So, what is a podcast, anyway? Frankly, the term does more harm then good. It leads people to be confused about what the darned thing actually is. Everyone always says they've not done any podcasting because they don't have an iPod.
I've always thought of podcasting like a general word to describe several things, all of which are related. What do you think of when you think of the word "radio"? Are you referring to the device, the sound-waves, or the people talking or singing through the little speaker? All three uses would be useful.
That's how I think of podcasting, or have thought of podcasting to this point. But, I've gotten in several heated arguments about this, because the term is meeting with a lot of resistance. People tell me an mp3 on a website is not a podcast. When I try to explain that it could be seen that way, they get angry.
Or they tune out, which is even worse.
In the weeks to come, I hope to clear up some of the language on my site, which is much more than a podcast. Sure, there's an RSS feed you can use to synch programs to your mp3 player. But, I find most people access the files by accessing through the website. Or, through embedded players on other sites like the one you see to your right. (courtesy of Odeo).
These might be thought of as two separate audiences, in terms of how they actually access the material, and where. I've sloppily called both of them podcasts, because that's how I think of it. I take the POD to mean "personal on demand" which may be cheesy, but more accurately reflects how I personally conceive of podcasting. Somewhere in here is a disconnect that must be resolved.
A major media executive in town told me last year that if my venture was going to be successful, I would need to follow human behavior. It's not easy to create a new media environment, but I am confident people are moving to the Web for how they get their media. Not just text, but audio and video. The key is to create content that entices people to pick up a new habit.
So, back to the point of this post. Am I truly a podcaster, or something else? At the heart, I'm a believer in the public's need to hear from newsmakers in the raw. I'm a believer in people knowing what's going on in the towns and communities around them. I've been producing features and news stories for radio for ten years or so. What I do now is just an extension of the same thing. I identify myself as an audio producer.
As I've blogged before, there's nothing more exciting than actually being live on the radio, using a medium that has a fairly long history. Generations now about the radio, and it's easy to use. But, it's only easy to use because you're used to it.
I believe people will get used to Internet radio, or podcasting, or "MP3 files uploaded to servers" (as one wag on a board where I post puts it). My job in part is to help people figure it out. My job is to create stories that engage people, and provide services that people will become to rely on.
I'll conclude this entry with one philosophical exercise. My wife sent me a link to podcast I've never heard before. She found it through Bloglines, and at first the link seemed to be broken. Eventually I found the blog for "The Best Podcast You Have" and noticed they don't have an audio player in their entries. For them, it's download or bust.
When faced with the whole "How do you get people to subscribe" question, these folks simply pass it off to feedburner. And just look at the options! Click that one button to subscribe to that podcast in your iTunes, your Yahoo player, whatever. To me, it can't be any easier.
But, most people aren't me.
So, the questions prompted by this exercise:
Are there simply too many choices to expect a large audience for Internet audio in 2006? Are potential users who might enjoy the content be getting confused? Will the local news portals become a mass-media, or simply remain a niche for those in the know? Will Vista increase the popularity and use of RSS? How will this all look in five years?