Podcasting & Video Blogging
See sections below for History & Context, Podcast Tools, Media Mentions
A quick definition: Podcasting is a method of offering listeners
subscriptions to audio
(or video) over the Internet through websites that offer amateur or professional programs as digital files. As the name
suggests, "podcast" software also
can put the downloaded shows on a listener's iPod or other portable
audio player. Less-mobile listeners may do all the subscribing
and listening on their computer. (Some people call receiving
podcasts "podcatching," although the word seems as unnecessary as
"radio-receiving" or "TV-ceiving," which we usually call "listening" and "watching.")
Podcasting was popularized in 2004 by a handful of weblog software
developers and bloggers, including two professional broadcasters on
opposite sides of the Atlantic who had both found themselves blogging between radio and TV jobs. (More about them below.) Bloggers and software developers launched their own podcasts, adding a much more informal tone. While
the idea of "Internet talk radio"
was more than 10 years old in 2004, podcasting took advantage of more recent technologies: high-speed Internet
connections suitable for downloading large files, digital music player software
and devices, the ubiquitous MP3 audio format, weblog software, and the blog-inspired subscription format
called RSS (Really Simple Syndication). The popularity of the iPod music player, which inspired the "podcast" name, probably gave the concept a boost... In turn, the independent developers' use of the "pod" syllable probably tempted Apple to look closely at the technology.
For the podcaster, podcasting is like having a personal broadcast transmitter.
For listeners, it's like having a free VCR or TiVo
for audio or for Web video -- a way to listen or watch programs at
any time. As a bonus, because podcast programs can download overnight, users are
spared some of the network buffering problems of "streaming" live or archived programs.
By mid-2005 most major newspapers had reported the phenomenon,
thousands of podcast programs were being offered, and the stage was
set for a commercial push. In June 2005, Apple (as journalists put it)
mainstream" in the click of an mouse -- a year after those
weblog-and-audio innovators created their hybrid medium and (oops?)
adopted a name base on an Apple product. They should have
probably did see) what would happen eventually:
"Apple Computer... has thrived by executing the same essential formula over and over: Find
an exciting new technology whose complexity and cost keep it out of the
average person's life. Streamline it, mainstream it, strip away the
geeky options. Take the credit."
(from The New York Times)
All Apple had to do was make the "podcatching" part of its iTunes
software, which already took care of transferring sound files to iPods.
Some fans of the form, probably conscious of Apple waiting in the wings, had insisted
almost from the
beginning that the "pod" in "podcasting" was short for "personal online
delivery" or something similar,
not the name of the pocket-size Apple music player. But the
ability to syncronize an iPod with downloaded music really was part of
the inspiration for podcasting: The first "ipodder" programs were simple scripts that moved downloaded MP3 files from an RSS aggregator
(Radio Userland) in-box to a playlist in iTunes, which already was designed to transfer its
files to iPods.
More advanced ipodder-style programs developed in 2004 were their
own RSS aggregators, but still relied on iTunes or other music-player software to load files onto portable players.
Apple simply went the final yard, with a new version of iTunes that collected the RSS feeds itself. Apple added a podcast directory to its Music Store site,
which was already on the iTunes menu -- immediately making itself a major "gatekeeper" for podcasts. And Apple posted instructions
on how to build podcasts using Apple tools including Apple Garageband
and Quicktime Pro. Before June 2005, podcast-receiving software,
podcast directories, and podcast-production tools were all being
developed by separate groups of programmers. Apple brought its
well-known name and marketing into all three areas, and attracted millions of users.
Who is it for?
The "receive" side of podcasting
("podcatching" if you insist) is for anyone who wants something new to
listen to, generally for free, or for people who would rather synchronize an iPod
than synchronize their lives to broadcast station schedules.
- The "send" side of podcasting is most useful for folks who plan to publish
files regularly -- frustrated DJs or talk-show hosts, or people
who are addicted to exploring new media. Public radio stations became "early adopters" of podcast technology, using it to reach
listeners in cities that didn't carry a particular program, such as
WGBH's Morning Stories and WNYC's On the Media, or who found both the fixed-time broadcast schedule and streaming-audio on a computer inconvenient.
