Obviously, the mindset in Beijing is quite a bit different than in Burlington, Baltimore, or Butte.  And while smart, savvy information may be scarce in China, it's plentiful in the U.S. where so many more resources are widely available for free online.

Would Americans actually pay for lessons, teachings, and guidance from respected thought leaders?

Perhaps a look at the Master Class model is helpful.  Consumers pay $180 annually for “all access” to cooking classes taught by Gordon Ramsay, Aaron Sorkin pontificating on screen writing, Steve Martin presiding over the comedy curriculum, and Bob Woodward lecturing on journalism.  It doesn't get any more “expert” than that.

These classes leverage the celebrity of their famous “instructors.”  The jury is still out on whether people will pay for classes/videos delivered in on-demand form from some of the best known content creators.

And that's not far afield from where podcasting sits right now.  Today's ad-driven model may, in fact, turn out to be successful in the long run.  But dynamically inserted produced ads, live reads, and sponsorships are pretty “old school” ways of monetizing audio content – and have become shopworn, tired, and repetitive on AM and FM stations.

Maybe it's the second quarter for podcasting, and we have a lot of game left.  We may find out there are many ways to approach podcasting creation and monetizaation that may not resemble what's been done to date.  We've talked about branded podcasts in this blog before, a different way for radio companies to participate without having to create compelling, original content.

The Chinese model suggests there are different approaches that might open new financial doors for podcasting.  Americans are paying billions to subscribe to music playlist services, streaming video platforms, and satellite-delivered “radio.”  Would they pay subscription fees for truly great podcasts?

That's what they were thinking at Audible (owned by Amazon) just a couple of short years ago.  Did the model not work, was it the content, or something else?

There are more questions than answers about podcasts, whether they're about measurement, monetization, discovery, or content creation.  But if the concept of audio on-demand becomes as mass appeal as video streaming, there will be enough money to go around for many podcast producers.

That doesn't mean we'll listen to anything.  Netflix will invest a reported $12-13 billion this year toward the creation of video content – more than any other television-like network or platform.  It requires substantial investment to buy (or acquire) shows like “Ozark” and the many others we're addicted to on Netflix.

As the stakes inevitably rise for quality podcasts, re-purposed morning shows, mind-numbing interview shows, and other paint-by-numbers podcasts just won't cut it.  Radio, in particular, will not be able to mail this one in.

Success in this space will require dedicated, qualified personnel, research, investment, strategy, and innovative thinking.

It will be fascinating to see who is willing to ante up.

That old Chinese proverb – “May you live in interesting times” – continues to ring true.