An equal number just also unsubscribed. Most podcasts suck. There. I said it. And I'm not ashamed.
No need to be. I mentioned this on another thread, but at this point in the evolution of podcasting, the overwhelming majority of them fall into two categories:
1. Professionally-produced podcasts from major content providers that are entertaining and informative, like much of the KCRW, NPR and ESPN stuff.
2. Non-professional podcasts from individuals and/or hobbyists, most of which are badly-produced or just plain bad.
However, in the non-professional category, I've discovered a few podcasts worth listening to:
--Fly With Me - A quite well-produced look at the airline industry from the viewpoint of a commercial airline pilot who brings his recorder with him on his flights. The episode where he interviews flight attendants about the worst passengers they ever dealt with is downright hysterical.
--My Bald Thoughts - One Canadian guy's take on that country's political scene. He's funny, informative, and doesn't overstay his welcome at around 15 minutes a podcast.
--Gay Sexcapades - Oh boy. If you aren't interested in hearing about a 20-something gay man's sexual exploits, don't bother. But I've found the podcast strangely fascinating, even if the ultimate impression one gets is that the sex life of the average single gay man, even if he is hung like a horse, is just as banal as that of the average single straight guy.
But beyond all that...
Here are my takes on the current state of podcasting and what the future holds:
1. There are WAY too many geek- and tech-oriented podcasts, and a shakeout will occur much faster now that iTunes is podcast-enabled. What is likely to happen is that the commercial tech podcasts will cannibalize the best talent from the non-professional side.
2. The more slick and professional a podcast is, the more likely it is to keep an audience. Presentation is just as important as content, and those that don't take that to heart will lose listeners immediately and die quickly.
3. There are numerous niche markets for podcasts that still exist, and those who take advantage of them now will gain listeners and thereby get a leg up on the best advertisers. Right now, there is no decent travel-oriented podcast out there, which is quite shocking, really. Local and regional political podcasts are few and far between. So are health-oriented podcasts. Even alternative/underground entertainment podcasts that are actually interesting enough to listen to are difficult to find.
4. Major talk radio personalities will podcast their shows daily... for a healthy fee. Trust me, Apple will contract with some, if not all, of the biggies like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage, Howard Stern, Laura Schlessinger and Dean Edell and will offer their complete shows for a per-episode charge, or a per-hour download. (This will ultimately affect how those hosts program their shows, as they keep their eye on podcast revenue). I'll almost guarantee that Phil Hendrie will exercise the latter option, as he already has one "guest" per hour. On the other hand, Air America will remain free as a way to increase listenership.
5. Major content providers will dig into the vaults and create new podcasts from old broadcasts. The Best of 60 Minutes, The Best of Barbara Walters Interviews, and older news specials and/or interviews that otherwise would collect dust will soon be available for a fee. Just wait until Election 2008... we will not only have access to podcasts of Presidential debates--which will likely be free--but all Presidential debates that exist from prior years, for which a charge will apply.
6. Established musical performers like the Rolling Stones, Pearl Jam, The Who, U2 and others will eventually release podcasts of every stop on their current tours for a reasonable fee. This will all but elminate bootlegged versions, which are often sonically poor recordings from the audience, rather than the much better sounding versions from the mixing board. As a result, die-hard fans will pay for all of them. That will become major revenue sharing for Apple and those artists.
This podcasting thing is much, MUCH bigger than simply offering access to some guy recording his random thoughts from his garage. It will become big business. New talent will be discovered. And this will all take place very soon.