Which came first: The mass production of the first home radios or the programming broadcasted to them? The answer is both. Radios spread like a contagion as consumers heard a distant studio’s music, news and laughter coming from their neighbors’ open windows. It seemed to promise something for everyone.
We’re seeing the same push-pull with mobile media. Take podcasts.
According to a survey of nearly 3,000 adults, conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, the number of Internet users who are listening to podcasts has nearly doubled in six months. Since the spring of this year, podcast listeners have grown from 7% to 12% (of all adults who use the web).
To understand this surge in popularity you need to look at two trends. First, the prevelance of portable music players. By some estimates, one out of every four Internet users now owns an iPod or other music player. True, you can own one and never listen to a podcast, just as car ownership in the middle of the last century didn’t mean you automatically went to drive-in movies. But the growth of one fueled growth of the other.
Then there is the vast depth and breadth of content. The report cites as an example Podcast Alley, a podcast directory. In two years its listings shot up from 1,000 to over 26,000. This content is also easier to access. It also doesn’t hurt that the popular iTunes system has provided even more content on its iPod-friendly download service.
Are pocket videos the next podcasts?
It appears that podcasts have hit a critical mass, and are well on their way to becoming mainstream. Will the same two trends — hardware and content — fuel a cell phone video explosion? This week I may have experienced a taste of things to come. First, I was genuinely surprised at what a hit my video-recording cell phone was.
My mobile device, The V from LG, was small enough to unobtrusively record the fun around the Thanksgiving dinner table (with my family’s consent, of course). Well after dessert was served, we were playing a guessing game called Taboo. The next morning I could show the 15-second segments on my notebook computer. Here’s an example. It was a surprisingly fun way to use this gizmo, and one that enhanced the get-together.
Not that it’s always Amateur Hour on my phone. There is also a modest selection of professionally-produced streaming video available on it. But the ability to make homegrown videos that can be played and shared with friends will only accelerate adoption of the mobile medium as a whole — especially with today’s news.
Very soon, V CAST-equipped mobile phones will become a two-way conduit to amateur videos on a massive scale. YouTube made it official today that they will be providing content to Verizon phones. In addition to user-generated content, YouTube offers brief videos that are professionally produced and categorized for easy search and retrieval. These myriad videos, appealing to nearly any taste, are likely to further fan the flames of demand for entertainment that follows you wherever you have a cell phone signal.
Hey, come here. Take a look at this miraculous, pocket-sized video screen. Let’s watch what happens next.