In 50 years, the golden age of podcasting could turn into a dark age
PRESS RELEASE — February 6, 2019
New York NY, USA—As part of of the Preserve This Podcast initiative funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Metropolitan New York Library Council has released findings from a recent survey of 556 podcasters and podcast professionals from over a dozen countries regarding their understanding and usage of preservation practices.
The results of the survey show that most people making podcasts have little idea of the risks posed to digital files. The majority of respondents (62%) are “not at all” familiar with archival practices when it comes to managing digital files. Overall, people who produce podcasts for an institution, like a network or radio station, have stronger preservation habits than people people who make podcasts independently. Of the 27% of respondents who back up uncompressed versions of all of their files, 68% of them have an institutional affiliation.
Download the full survey
But the survey also shows that these institution are not communicating their preservation strategy, if they have one, with their producers. Of the respondents who make podcasts for a larger organization, 28% of them say that are not aware of their organization’s backup strategy, and 11% said their organization has no system in place. The survey also shows that most podcasters are relying on commercial third-party services to store their files, which pose significant risks as long-term storage solutions. 54 percent report using Dropbox, and 64% use Google Drive.
Today, 7 3 million Americans, about 26% of the population over age 12, are listening to podcasts monthly. Apple Podcasts provides access to over 400,000 shows in over 100 languages, and it receives over 1000 new show submissions every week. But as a newer medium, podcasting is at risk of following in the footsteps of other audio and video media that have lost large archives of content from their nascency.
Given the decentralized nature of podcasting, it is difficult to determine how many podcasts have already disappeared. But according to a cursory sample of 125 shows from the 2005 Podcast Core Sample on the Internet Archive, about 87% of podcasts from the 2005 era are no longer available online. 98 percent of them are no longer available in Apple Podcasts. For the majority of these podcasts, their RSS feeds are no longer maintained, their website URLs have expired, and their audio files are no longer playable. It is difficult to determine how many of their creators have taken steps to preserve these episodes on their local devices.
“Implementing a digital preservation strategy is absolutely crucial for any modern media institution, but it’s rarely the top priority,” says Dana Gerber-Margie, a co-founder of the Bello Collective and co-lead on the Preserve This Podcast project. “Independent creators’ work is even more at risk. Most commonly used data storage devices only live for about five years, and we need it longer than that. This is about preserving our public discourse for future generations. It’s part of a thriving democracy.”
In addition to the survey, Preserve This Podcast has published a zine available for download on the Preserve This Podcast website, and will launch a series of workshops and a five episode, biweekly podcast on March 21. The podcast will spotlight individual producers as they learn and implement a series of best practices designed to help them preserve their podcasts for future generations.
About The Metropolitan New York Library Council
Located in New York City, the Metropolitan New York Library Council (METRO) is a non-profit member services organization serving more than 260 libraries, archives, museums, and cultural heritage nonprofits in New York City and Westchester County. For over 50 years METRO has provided a range of programs and services to its members, including grants, consultative and digital services, collaborative initiatives, and professional development and training.
About Preserve This Podcast
Preserve This Podcast is a campaign to protect podcasts against the threats of digital decay. The Preserve This Podcast zine, podcast, and traveling workshops promote affordable, easy-to-implement archival techniques for digital audio preservation. It is funded by the Andrew W.Mellon grant-funded project hosted by the Metropolitan New York Library Council (METRO) through January 2020.
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