Podcasting: Turning Your Ears In A New Direction

by Marc Majers

According to Wikipedia, “Podcasting is a method of publishing audio programs via the Internet, allowing users to subscribe to a feed of new files (usually mp3s). Podcasting combines the words broadcasting and iPod. The term can be misleading since neither podcasting nor listening to podcasts requires an iPod or any portable player. Aware of that misleading association from the beginning, another little-used alternative is “blogcasting”, which implies content based on, or similar in format to blogs.” Podcasting is the best way to save online audio for your digital player. Newsweek called it “Tivo for your iPod.” Adam Curry is the father of podcasting because he actually coined the phrase. His fame as a 90s MTV VJ still might over shadow his recent podcasting stardom, but don’t let Curry’s long blonde locks fool you; he is an innovator. His daily podcast called the “Daily Source Code” has thousands of subscribers and he continues to inspire a new generation of podcasters everyday.

Podcasting has changed the way we think of radio or should I say audio. The first craze was to download songs as mp3s, now its audio books as mp3s [or that’s the way I like to think of podcasting]. It has changed the voice of audio forever because these digital files are portable; subscription-based, play-on-demand, and creates a new voice for radio amateurs. Radio broadcasting is sending a message to a small population within its range. Satellite radio or digital radio is similar in definition but is transmitting a message globally. Podcasting is global as well because it is via the Internet, but with all the above traits it adds another dimension to entertainment.

As of September 20th, The New York Times, the largest newspaper in circulation, reduced their workforce by 500 people while the Boston Globe is laying-off 160 people. Traditional media such as newspapers are feeling the pressure from new entertainment vehicles like blogging and podcasting. People want their information fast and portable. The newspaper just isn’t fast enough anymore. According to the Pew Internet, the number one statistical use of the Internet is communication and with the advent of podcasting, any desired topic can be read to you while you commute.

I like to think of podcasting like the old pirate broadcasts that would mysteriously show up on your radio dial one rainy afternoon. Sure these unauthorized shows were from the basement of your eccentric neighbor’s house, but the station would always be so riveting because it was different and unique; it had soul. However the big difference here is that the FCC would eventually get wind of your station and immediately take you off the air, while now your podcast can live freely in cyberspace. The key to the whole podcasting craze is the explosion of iPods and broadband Internet connections. This is based on the fact that everyone must have the means to listen to your show [the iPod] and then a fast, easy way to download your podcast. Once your show is posted on the Internet, it can be streamed or downloaded. The big event here is the fact that someone can download your show and put it on their iPod / computer to listen at their convenience.

How to listen?
How do I get connected with podcasting? First of all, you’ll need a computer or digital player to store/play the digital files [podcast]. Then you’ll need an Internet connection. There are a multitude of podcast providers, I recently signed up with Odeo.com, you can also go to the podcast directory at podcast.net or you can never go wrong with Apples’ podcasting resource at apple.com/podcasting. After you register, it’s a snap to subscribe to RSS feeds that may interest you. There are podcasting categories ranging from entertainment to technology. Once you signup, you will be notified every time a new show is posted. From there, you can load it into your iPod and run out the door. I would advise you to actually try one of these services to get a feel for it.

How do I create one?
Do you remember “Pump Up The Volume” with Christian Slater? Remember his pirate radio station and his alias? Now with a computer, a cheap microphone, a free audio program, server space and a little bit of technical savvy you can deliver your own message. How did I create my first podcast? I first downloaded Audacity, a free audio editor, and installed it on my notebook computer. I then bought a cheap microphone from Radio Shack which I could plug into the microphone input channel on my machine. In Audacity I created each segment of my podcast as different layers of audio which I then segued over each other. Once I had all the segments together, I then mixed-down the file, exported it as my preferred audio format [MP3 in my case] and uploaded to my server. I went with a twenty minute length, but yours may vary based on your content.

Content is king
If you are to leave here today with one major point about these podcasts is the content, the content and then the content. I believe if you are going to create one, you should have a purpose or a message. There are more and more choices of podcasts out there everyday, so with a little luck and some good content, yours could stand out above the rest. If you’re a listener and you have no desire to produce your own show, then you’ll appreciate a producer going the extra-mile to create a good show.

You’ve seen the definition, understand the history; know where to listen and how to make a podcast; do you understand why this is so revolutionary? Podcasting has changed the voice of audio forever because these digital files are portable; subscription-based, play-on-demand, and create a new voice for radio amateurs. These new-fangled digital audio files essentially give you more entertainment options. People want their information fast and portable. The newspaper just isn’t fast enough anymore. What are you waiting for? Turn your ears in a new direction; discover the world of podcasting today.

**Illustration: Ralph Solonitz
http://www.ralphstuff.com

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