Giving it a try myself...
My own first attempt at a podcast used a video file I'd stored online a
couple of years before. I already had an RSS feed for my weblog, so I added an audio enclosure to a blog
entry titled Podcasting for the non-geek
. All I had to do was paste the address of the video clip into my usual weblog program, Radio Userland
, which had been the first to offer the "enclosure" feature in RSS. I decided to identify any audio-carrying pages as a new "category" within my blog, which caused the program to generate a separate RSS feed.
When I posted the first weblog entry, the program created an XML file at this
Later, I started another test podcast (and another RSS feed here:
"rss.xml" at the end, the address leads to a weblog page about my latest podcast item. After a brief trial, the "podfolk" feed became a mostly-text blog about folk music and related podcasts, which it will remain until I find time to add more audio. I also may use it to showcast photos of musicians
that I took at folk festivals in the 1970s and 1980s.)
In either case, all an iPodder user has to do to subscribe is paste either address into
iPodder's "add feed" box.
Getting a trial podcast feed online was ridiculously easy. The hard part would be finding time to offer interesting content often enough
anyone to bother to subscribe. (I started out by fantasizing about
dangling a microphone from the end of my banjo, sitting on a
Knoxville Market Square or World's Fair Park bench, and interviewing
anyone who walked by and showed an interest. But I was either too shy or too busy; probably both.)
OnwardFor more attempts at explaining podcasting, see the articles linked to the bottom of this page, as well as the "about" pages provided on most podcasters' websites or blogs -- often linked to an orange XML icon or one with the word "Podcast." WNYC, along with podcasting its On the Media and other radio programs, was among the first broadcasters to post its own short intro to podcasting. (Thanks to Dave Winer for pointing it out.) The page also linked to the Wikipedia podcasting page,
which I've been keeping an eye on -- and have contributed to, off and on.
(Sidebar: Wikipedia is a special place... both accurate and inaccurate information comes and goes. At one point, I had written or edited about a third of that podcasting page, so it looked something like my own chronology below. The next time I looked, the contents had shifted. Maybe it's more up to date than this page is right now. There are a lot more
hands helping, but some of those hands could be promoting their products or themselves. Moral for journalism students and the general public: Always corroborate "facts" before you pass them around. At least Wikipedia does let contributors include footnotes and Web links. When they do, check them out.)
History & Context
This list puts podcasting on a timeline with related phenomena...
- Mid-1980s -- The Macintosh and the laser printer make amateur print publishing easy.
1992-94 -- Publishing -- and multimedia -- come to the Internet. Tim
Berners-Lee's invention, the World Wide Web, makes it easy to share
text and pictures online. In October 1993 he talks about it on Carl Malamud's Geek of the Week show, a series of audio files on an server. Within a year, university radio stations like WXYC are figuring out ways to put live signals on the Web.
-- Weblog programs with hosting services and online Edit this Page
editing make many-to-many text-and-pictures publishing even easier.Various streaming multimedia
technologies spread to public radio, commercial radio, television,
educational and business applications.
- 1999-2000 -- RSS (Really Simple Syndication)
adds a workable subscription model to Web publishing and survives
having two approaches using the same abbreviation. RSS developer Dave Winer titles a blogging program Radio,
even though audio isn't the point... yet.
- 2001-2002 -- Winer adds the ability to attach large media files to RSS feeds in 2001, citing Adam Curry as his inspiration. Userland Radio,
his company's combination blog-editor and RSS-aggregator program, adds
the ability to send and receive attachments. Blogging, audioblogging and
RSS pick up steam.
