The Emperor’s New VidCast / VidPod

While I am in love with my ipod and am not more intrigued by podcasts than my previous ramblings, I am not one who is taking the leap of assumption that the next great thing is going to be “video” iPods and “VideoCasts”. Nope, I am not convinced at all. I can easily be wrong, but follow my thoughts.

It bears some consideration of the media, and how we access it. Audio content is something we are able to tune in to and listen while we do other tasks. That is one of the big reasons podcasting and publishing digital audi has a lot of potential– it gives people the flexibility and opportunity to access content (be it Cats Purring Sea Chanties or audio books, or shudder the thought, “lectures”) while they are doing other things- it makes use of time we are exercising, commuting, traveling, to access content. Audio works well in multitasking.

I cannot imagine the same for video. To tune into to video content, you are required (or should) be focusing on it, and it is not something you can do while doing other things (well maybe on the plane or the bus). Video content does not take advantage of your “down time” or “busy time”- it needs time of its own.

More factors- audio content is much easier to produce, especially for mere mortals. Yes I know video editing is easier, but you are still dealing with a more complex media, having to have decent equipment not only for the sound but lighting, etc.

Audio content is also less bandwidth intensive, especially when appropriately compressed.

While I think the subscription model of podcasts may have some value for distribution of video content, I remain to be convinced that video content will have the same impact and bang that audio does. Don;t make the leap from audio content to video content without considering the differences in the media.

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. I see two problems with “vidcasting” – bandwidth and modality.

    Bandwidth is easy. Can’t squish enough data through a pipe to get a decent video. Give it time.

    Modality is the hard one. Portable devices (which make this stuff actually compelling – different than just streaming media to your desktop) are typically used in a modeless fashion – while jogging/commuting/whatever. Video requires a more modal form. You have to stop and watch the video. It’s not background or ambient (otherwise, it’s no different than just audio).

    I’m sure people will be using podcasting to distribute videos (as many are already), but it’s just not as compelling a combination as plain audio + podcasting + portable player. IMHO, of course…

  2. Can’t agree more with you. However, I do see some interesting potential for it. Think about this: Your Tivo has a menu item for ‘subscribe to fee’ on it. You add in someones vidcasting feed, and then your Tivo takes care of downloading it, no different from the way it currently records CSI.

    No more waiting for Thursday night, when the episode is completed, it could simply be relased and everyone who subscribes can recieve it. Just imagine a world without ‘prime time’. Now, take things a step farther. All of those shows that quite simply can’t get national coverage, they could have a home through vidcasting. All of those shows that are basically a joke because of political and corporate issues (think Crossfire) can exist without any of ‘baggage’. I’ve heard dinner conversations that did a better job of representing the left and right about current issues.

    As to complexity, it doesn’t necessarily HAVE to be such a challenge. Think about iChat AV. You could easily have a video conference call with 6 talking heads discussing an issue. Record each of the feeds, switch back and forth, save it as an MP4 and send it out. It could be just slightly more complicated as recording a Skypecast, editing it and releasing it.

    I don’t think we’re quite ready for Vidcasting to take off like Podcasting just yet, but I definitely think it’s going to have it’s own revolution in a year or two. Tons of potential there, there’s just a few reality issues to deal with first!

  3. Good points (as always) Steve.

    I can see your picture, but am trying to think how long it will take for it to go beyond the innovators stage. I am just seeing blogging come more of a mainstream interest here in our system (which means more people asking, “what about this ‘blogging’ thing?”, so there is another lag for podcasting, and another for….

    And as far as subscriptions, I have to admit I do not have any sources yet where I want EVERYTHING they publisha s podcasts. The few I have tried setting up in iPodder I find myself deleting more than listening. Actually, most of the things I tap into I have manually downloaded as MP3.

    I’d like to see some more intelligent filtering, selection tools beyond all or nothing.

  4. Here here. That’s something that I want to address with EduCasters.net. Right now I just have to get it off the ground, but eventually I want people to be able to subscribe to tags or keywords and have feeds that only grab shows that refer to those tags. So if you’re into Elementary Education, you won’t grab a show by Dave Warlick that is exclusively about secondary. Or if you’re really into Science, it will grab a Teachnology podcast reviewing science sites, even if you didn’t know that there was such as a podcast as Teachnology. Sort of intelligent feed creation. However, we’re so far away from that happening that I hate to get too excited about it.

