NPR gets it
Having been too busy to post the last few days, I have a bunch of stuff I want to get out.
So lets just start with an easy one.
NPR clearly gets it. They have been leading the charge in bringing podcasting to the masses (well, at least their seven percent of the masses) since the iTunes Music Store opened it's podcasting section. They have their own page on iTunes, a huge presence on the "front page" of the podcast section, and even on the main iTunes homepage. That presence comes, by the way, through decisions made by the mysterious iTunes editorial board.
More importantly, however, they have the one of most loyal subscriber bases in the podcasting community. I'm one of them - I listen to my npr.org podcasts more regularly than any other, more frequently even than the KCRW.org podcasts, of which I am a huge fan.
Why? Because I like the shows better - no, not really, I like the npr.org shows I listen to about as much as the other 20 or so podcasts I subscribe to. The answer is that they have embraced the rss technology and made it more than just a new way to subcribe to an email list.
Go to the npr iTunes page, and you'll find that you can't subscribe to the three hour show "All Things Considered". If you could, I probably would, and I would never listen to it. Instead, they offer me 47 different ways to make my own npr programming. I can subscribe to the "Unger Report" if I like Brian Unger's features, or "Sports with Frank DeFord" if I like his stuff. If I prefer that someone else aggregate for me, I can choose "Story of the Day" with is selected by the editorial board, or "Most E-mailed" if I want user agreggation. If I want the 5 minute news, I can select whatever hour I want the news downloaded to me, or I can choose an option that downloads hourly, so I can listen to up to the minute npr news on my computer or iPod.
I love that npr resists just slapping the same content you can get on the radio up online and calling it a podcast. What's novel, though, is that they're not creating new content, they're just bundling it in a way that takes into account how we will be consuming it. They're emphasising the longtail and allowing us to create our own npr programming by mixing and matching the feeds we subscribe to.
This is, of course, a great window into one of the directions that rss is going. Right now, most people are using their feeds to broadcast their own voice to a subscriber base, but this technology makes us all programmers. Soon you'll be subscribing to Chartreuse's feed, not just to read his blog, but because he's burning the hottest programming, and he'll bring you a sampling of what he likes.
I try to get my clients (and myself) to look at your feed as your whisper in the ear of your subscribers. You're saying something to your audience, and you have to think about what they'll be doing when they hear you. And you have to communicate in the active voice.
(To head off any confusion with this ear analogy, let me just say that I mean audio, video, images and text - not just audio... it's a metaphor, ok?).
I used Chartreuse as an example because he is accomplishing this with his blog feed. He talks to his subscribers. He builds his brand with a mix of his own content and other stuff he wants to share. His posts have entertainment energy, and he thinks about his titles, how much he will reveal in the feed, and what you'll have to visit the site to see. I'll point out more examples as rss moves this direction, but npr and Char are great examples.