A podcast, as anyone under 25 can tell you, is an audio recording posted online, much like a short radio show. ("Podcasting" is a pun on "broadcasting," implying, of course, that you listen to it on your iPod or another music player.) The beauty of a podcast is that it's free and you listen to it whenever you like. And there are more than 7,000 podcasts "on the air" right now, on every conceivable topic. Their quantity and variety already dwarf what you can find on regular radio.What's exciting about podcasting is that it promises to be the second major "new media" form spawned by the web (the first being webpages themselves) to be widely and popularly adopted as a production platform by regular folks. Meaning that everybody and his sister can make a podcast:
What makes podcasting a national dinnertime conversation these days, though, is that anyone can make one. You just need a microphone, a sound-recording program, and the tutorials that have already appeared at many points on the Web, including apple.com/podcasting.Well, most folks also need a spot on the web to upload the file and a webpage with a link to allow their listeners to download it but I guess you could email your podcasts. Anyway: its dead simple to produce for the mildly technically inclined.
Podcasting has been tooling around in the background now for some time. First as the awkward marriage of audio files, blogging, and RSS feeds. Then as an adjunct to commercial radio shows and bleeding into a a lot of self-produced talking head shows without a broadcast home—and a fairly restricted listenership of early adopter types.
What brought it all to the attention of the New York Times was the inclusion of podcasting in the latest version (4.9) of its iTunes software; according to Pogue what Apple solved was the ease of use issue:
Until Apple got its mitts on podcasting, the finding, sampling and managing of podcast audio files was time-consuming and scattered. First you had to find a podcast worth listening to, using directories like www.podcast.net or www.podcastalley.com. Then you had to find, download and (in some cases) pay for a podcast-management program like iPodder (for Mac, Windows or Linux).Apple made that easy, set up a directory and services for free and integrated it with iTunes, one of the net's most widely distributed programs. Instant mass media. Podcast downloads rocketed out of sight.
You've been patient, the part about Lafayette is coming up now. It's not the consumption but the production end that got the cool treatment in Lafayette. The good folks down at AOC (Acadiana Open Channel) held an experimental podcasting workshop last Tuesday that got at least 40 people into the big room at the front of AOC to find out how to do the thing. I and an unlikely bunch of people ranging from some of AOC's talking heads to geeks, to artists, to academics, to an archivist, to plenty of just plain folks sat in the audience listened to the talk show influenced patter of the two producers. It was neat, fun and interesting. And it does seem very easy to do. AOC will offer a soundbooth for producers of podcast with an nice suite of equipment. And they've set up a website with an index of locally produced podcasts and even maintain a forum-style discusson and self-help group. (If you want a sample of locally produced podcasts you can find their podcast on podcasting (really) and podcasted Fiber for the Futurer and Whistleblower shows at the site.)
A big part of the reason this surfaced in Lafayette now --and at AOC--is that podcasting might just be the entering edge of the wedge for the widely anticipated new media production that lots of the technorati believe is just around the corner. Just as soon as we get big, cheap, univerally available broadband. That has been slow in coming. But it is now coming to this small city and the thought is that we better get good at this stuff fast. Podcasting is seen as a model of on-demand, net-resident, unfiltered, noncommercial, and wildly various user-produced media that may well displace the current broadcast-limited models. AOC, with its mission to make media available to the community is a natural fit and it gives AOC a chance to see how it might take its mission into a new net-based age. An age that will begin here before it begins anywhere else.
Kudos to AOC. Thinking ahead of the curve in this way is exactly what we all need to be doing.