Google made some headlines this week when they announced that they will be providing podcasts as a part of their Google Play Music service. Podcasters can submit their shows today and the feature will actually go live in the coming weeks.
The big thing I have seen some people bring up is the fact that Google has some suspect wording when it comes to advertising in their terms of service. Here’s bit from their TOS that is getting everyone riled up:
Google has the right to block any Podcast Content or advertisements that contain any Podcast Creator Advertisements and/or any other advertisements that do not comply with Google Ad Policies. In addition, Google may require Podcast Creator to remove any Podcast Creator-Sold Ads from playback or display that violates Google Ad Policies as determined by Google in its reasonable discretion.
Basically what this is saying is that Google may remove “on the air“ ads that it finds to not comply with their guidelines. Some have speculated that this could mean that Google is going to listen to every podcast you put up and yank any ads for companies they compete with. You’ll never hear an ad for Bing, Hover, Mailroute, or Dropbox because they all compete with Google (but don’t worry, those Squarespace ads aren’t going anywhere). Clearly this is a worst case scenario, but they’re right that Google could do this if they wanted.
But here’s the thing, I don’t think Google has any intention to do something like this. This is an impossible task, if only for logistical reasons. Two years ago Apple reported they had 250,00 podcasts on iTunes with over 1 billion subscriptions. I know Google has a lot of resources, but are we really suggesting that they are going to drive into each one of these episodes every week to find ad reads they don’t like? Really?! I can only imagine this is a clause in there to let them remove an ad if they get reports from listeners that there is something objectionable and they would have the ability to remove it. This also doesn’t seem like a likely scenario, and ultimately I think the line is something a lawyer just said had to be in there “just in case.” Based on what I have read in the TOS, it seems like most podcasters’ only concern is with the ads Google will play before and after their shows. And that is something that really does;t bother me at all.
There is one part that does bother me a little:
Podcast Creator grants to Google all rights necessary to use the Podcast Content in connection with Google Play, in search results and in Google Now in accordance with these Podcast Terms, including, without limitation, a worldwide, non-exclusive right and license to (a) make copies, transcode, download and store on Google’s servers or servers controlled by Google all such copies of the Podcast Content, including any files that are linked to or referenced by the RSS Feed that is provided by the Podcast Creator
It starts out great, having my new episodes show up in Google Now is fantastic! But the clause gets a little distressing as it moves into the copying and storing all episodes on Google servers. On the one hand, this is good for users because it should ensure that they will be able to get new episodes quickly as they’re downloading straight from Google. However, I worry that this means I’m going to lose all analytics on people listing from Google Play. Does this mean that Google will download one copy of my show to their servers and then distribute their copy to all listeners on Play Music? Analytics aren’t everything, but they’re important in knowing if your work is being consumed and what content connects most with your audience.
The good news about all of this is that I can pull my show at any time if I don’t like how this all works in practice. I can delete my feed and I’m done, it’s out of there. But right now, I am interested in growing my audience and allowing people to listen how they want. I’ve put Bite Size Tech up on Play Music and it will be available whenever they launch the service to the public. I know where the EJECT button is on the site if things go bad, but I suspect I’ll be completely content with this small corner of the podcast listening world.