Over dinner with Andrew Devigal last night (that’s me, knocking back oysters), got talking about the massive amounts of bandwidth it takes to run a successful podcast. This Week in Tech, for example, reportedly chews through a terabyte a week. The only reason they can afford to do it is that AOL donates the bandwidth.
Started thinking about how badly RSS stats skew traffic logs. I’m subscribed to maybe 100 sites, and my aggregator is pulling feeds once/hour. I end up actually viewing those feeds maybe twice a month. The ratio of bandwidth consumed to media digested is just silly. Now map that same problem onto podcasting and you see the problem. I subscribe to around 20 podcasts but only listen to three or four of them regularly. Now multiply me times a few million podcast listeners out there. Massive amounts of bandwidth are being wasted to download serialized media that never actually gets consumed by the consumer.
There’s got to be a fix for this dilemma, or podcasting will be pulled underwater by its own anchor. First of all, RSS aggregators, and podcast aggregators in particular, need to grow some AI, and should politely recommend that untouched feeds be unsubscribed, or at least put into some kind of stasis. But that’s a voluntary solution, which could only mitigate, rather than solve the problem.
Another approach would be to take the load off single connections through seamless integration of BitTorrent (or similar technology) into podcast aggregators. The trick there will be not so much download/format recognition as discovery. Here‘s a tutorial on setting up a .torrent podcast… but until the discovery/consumption side of .torrent podcasting is solved, we’re still where we are right now — if you’re not listed in iTunes or similar, you’re not on the grid.
And ultimately, .torrent casting would only distribute the bandwidth wastage evenly across the network, rather than solve it.