    The best thing about all this is just how new it is. I like to say I have the longest running educational podcast that’s actually active. What does that mean? I’ve been doing it since December! That’s it! Podcasting really can’t even say that it has celebrated its one year anniversary yet. But what a year it’s been! NBC here in Chicago is creating 3 daily podcasts. A major motion picture used podcasting to help promote it (House of Wax), radio stations everywhere are rebroadcasting their shows in podcast form and one station is now in the process of replacing traditional DJ’s with podcasts.

    What really has me excited is that we’re still at the front of the wave. We still haven’t seen just how high it’s going to get before it reaches the shore. As Will is so fond of saying, “Have I mentioned just how much I love all this?”

  5. While I admire and respect the opinions of both Mr. Levine and Mr. Norman, I must disagree with them about their outlook for vidcasting, video blogging, etc. Both gentlemen point out the modality of vidcasting as one of its major flaws and how podcasting offers users the ability to multitask. True, it would be difficult (and dangerous) to watch a vidcast while jogging or driving, and one’s boss might not approve of watching a vidcast during working hours. It would require someone to download and watch the video from their own computer or connect it to a portable media device (still not common but wait a year and see what happens). If having to focus one’s attention on a computer screen is the downfall of vidcasts, then it surely must be the downfall of text blogs. Are we not focused on our computer or PDA screens right now as we read? Is anybody jogging or driving right now as they note my semi-educated but seemingly common-sensical comments?

    The other point I would make regarding the potential for vidcasting is related to television itself. We began with printed text and moved to radio and then to television, but the creation of the newer technology did not eliminate the previous. Text, audio, and video all have their place in our world. Convergence devices will soon make it easy to download independent and free video content to view on our TVs or on our personal media devices.

    While I’m not fully convinced that vidcasting is ready yet due to the time it might take to produce each episode, programs such as Serious Magic’s Visual Communicator or Vlog it (no I’m not a sales rep of any kind) will cut that learning curve and production time to its knees.

    I appreciate the critical comments toward any new technology and, while I am admittedly a geek who loves his toys and that ‘next best thing’, I think it’s healthy to examine potential problems and force any new educational technology to stand on its own feet before full adoption. Unlike others in this forum, however, I believe that vidcasting will provide users another important avenue to learn and be entertained from independent thinkers.

  6. Danny,

    I would be the first to admit that my crystal ball is likely defective. My *main* point was to address the hyberbolic jump from audio content being successful as podcasts to say “it is obvious that video will follow the same track”. I think the media forms of text, sound, video (smell? is there an odorML?) need to considered with respect to their capabilities.

    I also make no argument of any one media form replacing another. Nor do I say that all technology need to be multi-tasked.

    I do maintain the podcasting/portable audio phenomena has taken off because (a) it is an activity we can engage in without sacrificing our most previous commodity (free time) and (b) The technology, tools for listening and production are simple and avaialble at no/low cost.

    And I would be very exciting and eager for a giant tidal wave of new compelling content in video form. If VidCasting takes off, I am hapy to order up a big plate of humble pie. But I *am* doubtful, with 20 years multimedia experience behind me, that video of people ***talking*** is really that form. Now, if it expands into some sort of grass roots video coverage of current events, or expands the space of creativity, or gives me something that I cannot get in other forms, bring it on.

    I do agree with your last sentence and I stand that I am not one who is giving vidcasting no chance of a bright future… I do remain my own right to be skeptical and open at the same time. It was just a few months ago I was trash talking podcasting, and that has turned around.

    But in the end, thansk for writing, and keep on pushing the envelopes.

  7. I think that vidcasting definitely has a future, and that we’ll probably start seeing it come into being fairly soon. But I agree that it won’t fill the same niche as podcasts.

    In my opinion, the driving force behind vidcasts will be commercial content. As Steve mentioned above, it could be used as a sort of add-on to your TiVo, though I think its future is even brighter than that. My vision of vidcasts is true on-demand television. TiVo has brought us closer to that goal by letting us watch the shows we want to watch when we want to watch them. But vidcasting will let us watch them when and where we want to watch them.

    I spend over an hour each day sitting on a train going to and from work. Currently I fill that time reading and listening to music. One of the applications of podcasting that I’m exploring is setting up my computer to record audio streams and turn them into podcasts. If I want to listen to a certain radio broadcast that happens to be on while I’m at work, away, sleeping, &c, I want to be able to just tell my computer to record it for me (as you would with a television show and TiVo) then, later, just grab my iPod and listen to that broadcast during my commute. The same thing could be applied to vidcasts. Instead of just TiVo-ing the shows I want to watch so I can watch them later, I could vidcast them to my video-iPod and watch them whenever I have the free time regardless of where I am.

    There’s all sorts of evidence suggesting that something along these lines might be coming from Apple in the near future, and I’m not the only one who thinks so.

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