- 2003 -- In Canada, educational technologist Stephen Downes uses RSS aggregation to collect audio files for his Ed Radio project. Winer
brings blogging to Harvard's Berkman Center, where
one of his colleagues, former NPR talkshow host Christopher Lydon, uses
his blog to offer downloadable audio interviews, large (10 megabyte or more) MP3 files. After a few months, Winer creates a special
RSS feed for the Chris Lydon interviews,
which are very professional chats about blogging, culture and presidential campaign politics. In October,
Winer organizes a BloggerCon gathering at Harvard, where Adam Curry and Lydon
meet. Curry, who had experimented with attachments in the past, becomes
a Lydon fan and loads his iPod with Lydon's MP3 enclosures. He and various programmers, including Kevin Marks and Werner Vogels, experiment with an audio feed Curry calls SyncPod and scripts to automate the Web-to-iTunes-to-iPod process.
- 2004 -- Ben Hammersly of the Guardian interviews Lydon and gives podcasting
its name. Winer posts audio files while blogging the Democratic
National Convention in Boston. He and Curry create a podcast of their
transatlantic conversations, called "Trade Secrets." Curry inspires & promotes programs (e.g., iPodder)
that not only subscribe to and download audio attachments, but
also transfer them to MP3 player software or hardware. Another Berkman regular, Andrew Grumet, at first distracted by experiments with BitTorrent, eventually joins the open-source team writing iPodder Lemon, later renamed Juice -- presumably to get out of the way of Apple lawyers. Feedburner lets bloggers and others add podcasts to their RSS feeds. Other software, directories and resources appear, including podcastcentral.com, podcastalley.com, podcastdirectory.com.
2005 -- Fans of video bloggers, who have been sharing downloadable
movies for a couple of years, get their own ipodder-like subscription software, ANT, created by friends of the Rocketboom video blog team. Meanwhile podcasting-for-profit becomes a goal for many. A few broadcasters charge for their podcast feeds; others solicit advertising. Curry and Lydon
try different approaches to incorporating podcasting into radio programs. In
a burst of enthusiastic hyperbole, GarageBand.com begins offering a Podcast Garageband Studio, telling readers, "All you need to do next is field calls from radio stations offering you a job." Apple announces an iPodder-like function for iTunes, then it not only delivers, it adds its own directory
of thousands of free podcasts at its online music store, along with
tutorials on how to create podcasts with Apple tools.
Venture capital firms shortly discover podcasting, and developments get
increasingly difficult to keep up with... which is why this article fades out here.
- For more recent developments, see Wikipedia's podcasting page, but cautiously check its "history" tab for any recent "who did what first" debates or signs of vandalism. (Follow page links to corroborating information.) Example: After their initial collaboration, Winer and Curry went their separate ways as podcasting evangelists, Curry forming a commercial company without Winer. Partisans in their disputes, or people who just like to fan the flames, have been known to "rewrite history" at Wikipedia. And fans (or operators) of various podcasts and services appear on the Wikipedia page from time to time, adding promotional links, which other Wikipedians usually remove before long.
- Meanwhile, if you see any errors on this page, drop me a line.
Create Your Own Podcast: Tools & Techniques
How to record a podcast, by Glenn Fleishman (Macintosh)
How to: Podcasting, by Philip Torrone (engadget.com)
Mac Applications & Setups at podcasters.org
Windows Applications & Setups at podcasters.org
How to create your own podcast show on Windows, by Zef Hemel
Mixcast Live, tool for Windows
Feedburner tool for converting feeds to handle enclosures
Info on Podcastamatic and more tools from Robin Good
Audioblogging blog includes built-in player.
How to videoblog (Windows)
How to videoblog (Macintosh, Steve Garfield)
Videoblogging.info "how-to" pages
ANT videoblog feed reader
Mefeedia videoblog feed reader
News Media Coverage of Podcasting & Video blogs
PBS NewsHour (Feb. 23, 2005)
New York Times
on podcasts (Oct. 28, 2004) (Dec. 16, 2004) (Feb. 19, 2005 & sidebar)
(May 12, 2005) (Oct. 30, 2005)
on video (Feb. 25, 2005)
on Odeo startup (Feb. 28, 2005)
USA Today (Feb. 8, 2005)
Boston Globe (Feb. 28, 2005)
Wired (March 2005)
Techsoup (May 2005)
BBC (April 2005) (May 2005) (How-To for BBC trial podcasts)
Most recent update here, Dec. 5, 2005.
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8/6/07; 12:03:51 PM.