Tod Maffin said that the problem with being a futurist is that people hold you to account when you “get it wrong”. So, I will say that this post is a combination of my (ahem) predictions and hopes for 2007.

In no particular order…

1) Podcast and RSS distribution networks will become more influential

They have separated indie bands from those signed to major labels, and they will start to increase the gap between the basement Podcasters and those who produce “gold” or have connections or money — distribution networks will bridge the gap between the producers and consumers via those who can repackage and mass-circulate content to those with influence and large audiences.

2) Apple’s M4A will become widely available

Whether through affordable licensing options or released to the public domain, Apple will make its proprietary M4A file format widely available. In fact, this will be the first step towards Apple making it possible for any portable player to hook into iTunes thus increasing the profile of its powerful online music store.

3) Tracking tools will be developed

Some genius will develop a tool to track and report on Podcast listen details (time of listen, length of listen, fast-forwards, etc…) from a portable or computer player to the creator. Who will be the first? iTunes? Microsoft? iRiver? PodPress?

4) Google will index audio

Google will launch an extremely accurate speech-to-text translator that will index audio content from RSS feeds, leaving PodScope and Podzinger in its wake.

5) Powerful commenting functions

It will become easier for listeners to participate in the conversation when someone rolls out a feature that makes it possible to cache a text or audio comment that will be sent to the Podcast producer the next time the device is synced with a computer.

6) Taking managing the media to the next level

Political parties and companies will eliminate press releases and refuse interviews, replacing them with internally produced Podcasts (audio and video) as a way to manage their public image and press relations. They will create their own reports and sound-bites and publish them through RSS using an open license for reuse by media organizations.

Here’s to the year that was, and the year that will be!