For Monday’s article about the rise of IBM’s Watson platform, I had to first learn a bit about Watson. I basically decided to write the post while getting ready for an hour of running and walking. Once I knew what I would write about, I got rather impatient, fearing that lack of time would make it hard to gather information and do the write-up during the remaining hours of the day. But then I realized that I could just open Apple’s Podcast app on my iPhone and search within the Podcast directory for episodes about Watson. I found a couple and thus arrived back home with a nice basic overview that I could base my continued research on.
During this process I realized one amazing side effect of the latest Podcast boom: Whatever topic of knowledge you take, there most likely is a Podcast or at least an episode hosted somewhere on the web. The challenge right now is to find it. Most Podcast apps offer rudimentary search features for names and descriptions. But usually the search capabilities were built to find full podcasts to subscribe to or episodes to listen to, not for on-demand information research. Text-based search within the audio data itself is not possible. Also not all Podcast content is indexed by the leading Podcast apps (e.g. no files hosted on SoundCloud).
While I am sure that are some cutting-edge Podcast search apps or services out there that I am unaware of, there obviously is a big opportunity in making millions of podcast hours available through a smart search interface. With people constantly being on the go and connected, there are many situations in which a text-based information acquisition is not possible, but audio would be fine. Modern smartphone OS and many reading apps now offer a text-to-speech feature, so one could listen to a Wikipedia article, for example. But in regards to listening pleasure and quality, any amateur Podcast easily beats these annoying computer-generated voices.
If there is a service already doing what I am describing, then I can at least state that it is far from the reach and popularity it deserves – otherwise I would have certainly heard about it. But more likely is that nobody has really tapped into the potential of the audio web yet. Not even Google offers a Podcast search. Considering how popular Podcasts have become in recent years, somebody really should fill this gap.