Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Radio Wars, Episode I: Attack of the Drones

I know several people who are podcasting through the social networking outlet,  Frankly, I don't know what to make of it.

I'm a huge advocate of podcasting.  Podcasting has unlimited potential and jells with my beliefs about technology's value to society.  Podcasting, in practice, empowers a lot of people, just as I imagine Gutenberg's invention of the printing press empowered a lot of people centuries ago.  I'm not as much sold on social networking sites, i.e.; Yahoo! 360, MySpace, Facebook, etc., even though I have accounts with eight (?!?!) different sites.  I'm inactive on two of these sites -- Ning and Multiply -- and rarely active on BlackPlanet.  I'll deactivate my accounts on those sites shortly.

The remaining sites I visit with varying frequency, each for a slightly different purpose from the others.  I've been on Yahoo!360 the longest.  I kept a blog there as a public sketch pad of sorts on various ideas.  I use LinkedIn for professional contacts; prospecting and referrals.  Over at MySpace, I maintain a page for r.e.a.c.t. (the Death Star's radio network), and correspond directly with performing artists and music industry professionals.  On Meetup, I participate in groups representing specific interests of mine.  I meet a lot of individuals in the process of building up r.e.a.c.t. and as best as I can tell, not many are immune from the novelty appeal of each new social networking site as it launches.  They migrate like a herd of cattle to sign up with whichever site that's currently anointed as The New Hotness.

One such site is BlogTalkRadio, which combines the conventional features of social networking sites with audio podcasting.  With BlogTalkRadio, anyone with just a computer and broadband access can host an Internet talk radio show.  No microphone, studio equipment, or podcasting software is needed.  Best of all, you can podcast on a limited basis for free.  At this point, I must emphasize again that I believe the technology of podcasting is great and holds a tremendous amount of potential for users.  In practice, though...

BlogTalkRadio has enabled a virtual wave (no pun intended) of self-promoting Oprah wannabes, most of whom are looking to establish themselves as name brands using the 21st century equivalent of playing 45s on the family record player with a few of your best friends in the den.  I do understand the appeal of amateur broadcasting, but unlike ham radio operators, BlogTalkRadio members appear to be focused on a higher goal, e.g.; MAKING MONEY.  I don't begrudge anyone from making an honest buck, but a lot of the BlogTalkRadio crowd will have you believe differently, as if they're a) promoting a charitable cause or, b) really providing you with an outstanding advertising opportunity.   Another of my best friends who happens to be a professional journalist has been so seduced by the BlogTalkRadio craze, he dutifully reports for weekly debates on another member's podcast (!) like he's getting paid.  (He's not.)

I've attempted to network with several BlogTalkRadio podcasters under the assumption they would welcome the opportunities to leverage r.e.a.c.t. as a conventional media resource.  Silly me.  I have my doubts as whether they recognize n-e-t-w-o-r-k-i-n-g is a two-way ('interactive', for you nerds) endeavor that requires users to cede something in consideration of the resource.  I am regularly spammed on Facebook by four different individuals to this end, and I find it a bit annoying, if not all out hypocritical, because they aren't about returning the love.  When you throw a dance, you gotta pay the band, right?

I'm content with feeling BlogTalkRadio's podcasters aren't much different from those who ran out and bought CB radios in the 70s, only to waste the bandwidth blabbing on and on about their various personal melodramas.  The people serious about radio, music, and/or webcasting are on a different frequency.