficult to create a tool where you can insert breaks into a longer podcast because as Scoble pointed out in another comment on my original post – in the end, a lot of podcasts are produced in a hurry. It would act as a cheap, form of editing.

Then Jeremiah, I would have some control. I could flip between the various segments. Can anyway imagine watching DVDs without having chapter control. Why do we expect podcast users to take a step back in control to what they’re already used to?

In the meantime, it would be really nice if you produce an hour long podcast to break down the bits in text: ie 0:10 Introduction 2:23 Discussion about digg so that I can at least put that slider to some good!

UPDATE: Here’s the TechCrunch writeup of the Pluggd service that Paul referenced in the comments. Very interesting, although I still don’t think it alleviates the need for chapters.


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7 Responses

  1. Better yet, break down the bits into actual sentences and words, so it’s possible to scan forward and back on the page, skim it at reading-speed instead of listening-speed, and glean information without having to turn off your music. Most hour-long recordings I’ve checked out have *maybe* enough information to occupy 5-10 minutes of reading, tops.

    Podcasting: the thief of time!

  2. […] Two interesting posts popped up in my NetVibes today which kick the TVJ concept along a little. Phil Sim kindly gave this site some link love as part of his request for podcasters to chop up their product into manageable chunks. Colin commented on my original post that: “If everything was consistently broken up into chunks so that you could fast forward meaningfully to skip a section that could work”. […]

  3. Caitlin says:

    I use the rewind to catch something that I’ve missed and I use the fast-forward if there’s an ad or I’ve rewound too far. But chapter control would be totally awesome especially for longer podcasts.

    At the moment hour long podcasts are generally a bad idea. I want something to keep me company when I’m jogging or catching the train and neither my jogging stamina nor my commute stretches to an hour! (Though it does for some people).

    Having said that, one of my favourite podcasts I Should Be Writing comes in 15 minute episodes except that every fourth episode is an interview with a published author and varies in length. These are often 30, 40, 50 minutes long (edited) and I always listen to them in full. If I’m not done in one session I pause it and come back to it later. So I guess it depends on the strength of the content as it always does.

  4. My favourite podcast, Keith & The Girl, averages about 90 minutes every day. Earlier this month, they did a 42-hour podcast! Then again, its audience does seem to be mostly made up of bored teenagers with too much spare time… maybe the length of the show dictates what the demographics of the average listener will be.

    I hope Dave Winer is reading all this stuff, OPML is essential for building this system.

  5. You’re making some very valid points. I agree, hopefully technology and social interaction could help add chapters and textual indicators for podcast listeners.

    I predict that the ‘social’ podcast will allow users to collaboratively edit and add metadata to podcasts.

  6. Caitlin says:

    I object to the claim that there is any ‘rule’ about podcast length. Saying that they should never be longer than 5 minutes is way too restrictive. Perhaps, the majority of podcasts could be done in 5 minutes, but not all.

    For example, interviews usually need more time. Audio documentaries certainly need more time. Just because one person doesn’t have the patience for long pieces doesn’t mean that everyone does.

    I do agree that it’s helpful to break the recording up into meaningful sections. This is helpful not only for navigation (if the navigation tools can be improved) but also just to help you mentally change gears. In the physical world, Disney pioneered this with the snaking queues for its theme parks. The idea is that the queue is just as long but a) it doesn’t look as long and b) there are milestones for the person in the queue to tick off ‘okay I’m in this part now’.

    My favourite podcast averages 15 minutes, as I’ve said, and to me that’s perfect. Any shorter and I would be scrounging for something else to listen to after 5 minutes and feeling short-changed that I didn’t get more. It’s a bonus when she does a long podcast.

  7. kosso says:

    This is EXACTLY what I have I have been suggesting for a while ;))

    I am working on a UI to allow annotation of podcasts. The format of the dat file will be OPML 😉


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