Moderating Directories, Not Podcasts

Great article over on The Verge, but I have one small issue with it:

Asking it [Apple] to remove a show from its directory is like asking it to make a specific webpage inaccessible in Safari — is that something people want? Podcasting has, so far, avoided crowning one platform as king, meaning anyone, both on the creator and business side, can enter the space and possibly find success in it. That’s what makes podcasting great, even if it requires unclear answers on moderation.

The web browser analogy is close – podcasts are just audio files uploaded to web servers – but there’s a key difference. Apple (or any company) deciding to not include a podcast in its directory is not the same as blocking its URL outright. It is more akin to Google not showing certain web pages in its search results (which it does all the time, especially in the EU). This is very different to your browser refusing to load a particular web address because the browser maker has decided it doesn’t think you should see the content.

Likewise, in the Apple’s Podcasts app, you can either search a directory to find a show, or enter its feed URL manually. (Any app that doesn’t support adding feeds manually is arguably not a podcast app – I’m looking at you Spotify.) Adding a podcast by URL is how most paid podcasts work, and is the podcast equivalent of typing instead of Googling NodeJS.

For better or worse I can see Apple expanding its moderation role for its podcast directory, but just as with the web, eager listeners will always be able to find shows from some other source and enter the URL manually. This is an inherent strength of podcasting, which unlike Twitter and YouTube, is not subject to the same algorithmic recommendation spirals.

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