Years and years and years ago (OK, I’m feeling Boomer today), I was involved in the sale of a GUI-based application to the phone company. They resisted and resisted, despite our (and, unsurprisingly, Microsoft’s) ever-more-urgent importuning. We kept telling the executives that this was the future, it was the way they had to go and, damn it, you really need to get into the mid-1980s. They wanted to stay with character-based apps, but as the phone company used to regularly do (at least when I was with IBM), they did what we told them to do.
Such were the GUI wars.
But I didn’t realize that the war had ended…that we had “won”…until one Sunday in the early 1990s. I was, as I was wont to do, red-faced and furious on a Sunday afternoon at the amazing ineptness of the New England Patriots, who if I remember correctly, were losing 5000 to 0 to the Dolphins, when a Dodge Ram commercial interrupted the carnage. That commercial’s visual metaphor was a GUI. I realized that what was once “never going to happen” had now happened so completely, so permanently, that people didn’t even remember when they didn’t use and understand GUIs. It had crossed from a technological feature to a cultural idiom.
I’m not talking about Crossing the Chasm-style adoption. Instead, I am talking about how resistant everyone seems to be to something after which they are not only passive to it, they have amnesia about what life, or technology, or sports, or anything was like before they adopted whatever it is they’ve adopted en masse. It’s like we’re dogs: we live only in the moment.
So it is with podcasting. Nobody believes podcasting will ever be a mass medium. Nobody believes it can change the world. Pshaw! Phooey! Feh! All podcasting can be is a niche thing for techies.
Well, they didn’t spend Sunday afternoon with my college-age daughter and me. Returning from dropping my other kid off at summer camp, Sarah whipped out her iPod, plugged it into the car and said, “Dad, wanna hear my nursing podcasts?”
“Nursing podcasts? I didn’t know you were into podcasts!”
“Sure, Dad. [You helplessly out-of-tune old fart]. I listen to a bunch of ’em.”
It was an instant replay of the Dodge Ram commercial. This new medium, which software company clients as recently as 2006 were insisting was irrelevant, to which nobody paid any attention, had reached its final destination: a fait accompli. And nobody remembers a time when they thought podcasting was a waste of electrons, spent for the enjoyment of social misfits.
Instead, podcasting, is, and always was, an excellent way to reach specific audiences. It’s part of every nutritionally well-balanced software company’s marketing strategy. Podcasts are the best way to reach your audiences….and they always have been.
The way people seem to be acting about this — without any connection to the previous reality — is gonna put a whole bunch of singing fat ladies out of business. After all, if nothing’s changed, who needs ’em to signal a transition?