iTunes, Podcasting, and Paranoia

Steve raises a good point: Apple isn’t Long Tail friendly to podcasters.

As I browse through the podcasts on the iTunes Music Store at the podcasts I notice something really important is missing – The Long Tail. While each album listing points me to others people have purchased, the same metadata is missing when it comes to podcasts. We should be able to see a link that says "people who subscribe to this podcast also subscribe to…" Take a look at the images below and note the differences.

Maybe I’m just feeling a little paranoid this evening, but honestly, I’m beginning to wonder these days if Apple isn’t actively trying to push out the small time podcasters. Apple either launched a basic to the point of simply bad strategy, or a brilliantly executed ass kick to the amateurs. Over the last few weeks since iTunes 4.9 launched, the home page of the iTunes Music Store Podcasts pages have transformed to include far more "professional" podcasts than non-professional. If this trend continues, we’ll have to really dig soon to find anything that’s not from a major network.

Think about what Apple hasn’t done, and give me your feedback – are they horrid strategists or are they brilliantly evil bastards?

  • Poorly designed RSS extensions
  • A spec document for those new extensions that is barely one step above the back of a cocktail napkin
  • A total lack of feedback system for the RSS feed submission in iTMS
  • A total lack of a feedback system for the "Report a problem" process in iTMS
  • An unclear, and non-transparent system of MP3 caching
  • A non-existent explanation of what the update schedule/process is
  • A non-existent explanation of what the content moderation process is

Now, if Apple’s goal is to simple focus in on a handful of the largest content providers (i.e. networks and studios, for instance), why bother building all those things? After all, with only a handful of large content providers, they’d likely have account execs and tech teams assigned to each. Making updates and changes could be made instantly with a call from the content provider’s account exec to the Apple account exec.

But here’s the real point of doing this – you can get professionals to pay for placement. Right now, Apple only makes indirect money off of the podcasting phenomenon through the theoretical increase of iPod sales inspired by a desire to jump on the podcast wagon.

Amateur podcasters aren’t going to pay for placement within iTMS, but CBS might. Or Weblogs, Inc. might.

Who knows, maybe I’m just being paranoid, but can you blame me? Apple has always treated the enthusiast community like shit, why would they stop now?