What is ‘podcasting’?
The term ‘podcasting’ just hit the internet within the last couple of
months. It’s getting a lot of mention by bloggers and other internet
publishers, some going so far as to say it’s the “next big thing”.
Fine. But what is it?
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Podcasting is a term coined by Adam Curry (of MTV
VeeJay fame, and one of the web’s modern pioneers) that boils down to this
An on-line publisher produces audio content in the form of an mp3
That mp3 file is referenced as an enclosure in that publishers
Folks who want to listen to that content subscribe to that RSS feed using a
program called iPodder.
iPodder automatically downloads the mp3 file when it’s published. Typically
folks schedule this overnight when the computer and its internet connection
would otherwise be idle.
iPodder automatically loads the mp3 file into iTunes, Apples digital music player.
iTunes automatically loads the mp3 file onto the listener’s iPod portable music player. (Hence the term
Listeners get up in the morning, grab their iPod and listen to the content
they want, when they want.
Most people think that podcasting is limited to RSS feeds that provide
content in enclosures, and that you need iTunes and an iPod to do it. Not true
If you read through that scenario, podcasting is really nothing more than a
structured synchronization of certain types of files. Any of those steps listed
above can be replaced or augmented with several different alternatives.
Let’s run that scenario again:
An on-line publisher can actually produce content in just about any form.
MP3 files are certainly the most common and arguably the most useful, but it’s
quite possible you’ll see alternate audio formats as well as video files being
made available sometime soon.
That content can certainly be delivered in an RSS Feed, but other
alternatives are also possible. My current favorite is using Replay Radio (essentially Tivo for internet radio)
to record regularly scheduled broadcasts of stations that broadcast on the
iPodder + iTunes + iPod is a great, streamlined solution. However, Jake
Ludington has put together a good overview of how that scenario can instead be:
iPodder + Windows Media Player + your own MP3 player in this article: Podcasting with Windows Media Player. It’s not quite
as streamlined yet, because iPodder currently won’t automatically populate
Windows Media Player with the downloaded files.
Listeners grab their favorite portable (or non-portable) MP3 player and
listen to the content they want, when they want.
Naturally I’ve been experimenting with this technology as a consumer, and I
think it has a lot of promise though for now I think it remains in the realm
of gadget or computer geeks who can put all the parts together. I’ve used
iPodder to download Adam Curry’s daily show which is provided as an RSS feed.
I’ve used Replay Radio to grab various shows off of the internet so I can
listen to them when I want to. I’ve played some with using Windows Media Player
to manage the synchronization to my SD flash ram card, and fired up the MP3
player on my Treo cell phone, as well as my portable TDK MP3 player. There are
a few missing links (I don’t understand why car stereos still don’t
have an audio input jack), but overall it’s enabled me to make better use of my
time as I listen to what I want, rather then whatever’s on.
I’m also experimenting with this technology as a publisher. I’ve upgraded
the Ask Leo! RSS feed to carry attachments when
present, and have recorded audio versions of several recent articles, including
this one. In theory, that means I’m podcasting as the scenarios I’ve outlined
above can all now consume my audio feeds. It’s been suggested and I plan to
try podcasting my next video tip. There’s
nothing really standing in the way.
A final, somewhat editorial thought; one person I talked to was unconvinced
that podcasting was going to be very interesting because the podcast he
happened to catch was “boring”. Certainly new content delivery technology,
which is all podcasting really is, isn’t going to make the content any better.
Publishers still need to have something good to publish. To me, podcasting is an
interesting approach because it puts me back in control of what I choose to
listen to, and when. If it’s boring then I won’t subscribe, and I’ll listen to
something else. The challenge to the future of podcasting is the same as any
budding technology; make it easy for the masses to consume and good content