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A Case for an Open Podcast Directory

Wed, Jun 13, 2018 2-minute read

Podcasts have come a long way since people started just recording audio files and posting them to a website. Over the last decade the advent of RSS and mobile technology has provided publishers with the ability to produce text, audio and video content and have that content delivered directly to millions of subscribers around the world.

While many podcast enthusiasts find shows based on recommendations from friends or social media, the most common way to find new podcasts is through a podcast directory, specifically the iTunes podcast directory. Even though I no longer own any Apple devices many of the top podcast clients have search features powered by the iTunes directory. It has become the de facto place to find a new show on your favourite niche topic.

What happens if Apple decides that a podcast doesn’t fit with their brand? What happens if Apple decides that there is a great deal of value in this information they’ve aggregated and that will now be a feature accessible only to those who’ve paid to enter the walled garden of the Apple and iOS ecosystem? These are not examples of Apple exercising malicious intent, they are simply examples of business decisions that a company is perfectly within their rights to make. But it’s a business decision that would leave many podcast lovers out in the cold.

One possible solution to this is to take the Wikipedia approach and free the information.

An open podcast directory whose content is managed by the podcast listening and producing community has the potential to become the golden source of podcast knowledge and information. Being able to index and make podcasts searchable using publicly accessible APIs and providing the directory content under a free and open license that would allow producers and listeners to find each other more easily, and provide a resource for podcast clients to allow users to find new shows.

An open, or open-source podcast directory would bring the ethos of the Internet back to the task of finding and discovering new shows. Opening the directory up, using standards compliant tools and removing the overly cozy relationships that have developed over the years with mainstream content producers (read: producers with more money than talent) will help to level the playing field for producers of new and novel content.

Let’s do this, Internet. Let’s let podcasts be the open, free and level playing field they used to be.

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