Here’s Stephen Mayne from today’s Crikey on the ABC and podcasting.
The ABC’s extraordinary podcasting performance
All those ABC critics who attack the national broadcaster for not attracting large audiences are eating plenty of humble pie over its extraordinary performance when it comes to podcasting. ABC producer Gordon Taylor took an audience of about 60 spin doctors through the figures a couple of weeks back at the MEAA’s public affairs convention in Sydney, and it certainly left me gobsmacked.
Podcasting only started on the ABC in August 2004 but there are now 1.6 million successful downloads a month, which compares very favourably in per capita terms with the BBC, which is doing 3.5 million a month despite its huge global audience. The ABC has about 20 entries in the iTunes Australia top 100 and The Chaser vodcast is number one in its category and growing fast.
Even more amazing was the statistic that only 17% of the downloads come from within Australia because the US dominates with 69%. This reflects strong interest from academia in programs like Life Matters, which is doing 140,000 downloads a week. Phillip Adams also has a large and growing global following for Late Night Live which includes a regular chat with our own Christian Kerr that is offered as a podcast.
If you thought iPods were all about pimply teens, think again. The largest age bracket for ABC downloads is 40-54 and the usage does skew strongly on gender terms with 81% of users being male.
Gordon Taylor said it was often hard to predict which programs would take off. For instance, Triple J’s nightly current affairs program Hack is the youth station’s most popular podcast, easily outpacing alternatives such as Sunday Night Safran and This Sporting Life.
Podcasting is perhaps something that Crikey should get into. The weekly spot I do with Tim Cox on ABC Tasmania has been podcast all year, but doubtless rates towards the bottom of the 115 different podcast offerings that Aunty has made available. Christian Kerr will probably be taking over the spot from tomorrow as I bow out to go electioneering. Have a listen to the farewell sign-off here.
To which I add my congratulations. The ABC has taken to podcasting more fully than the other public broadcasters that I’ve been able to find – having looked around a bit. The BBC only publicises the latest week’s programs and they seem a fair bit more selective than the ABC.
Grateful for what we’ve got, we should still be moving as fast as possible to a better place, namely the idea that, unless there are good reasons to the contrary, as I’ve argued on Troppo before, the goods produced by public agencies should be presumed to be public goods. In particular if it costs a little more to keep the mp3 files on the ABC servers forever – lets spend the money and build a really great public online archive of great (and some not so great) public broadcasting.
(It’s a really odd way to keep bandwidth down by removing all the programs that people are mostly no-longer downloading any more. If you really wanted to keep down in the least disruptive way it seems to me you’d keep podcasts off the net immediately after they were intially broadcast for as long as was necessary to meet your bandwidth target and then leave them up forever after that – that way you know that the podcasts people really want either are are or will shortly be there and will remain in the archive).
And if you want to save money on the bandwidth, follow Steven Bounds’ suggestion and use P2P distribution via networks like BitTorrent.