Adam Curry recently announced the launch of a new radio show on Sirius that will be based upon user contributed Podcasts. This is great marketing. It gets Adam and the Podcast concept in front of lots of people, and that’s great. (I think of it the same way as I think of Sploid. A pre-compiled sampling of what some other people find interesting. On most days I find I’m interested as well.)
But where I get confused is in the idea that this is somehow a citizen’s media triumph. This strikes me as mostly about old mass media trying to stave of the encroachment of a rival “open” network model of content distribution. (I can hear the executive meeting reaching the crescendo, “Hey, instead of us deciding what people are going to want to hear, let’s ask Adam Curry! He involved in all that Blogging and Podcast stuff! He’ll know!”) But this isn’t really “open.” Sure, people can contribute content with the hope of alighting Adam’s interest, but this isn’t some pot luck dinner in which everyone in town is invited, it’s Ruby Skye at 11pm on a Saturday night.
It isn’t Adam’s fault, it’s just that radio inherently operates within a closed network governed by the economics of scarcity. But my understanding of citizen’s media is that it is inherently open (ie bidirectional) and governed instead by the economics of abundance. In other words, everyone is free to contribute and everyone is free to consume anything. I can create a blog about the trials and tribulations of my one legged cat and have an audience of exactly 3 people. That’s fine. The cost of publishing and the cost of reading are not demarked by dollars, but rather time and attention.
Satellite radio doesn’t operate this way. Satellite radio is expensive to create and broadcast. It’s the head of the curve, where all the mass market stuff lies. It has to be or it doesn’t justify the investment. Adam’s Podcasts are going to be all about what Adam (and hopefully lots of other people) find interesting. It’s just that Adam’s going to be better at sorting through the chaos than anyone else at Sirius, and instead of content originating from the creative staff at Sirius; it comes from a bunch of individuals. But, like Current.TV, it’s just replacing the tyranny of a few guys in Hollywood with the tyranny of popular public opinion (or in this case, Adam’s opinion).
This is kind of like saying that every time Jeff Jarvis appears on MSNBC armed with content from the blog community that it’s some great triumph for citizen’s media. It isn’t, it’s a marketing effort. It makes people who listen to “closed” mass media sources more aware of new “open” media sources. But it’s not citizen’s media. It’s just Jeff.