Ruminations on podcasting

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?


500 posts on Charlottesville Podcasting Network

I don't want to disrupt the normal cycle of the Charlottesville Podcasting Network, so I'll just announce here that I've just posted the 500th post to that site. The numbers have gone up to about seven podcasts a week since we began providing audio archive editions of WINA's Charlottesville--Right Now with Coy Barefoot. We've also continued producing features, as well as providing platforms for other area podcasts such as The Food Geek and Gentech.

Of course, there's also WNRN's Sunday Morning Wake-Up Call, which was the very first radio program we began offering up as a podcast. That led to me working for WNRN as a news reader every Tuesday and Friday, something that's revitalizing my desire to work as a news reporter. In the fall, I'm hoping to redouble my efforts to produce more pieces for Virginia public radio stations.

So, you may ask how it's gone so far. Have I met my goals? Have I been successful? I've certainly had some media exposure, and I've been able to make a small living after Court Square Tavern closed. I'm doing work for the University of Virginia and I've established a marketing agreement with the Daily Progress. I'm certainly not lighting cigars with burning twenty dollar bills, but the work has been interesting, and it's certainly been fun being part of something new.

And speaking of something new, I'm rolling out a daily podcast fairly soon featuring regional headlines. I feel you can never have too media outlets, and that there's room for an online newscast. Of course, this project will require some capital and an underwriter, and that's what I'm working on at the moment.

There's so much I'd like to do, and I'm limited in what I can do by the needs of my family. At some point soon, I'm going to have to reevaluate everything I have been doing, and see what's going to work out best for us long-term. I'm confident it will all work out, but what's it all going to look like?


Nielsen: We're number #182

According to Nielsen, Charlottesville has moved up three spots to become the 182nd television market in the country. In case you're keeping score, that's because we've got 83,850 "TV homes" in the area. Harrisonburg is the 181st market, with 87,630 television homes.

I wonder what Doc Multimedia will think of this, and if it will help him get his desired HD?


The end of the summer

How can it possibly be August 18th, with students expected to descend on town tomorrow morning? Where did this summer go? It seems like I just recorded U.Va's graduation ceremonies.

For that matter, where's the whole year gone? In about five minutes I'll be writing about how I can't believe it's Christmas.

Is there a way to stop time, or at least, to slow things down a bit? Perhaps a way to pluck the strings of reality a little bit differently then we're used to? When I work the morning news shift at WNRN, I definitely feel very different. Waking up at 4:00 just adds five hours to my day, because I certainly don't get any more sleep. And now that I'm doing it twice a week (Tuesday and Fridays!) I wonder if I should readjust my life and just decide to wake early every single day.

Now I'm talking crazy.

But yes, the end of the summer, but of course, it's going to be warm for a while. While I walked my dog the other day I noticed all sorts of yellow and brown leaves on the sidewalk. This week's cooler temperatures have been very welcome. The beginning of the college football season makes me happy. The return of my favorite television shows is something to look forward to. I'll be going to England in late October and early November. So, there's a lot to look forward to.

There's also more podcasts to look forward to, but there's also the business to maintain. My daughter will mark her first birthday, and I'll curse our oak-tree laden back yard.

What has your biggest accomplishment been this summer?


Law and Order: Special Letters Unit

So, I have a tenth-month-old daughter. She's awesome. Anyone who doesn't have kids, I want to say, don't worry: It's great fun when they start learning how to speak. Josephine can utter certain phonemes which do represent things in the real world. Watching a human being learn to speak is fantastic.

And, I am anticipating that watching a human being learn to read will be just as amazing and fantastic. So, as a public service, I want to announce something.

Sesame Street has my vote as an absolutely cool television program.

Now, now. Most people think Elmo has killed the show. Joel Stein even takes it task in a recent article. He quotes the creators of Wonder Showzen as saying "Elmo doesn't grow. People show him something and he laughs. He doesn't learn a lesson."

And, okay, on that basis, yes, the show seems to be produced at a lower level of quality then when I was a toddler in the mid 70's. My dad used to brag that the show helped teach me how to pick out letters before I was 3. I could read pretty well before 5. My sister is the real one who did most of the heavy-lifting. But, Sesame Street made it seem real.

And so, I was quite surprised when I learned through TVSquad that Sesame Street's debut featured a parody of Law and Order's Special Victims Unit. An odd choice, as many have said, but yet, it's kind of cool to watch. I love how all the in-jokes are in theme. The Mallard, Murray the Cow, for instance.

Here's the show:

Television is inevitable with children. It was with me. I loved this stuff when I was a kid. Mid-70's Sesame Street and the Electric Company filled me with a sense that language was playful, and rules of language were to be taken with a grain of salt. This video from Sesame Street reminds me of the best approach to teach words and language - through making it silly.

There will no doubt be a lot of flack that a show like Law & Order: Special Victims Unit should not be referenced to on a show like Sesame Street. But, should we really think five year olds are going to seek out a 10:00 program?

As an aside, YouTube is the best thing to happen to an old nostalgic like me. Check out this clip from classic Sesame Street. I don't consciously remember this, but watching it kind of made me tear up for my lost childhood.


Three weeks gone by?

How did three weeks go by since the last post? For the life of me, I am a little unclear of how that happened, exactly. This entire summer is almost over, and of course, I'm wishing it will be soon because I'm ready for sweaters and jeans once more.

I'm also ready for Court Square Tavern to re-open. I'm torn between working there and working there again. On the one hand, I'd like to be there for grand re-opening, but on the other, I've done okay without it, financially.

But, really, three weeks since a post. On here, at least. I'm posting several things a day to the Charlottesville Podcasting Network site. But, nothing here.

Part of this is because adding WNRN to my work week has sped things up. I've been reading the news once a week, but for three out of the past four weeks I've gone up to two days a week. This has meant rethinking my work week. It doesn't pay very much at all, but it has begun to take up a lot more of my time.

July was not a heavy month for me getting stories on WVTF. I've mostly spent my work weeks working on Reunions Weekend 2006 material for the University. I've also been thinking of new ideas for how to shape the CPN site into something that allows for the influx of new material we've had. Since Monday, there are ten new podcasts. You can check many of them out in the Odeo player just to your right.

Or take a look here:

A review of Clerks 2 by Ian Solla Yates on WNRN's 91 Seconds on Film
The Urinetown Trailer from Johnny St. Ours, produced for Live Arts
Mohamed Yahwa of the Darfurian advocacy group Damanga Coalition for Freedom and Democracy, courtesy of WINA's Charlottesville--Right Now
A growth update from Brian Wheeler of Charlottesville Tomorrow (CRN)
Delegate Brian Moran on transportation funding (CRN)
Jackson Landers of Rule .303 (CRN)
GenTech #4: Voice over IP and instant messaging by Steve Whitaker
Podcast2.0 show#2: Revisiting the Key Question
Bill Emory on the Woolen Mills neighborhood (CRN)
Coy Barefoot interviews Dr. Richard Deth about the mysteries of autism (CRN)