Podcast II §

I want to touch on a couple of things regarding Podcasting. I mentioned a couple of entries ago what this is, but briefly again here it is a revolution in the way that people are using RSS to distribute audio and video. Specifically Podcasting refers to, so far, MP3s distributed via RSS feeds that are then downloaded and automatically added to a Playlist in iTunes and thus synched to your iPod to listen on the go. And the term Podcast was coined.

Now, first of all, there has been some griping going on about the name, and I can absolutely see where this comes from, but I think it is silly and unfounded. The argument was made that Podcasting sounds too exclusive, as if you need an iPod to do it. Certainly, that is not the case, and while that may not be completely obvious at this point in the game - hello, the boom is about 2 weeks old - it can undoubtedly be “fixed” in the future, so that the masses will not have to assume that it is tied directly to the iPod.

In fact, I can think of no other term that can be used for this rebirth of radio. Like the name iPod, it is sort of purposely untied. When Apple released the iPod, it wasn’t obvious what it was judging specifically from the name, and perhaps the argument was made at that point, from certain individuals in the know, that the product would never take off because who the hell knows what an iPod is? The fact is, we cannot digress and refer to the new radio technology as broadcasting, because it is absolutely not the same thing as what we perceive to be broadcasting. This isn’t streaming either. It is Podcasting.

Moreover, and perhaps I am biased here being the fan of Apple that I am, but what is wrong with giving credit where credit is do? The term Podcast is a sort of hommage to the iPod - arguably the single most important point of the renaissance in music we find ourselves participating in.

There are even other aspects of Podcasting, beyond the name, that I think makes it both important and dangerous to the established radio broadcasters. I touched on this a bit as well in my previous entry, but I would like to expand on it slightly here. If you listen to shows like The Dawn and Drew Show, you can see how this is different, first of all in the voice. These are real, amateur, people. In the case of Dawn and Drew they’re show is unharnessed humour. The two banter for about 20 minutes every night and the result is often hilarious. You can’t find that on radio.

Another, the IT Conversations - which is a purposely contrasting example to the last - brings excellent, albeit geeky, speakers, roundtables, and dialogues in the form of a Podcast. I know that this service has been around much longer than Podcasting has, but I never really discovered it until I could subscribe to the feed and start having these great shows (Steve Wozniak, Wil Wheaton, etc) appear automatically in iTunes. Effortless entertainment. You can’t find that on radio.

The closest you might come to the former is the “wacky” morning show on some radio stations. Which, by the way, is usually from like 7am - 10am. Well, that’s scheduled. It’s a synchronous technology. If I want to hear my daily dose of “wacky” radio, I need to tune in at those times, or miss it. And it just happens that I am listening to NPR at that time, or in class.

Which leads me to the latter, where you could conceivably argue that you might find the sort of content from ITConversations on talk stations like NPR. First, I have never heard of any radio show that will play an entire keynote from Woz, let alone other interesting speakers in technology. Of course you find things like “Gilmore Gang” (a roundtable show brought by ITConversations), but again those shows are synchronous, you get there when the radio show is ready for you to hear it.

You will notice one very important thing involved in each of these examples, and yet another reason Podcasting will take off. The fact that Podcasting is brought to you via RSS, an asynchronous information mechanism. Like Blogs and their RSS feeds, this new technology is helping to propel the notion of software and technology as consumer driven tools. My favorite blogs, when I want them, and what I want from them… likewise, my favorite Podcasts, when I want to hear them, and only what I am interested in hearing.

The implications of this are huge. The name itself is irrelevant, it can be called anything, it is the concept that is crucial, and the current ambiguity of the Podcast term lends itself to that - similar to the way the name iPod leaves the “music player” open for interpretation (can we say photos, anyone?). Like the birth of the online music store bringing previously unheard music to the forefront of interested listeners, this new technology is profound in helping the artists who can’t easily find themselves, and may not want to, absorbed in mainstream broadcast media. And inevitably it all returns to sync vs. async. Do you want to be lectured to? Or would you prefer a conversation amongst friends? The Internet is for the latter, the mainstream media likes it as the former. This is a revolution, part of a renaissance… all of it is evolution.

Make It a Discussion

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