The end of the distributed podcast ecosystem?


TL;DR: The podcasting ecosystem is starting to go through the same process of centralization that happened to text communications some time ago.

My Pocket Casts app tells me that to this date I’ve already listened to the equivalent of 214 days and 19 hours of podcasts. This averages to 3.5 hours of podcasts every day (the actual average is 1.75 hours due to playback speed) in the last 4 years.

It’s hard to say why I like podcasts so much. Probably because of the variety of topics that are offered through this medium or maybe because my favorite form of content consumption is audile. But that fact is that they’re a very important part of my cognitive development.

Currently the podcast distribution ecosystem is much akin to RSS feeds or e-mail: extremely distributed and open. Anyone can host or consume the vast majority of podcast feeds in any platform of their liking. There are some gated feeds, but these usually are destined to subscribers of some sort, but this might be changing.

Joe Rogan’s recent exclusivity deal with Spotify1 may signal the beginning of the end of this golden era. As big platforms move to control content and it’s producers, the world in which I need to pay 3+ different subscription plans to keep consuming my 116 podcast feeds looms ever closer. And the sad part is that I probably won’t do it.

I may be wrong, but this remembers me a lot of the same process of centralization through which text communications evolved. First there was IRC, e-mail and SMS, decentralized. Now almost all non-formal textual communication goes through some central node (WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook Messenger, Slack etc). Even protocols that are decentralized on paper became centralized (e-mail is dominated by Google, SMS is dominated by Apple).

Maybe as podcasting starts to move an increasingly amount of money this centralization is bound to happen.

Let’s hope that I’m wrong.

By the way: Spotify’s podcast app is trash in it’s current form. If you want to get into podcasts, I heavily suggest that you use Pocket Casts. It has has features such as fine grained playback speed control, autoqueuing of new releases, silence trimming and others. It may looks like I’m nitpicking here but believe me when I say that these features make a huge difference in your listening experience.