Podcasting saves radio?

If podcasting is going to yield a real business model for the media owners and broadcasters it probably won’t involve stations centrally creating podcasts and giving them away or selling them.

It’ll more likely involve building (or badging) a big rights-cleared library of music and other content and then making it available with some funky creation and distribution tools to the wannabe DJs out there. They’ll use it to create twenty-first century mix-tapes for their friends and – if they’re good at it – for larger audiences – true ‘long tail’ stuff.

Take Astrid. She’s got a terrific music podcast over at Switchpod. I’m pretty sure that a healthy proportion of the world’s music fans would rather listen to stuff like this than to the seamless, playlist-driven stuff provided by local radio or the Beeb. Switchpod doesn’t offer anything in the way of rights-clearance but it surely can’t be long before services like this start to kick back a percentage of their no-doubt booming revenue to the rights groups in return for allowing their users to thrash around in the archive without penalty.

In fact, the next wave of downloading services would be well-advised to add a rights-cleared roll-your-own radio toolkit as a basic service on launch. Fans obviously still want to listen to music radio. It’s just that they’d quite like to be making their own too. The good news is that – at least in Britain – the rights owners already have a legal framework for this stuff.

They’ve just spent some time coming up with a new legal concept they’re calling the Value Recognition Right (VRR) whose purpose is to stretch the threadbare rights envelope to cover currently unrecognised intermediaries like P2P networks and (let’s say) podcasting rights aggregators. My advice: get on and ratify the VRR and get your comprehensive rights-cleared content databases out there now. You never know, the podcasters might just save your business.