OPINION: Podcasting - leave it to professionals

I used to have a newsletter business which produced marketing publications for firms to send to their clients. Then along came desktop publishing, QuarkXPress, Photoshop, and all those programmes that took the skill out of page layout.

Clients soon came to think they could do it them­selves. And, if truth be told, they could. The results were not as good as a pro­fessional would produce, but clients couldn't see enough difference to justify additional cost.

The salutary lesson though was how little they valued the editorial as opposed to the layout and make-up skills. Once clients could produce something which looked half reasonable on the page, that was the end of the story. It became obvious that they had never grasped the fact that communication is a skill, too - and that words and articles can be made easy to read or hard to read, simple or complex. Layout they could see and understand. The softer editorial skills they never apprec­iated at all.

I imagine a lot of broadcasters are experien­cing a similar sinking sensation because, just as the editorial skills in newsletter writing were under-appreciated, so now are the journa­listic skills in broadcasting. The equivalent of the newsletter is the podcast, and the equiv­alent of Quark is the web technology which now allows a computer-literate monkey to upload content onto the internet.

And the result is the same - the internet is awash with people and podcasts that cry out for a touch of professionalism.

Working as a radio interviewer is far harder than it looks - or, rather, sounds. The medium demands skills that are in short supply - which is why there are relatively few talented broad­­­casters. Publishing companies ought to appreciate this, but the huge flaw in all these multimedia exper­iments, where writing journalists are supposed to create podcasts in their spare time, is that nine out of ten should never have been let near a microphone. They sound dire. Writing an article and then reading it out on air is not enough.

If podcasting is the future, someone ought to tell those res­ponsible that very little of it seems to be working.

Anthony Hilton is City commentator on London's Evening Standard

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