Over Blogs: Here Come Podcasts
If you haven't heard of podcasting yet, I am not surprised. It's a brand new term—just invented last year (2004), in fact, by Ben Hammersley in an article for The Guardian newspaper.
Podcasting refers to the technology used to pull digital audio files from Web sites down to computers and devices such as MP3 players. "Podcast" is derived from the name of the iPod MP3 player from Apple, although you don't need an iPod to partake in podcasts.
Podcasting is a significant departure from traditional broadcasting because it removes the time requirement; you can listen to a podcast radio program or interview any time.
Think what audio books on tape did for the road warrior—turning our cars and airplane seats into mobile universities. Podcasting has the same capacity to change the way we learn and take in new information.
Podcasting isn't just about downloading MP3 files. What makes it special is that it piggybacks on RSS technology, also known as Really Simple Syndication. Some Web site owners feature their most recently published content in XML files called "RSS feeds." Software programs called newsreaders that are installed on Internet users' PCs continuously monitor their favorite RSS feeds for new content.
From this evolved specialized newsreaders capable of accepting "enclosures"—multimedia files included in the RSS feed—and downloading them to an MP3 player or a hard drive (iPodder is one example). A user of this software can be presented with new podcasts of interest collected via RSS feed in a way similar to how he would follow the latest happenings on a blog through a traditional RSS reader.
Newly available MP3 audio files that appear in a subscribed RSS feed can be downloaded to your MP3 player, burned to a CD for playback on your car's CD player or simply listened to through your computer's speakers.
The key to the early success of podcasting is its ease of use, according to Doug Kaye, founder of ITConversations.com and a podcasting pioneer. "It's as easy as waking up in the morning, grabbing your iPod full of podcasts transferred invisibly overnight, and listening on your commute to the office."
It's the job of the podcasting client that you've installed on your computer (iPodder, for example) to do the hard work of monitoring your favorite podcasts via RSS.
So far, there are hundreds of podcasts out there, with new ones popping up every day. Many are talk shows on technology, business, entertainment, sports and so on. It's amazing the quality of some of this audio commentary being published out there on the Web, free for the taking.
Business 2.0 magazine calls podcasting the "democratization of broadcasting." Indeed, anyone with a computer and a microphone can try his or her hand at being an Internet radio talk show host, and building an audience of thousands, potentially millions.
Some early adopter bloggers are podcasting to augment their predominantly textual blogs, such as the very popular and highly regarded Dave Winer. Typically, their podcasts are far from professionally produced, however. Winer's podcast posted on December 19 was a testament to this fact, as it was recorded during a road trip in his car over highway noise.
"Blogging is a written medium, and podcasting is an audio medium,". "It takes a unique skill to deliver content verbally. Some bloggers could make the switch, but many I am guessing could not. Also, one of a blog's unique features is the ability to link to other content on the Web—something that podcasting would have difficulty doing."
"People have a limited amount of time to listen to audio content," he adds. "You can't skim podcasts like you can skim blogs. Information consumers will become more discerning as they are offered more choices." Clearly, not all podcasters will win the hearts and minds of their listeners.
In a bold move, the BBC has started experimenting with podcasting by delivering the series "In Our Time" this way. The BBC also plans to put all of its radio archives online and to continue to deliver new shows online; it is possible we will see thousands of classic BBC radio shows podcast. It's great to see a traditional broadcaster right at the cutting edge of technology!
Podcast Applications to Enhance a Website.
To get started podcasting, all you'll really need is a microphone and some software. There's a great tutorial on podcasting, both for listeners and producers, on Engadget.com.
Why You Should Podcast
Podcasting has the power to change the way rich media information is broadcast. Podcasting has arrived.