Today saw the release of the final episode of Ricky Gervais’ all-conquering series of 12 Podcasts.
As Ricky Gervais will tell you (and often, if you’ll let him), he is a comedy phenomenon with record sales of his DVDs, live gigs and books. It was inevitable that he would prove the tipping point for Podcasting when it was announced that the Guardian would be hosting it, stacking up a world record 3 million and counting downloads along the way.
While I have experimented with various forms of Podcasting, from the Telegraph’s daily Podcast, to various BBC programmes, to the weird and wonderful world of amateur Podcasting, it has been more in a professional capacity to learn about the medium than as a staple of my media consumption. The Gervais Podcast, however, has become the essential accessory to my Monday evening commute and his informal chat is ideally suited to the MP3 player.
The strange sight of a commuter chuckling away to himself still provokes looks of bemusement from commuters clearly upset that someone is enjoying the daily scramble to make it home, in the same way that we still haven’t quite got used to those people with hands-free mobiles talking into space. It certainly helps to keep the seat next to me free.
Gervais’ ‘charity’ in providing free Podcasts, or ‘putting something back’ as he calls it, is also at a temporary end in another significant move for the medium. Gervais said in receiving his Guinness record: “Steve and Karl wanted to charge for the podcast. Just a pound they said. I said no. We’ve had nearly 3 million downloads so far. It’s difficult doing a show with two people who won’t talk to me now”.
Steve and Karl look to have got their way as both a new set of episodes and the full archive will be available for paid download shortly on Audible.com and iTunes Music Store and a currently advertised price of $6.95 or £3.75 for ‘at least’ 4 more episodes.
The real test will be whether people are willing to pay for the content. The Podcasts already attract advertising from the likes of Channel 4 and this form of informal chat is more commonly found on commercial radio, funded by advertising. As a representative of their target audience, I have to say I’m tempted to subscribe, although am reluctant to as the success of the series so far should be able to attract sufficient advertisers to keep it free and subscriber numbers ever higher.
The success of the Podcasts really do show once again that while innovation will always attract the curious, content is king in any medium.