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On Podcasting
Friday April 07th 2006, 1:45 pm
Filed under: General,Podcasts,Truth
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There is a currently evolving story of a paradigm shift in the distribution of broadcast audio due to a simple technology that provides easy access to audio files, commonly known as an iPod. Although distribution is not live, the file has to be completed to make it portable, the nature of the internet makes that file accessible virtually anywhere; versus the current model which requires you to be available at the time of broadcast and within range of a radio signal to be part of the audience. Main stream media outlets immediately saw the opportunity to expand their audiences. Rush Limbaugh was the first major syndicated show to make a move on podcasting and was followed Al Franken and then by everyone that’s anyone. After all, it is in essence; Tivo for radio. And, isn’t it great how the mixing bowl of technology and free distribution of software has broken the long held barriers of broadcast radio. However, that looks to be just the tip of the iceberg of what will be looked back on as the paradigm that forever changed all media distribution. OK, really, that was the internet and this is just another shift in that quake or splash in that crash. For the stage available to the players has become as large as the internet. And not only can you access broadcast radio shows previously not available to you, in other times or locations, but anyone with a computer running iTunes and a microphone can make a podcast. There are numerous locations where a podcaster can, for no charge, post their podshows for all to subscribe; then, auto-magically, their podshow arrives at your computer shortly after they have it posted. All you need is any generic media player. (e.g. REAL, iTunes, WMP, etc.)

It was a just a small gaggle of coders and the MTV pioneer VJ, Adam Curry, that first saw the link between a blog tool and it’s inherent Really Simple Syndication (RSS) , which had previously been used almost exclusively for text, and capabilities regarding audio files handled by iTunes. People in the open source community had already created, as freeware, blog tools that would make available files, including audio enclosures, for download over the internet. It was the group behind iPodder.org that built the link from the blog enclosures to iTunes and by association the iPod; and with it the birth of the term “Podcasting”. It must be pointed out at this point that those that associated with the freeware community will tell us that free software is more akin to “free speech” than it is to “free beer”. Podcasting is a perfect example of that. In the short history of the computer before Microsoft and before IBM, there was Bell Labs and the University of California at Berkeley; where all those interested, business men, scientist and academics gathered and built the foundation of what has evolved into highly sophisticated machine code that supports virtually all of our internet activities. All software was free until Bill Gates stood up and said, ‘I own mine and you can not use it without paying me a fee’. That was accompanied by the advent of the personal computer. Everyone knows the rest of that story. But, the freeware consortium never quit and we have them to thank for the revolution behind Podcasting. It’s a beautiful and elegant balance between capitalistic pursuits that chase market capitol and the creative genius involved in blending existing ideas and technologies into new ways of doing things. Free distribution of new material allows for diversity of what we, as a community, have available to observe and participate. And that is the real beauty of Podcasting. Any lunatic, myself included, can hatch an idea for a show and pull down ones pants for all to see. And that’s literally what’s happened.

Podcasting’s march out of obscurity was done double time. And it was done with, you guessed it: a sex scene. In the beginning there was Adam Curry and his Daily Source Code. In the iPodder.org experiment Adam diligently posted a week day audio blog for everyone to share in and provided a place for the community to develop their methods. Among the early adaptors, were a married couple in a Wisconsin suburb, Dawn Maceli and Drew Domkus and their podcast The Dawn and Drew Show. Under their monikers of “SOMETIMES WE’RE DRUNK” or “PUT AWAY THE DOGS AND TURN ON THE MICROPHONE”, along with many other podcasters, Dawn and Drew brought to broadcast audio what the FCC would never allow. Freedom to do and say what ever you want for anybody and everybody to listen. Somewhat like, shock and awe for the sake of humor. Early on a podcast directory associated with Adam Curry and iPodder.org, known as Podcast Alley, was having ratings contests and listeners would vote for their favorite podshow then Podcast Alley posted the results and updated them periodically. Dawn and Drew eagerly wanted to make a splash and get top ratings. So what else: they had sex and the air. Not the tawdry, lewd and lascivious XXX sex that’s so prevalent on the internet. No, I have to admit, I shed tears laughing so hard at their proclivities the first time I heard it. And I wasn’t the only one. The viral dissemination was impressive enough to put Podcast Alley on the map and was partially responsible for the current successes of enterprises like Podshow.com. Now with the availability of the Video iPod, they’ve integrated motion pictures with their regular blather. You can get a great example of early DNDS in their 100th show, it’s a ‘best of’ that includes that original encounter with their own commentary regarding the first 100 shows. They weren’t the only ones there at the beginning. The Daily Download, a daily recording of the producers bowel movement (no longer in production), is quite memorable and Madge Weinstein “Yeast Radio” stand out in my recollection. Soon after this, the Apple Music Store included a Podcast Directory where all comers can post to make their podshow available on iTunes. And the field became so crowded that it’s truly hard to see the forest for the trees.

That in itself is a terrific story and is a great beginning. However, it doesn’t stop there. The diversity created by free distribution of new material does not stop with machine language code or software. The Podcasting paradigm has also spawned a myriad of directories that support sharing of the works of music and video from artists around the globe. Under a freely available copy right agreement known as a Creative Commons License independent artists can make available their work as freeware. It’s basics are as follows: ‘You are free to use my art as long as you say it is my art. If you use my art to generate revenue, we have to renegotiate this agreement’. The independent music scene lost no time in embracing the concept. As well, a good way to generate interest in a podcast is to use an independent musician and notify them they’re on your podshow and let them tell their fans who in turn tune in and grow your audience as they grow their own. All of this is quickly becoming a new distribution channel that flies in the face of the traditional music business. A new distribution channel that levels the playing field among artists has begun to replace the traditional method that has so stifled new music and new media ideas. See for yourself. With communities like Pod Safe Audio or the Podsafe Music Network the shift has a beginning. And even my friends at Shure have recognized the burgeoning marketplace with tutorials available to the beginner. Complete with suggestions’ on the proper equipment to become a world class recording expert. So, don’t be afraid to hop on the band wagon. It may look full. But there is still plenty of room.

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