For people new to the world of podcasting, there are a few hurdles to jump before feeling comfortable with the medium. First, you have to consider where you’ll listen or watch podcasts — on your computer or on your portable MP3 player. Then you have to subscribe to podcasts you want to hear, and learn how to do that. For the techno-savvy, it’s a relatively painless process, but for others it could be simpler.
Apple’s iTunes is not the perfect solution, but it does help that people are familiar with the application and use it to upload music to their iPods. So using the iTunes Podcast Directory is a step in the right direction, because you can find podcasts for subjects you like, subscribe, and start listening instantly.
But beyond the technical hurdles, I wondered how you find podcasts you like. While I have written a Guide to Podcast Directories they don’t work for everyone. Podcaster C.C. Chapman says he prefers word of mouth and personal recommendations over directories such as iTunes, but also likes the podcast recommendation engine, AmigoFish.
“Directories only go so far,” Chapman wrote. “I like the ones that highlight the newest podcasts added to the directory so that there is always a little fresh content to check out. Every Wednesday I do go into iTunes on purpose to check out which shows are highlighted that week. I’ve discovered more then a couple through that. Mostly though it’s through word of mouth and recommendations that I discover new podcasts. If someone tells me ‘C.C. you’ve got to check this out’ then I do. It’s more powerful then any reccomendation engine, but if you are looking for one AmigoFish is THE one when it comes to podcasts.”
I checked out AmigoFish, and liked the simple registration and Netflix-like recommendation system. Basically, you rate each podcast listed on the page from one to five stars (or “Not Interested”) and after you’ve rated a bunch, it will list similar podcasts that you might like based on ratings from other folks who share your tastes. It isn’t perfect by any means, but it’s a nice way to whittle down the huge universe of podcasts.
Mike Dunn, a vice president at Hearst Interactive media, concurred with Chapman about AmigoFish’s utility, and downplayed the entrance of mainstream media podcasts:
AmigoFish is by far the best recommendation engine for podcasts (audio and video) out there because it emulates exactly what happens in everyday offline life — we have a circle of friends that have similar interests to us and when we want to learn about something new, we ask them for suggestions based on their experiences. As for the growth of podcasting being due to mainstream media entering — it actually was exploding before mainstream decided to finally enter, and for the most part their entering really just cluttered the space.
There are so many podcasts out there now that an unbiased engine like AmigoFish really helps provide access to the good stuff. The top 100 type lists just don’t expose the gems down the [Long] Tail — just the ones with the largest audience, which is definitely not what podcasting is all about. Niche rules, mass market is boring.
Fair enough, especially coming from someone in Big Media. Videoblogger Casey McKinnon is not fond of directories either, but likes the VlogMap Community, an extension of Google Maps showing the location of video bloggers — and where they shoot episodes — around the world. Here’s McKinnon on the strengths and weaknesses of VlogMap:
VlogMap has a FeedBurner ranking system where you can see interactive charts of subscriptions among video podcasters. Though many of the entries are talking heads, a lot of the higher ranking entries are very interesting, entertaining shows (eg. Goodnight Burbank, Geek Entertainment TV, etc.). Unfortunately, though, there are two problems:
1. Not all shows use FeedBurner feeds, so not all shows in the directory are on the stats page.
2. Some shows, like my own Kitkast and Galacticast, have multiple feeds for different formats. So, the numbers you see on the chart are significantly lower than the actual number of total subscriptions.
Still, aside from these two issues, I think that VlogMap is a wonderful resource for video on the Internet because you can search for video podcasters all over the world (in your own area or some distant land). It is always an interesting experience in discovery.
I agree, and took a whirlwind tour of global video podcasting through VlogMap. The directory also includes user-generated tags to help you find vlogs on subjects you might like, and even a video news aggregator. But the best part is that the site was created by the video podcasting community itself, and depends on their collective work to make it happen.
So how can you find out about good podcasts, whether audio or video? There’s the iTunes directory, as well as many podcast directories on the web. There’s word of mouth from friends or colleagues. There’s the AmigoFish recommendation engine. And there’s the VlogMap Community site to see where in the world video podcasters are shooting.
Have we left out any good online resources for finding great podcasts? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
UPDATE: Pioneering video blogger Steve Garfield notes that he hosts a videocast called Vlog Soup that highlights the best video blogs around. “It’s all about being a trusted filter,” Steve says. True enough, it’s nice to have that human recommendation.
I was amazed that the ChinesePod weblog, set up to help people learn Mandarin Chinese, simply posed my question, “How do you find out about good podcasts?” to its audience and got more responses than I did!
My favorite response came from a reader named Mike: “I find podcasts or interesting sites from websites I already have an interest in. For instance, I found ChinesePod on the second day of its existance from Forumosa; the expat site in Taiwan. Sometimes links from one [site] to another are like ‘six degrees of separation.’ So it is easy to go from P.G. Wodehouse to Christopher Hitchins in less than two.”