Niche podcasting works!

It’s been just one year since I launched Wessex Archaeology’s podcast, and although they’re not produced very often (on average they’re bi-monthly), it has just broken through the 20,000 download mark.

The official blurb is on Wessex Archaeology’s news blog.

The latest edition of Archaeocast was recorded on-site at Wessex’s annual practical archaeology course, and features short sound-bites from some of the students on the course who are in the 17-19 age range. What surprised me was that none of them had ever listened to a podcast. Only half seemed aware of what they were, and none realised that you didn’t need an Apple iPod to listen to them.

I admit to being a little disappointed, as it’s all too easy for people like me who have been to podcasting conference, and listen to podcasts regularly to forget that it still really is a niche area. Even though John Humphries uncertainly mentions them on Radio 4 in the mornings, and we see that most of the ‘big players’ such as Virgin Radio and the BBC are doing them, and tens of thousands of people are downloading them (and hopefully listening to them), it’s still not yet mainstream.

But it’s a start, and a good one at that. I do think that the term “podcast” is a limiting one due to the connotations with iPods, but hopefully that stigma will fade as people become familiar with the term.

For something as relatively obscure as archaeology, and commercial field archaeology at that (which often just isn’t sexy at all!), can attract such a big audience over a year is pretty good going. It shows the potential that this medium has for the heritage sector. It reminds us that there will always be people out there across the globe who really want to hear about “grass roots” heritage – how it really is as opposed to the mainstream media-fed TV or radio programmes.

Podcasting’s long tail will always be the most varied and most interesting in my opinion (I don’t want Chris Evans with or without music!), and over time will have the greatest number of listeners. So if you’re thinking of making a podcast – just go for it. Help build the biggest and best collection of niche (read: interesting) content that the world has ever seen.

Related links: Podcasting and Museums – Shock and Awe or New Opportunities? , Britcaster.

5 Responses to Niche podcasting works!

  1. James Cridland 12 September, 2006 at 4:06 pm #

    Far be it for me to comment about Evans, so I won’t – though I note you linked to him and not to us!!

    No, podcasting isn’t mainstream; and I’m not sure it’ll ever be the most popular way to enjoy the majority of audio entertainment. But, we’re doing around 160,000 downloads a month, you might be interested to know.

    Good post – though I doubt archaeology “isn’t sexy”… Tony Robinson has done a pretty good job with that there TV programme. Not that he’s sexy,. you understand.

    James @ Virgin Radio

  2. Tom 12 September, 2006 at 6:25 pm #

    Ehem, yes, let’s leave Chris Evans out of this from now on πŸ˜‰ I am remiss in missing out a link to you, consider it corrected (that’s what rushing posts out in your lunch hour does – you miss things, and people remind you!).

    I agree that podcasting in its current incarnation won’t ever become the preferred medium for audio entertainment by the majority – and it’s the niche content, the long tail, that interests me. It’s good that the big players are out there though – in a way they carry the awareness of podcasting in general by getting the terminology and concepts out there to a wider audience.

    Most people I know who aren’t podcasters or regular internet users themselves, but who have heard of podcasting, have heard about it from mainstream radio broadcasts. And that’s good for the niche podcasters out there (like myself).

    160,000 downloads per month is a phenomenal success, surely! I believe we met, albeit briefly, at PodcastConUK last year and you presented some numbers then – what’s the comparison between then and now?

  3. James Cridland 13 September, 2006 at 7:57 pm #

    Difficult to tell, since we’ve added new podcasts and changed our output; but what’s interesting is the amount of people coming into the site looking for ‘free podcasts’.

    And yes, PodcastConUK – or ‘The Bear Pit’, as I remember it… πŸ˜‰

  4. Tom 14 September, 2006 at 8:11 pm #

    Well, at a guess I expect there are an awful lot more now than there were then πŸ˜‰
    As to ‘free podcasts’ – I guess that’s because there are an increasing number of paid-for podcasts through Audible and the likes. Shame really, but there will always be people who want to ‘monetize’ to either profiteer or help pay the bandwidth bills. I’ve mixed feelings about that.
    And yes, if I recall your talk, it must have felt a bit like a bear pit! I thought that you did “get it” and that most people there “got it” – just not everyone “gets it” in the same way (and some can’t understand that), just like blogging and anything else under the “Web2.0” monicker.


  1. Vidi « Archaeoastronomy - 16 September, 2006

    […] Wessex Archaeology have also been blogging their Archaeology course. Part One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, and Nine. You can also pick up a Podcast from the event which appears to have been a deserved success. […]