Episode 13: What Is A Podcast?

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In this episode I thought it might be interesting to review the meaning and history of podcasting as described in Wikipedia.

A podcast is a form of digital media that consists of an episodic series of audio, video, digital radio, PDF, or ePub files subscribed to and downloaded through web syndication or streamed online to a computer or mobile device. The word is a portmanteau of “(i)Pod” and “broadcast.”

The Merriam Webster Tenth International Collegiate defines “podcast” as: a program (as of music or talk) made available in digital format for automatic download over the Internet.

A podcast’s distributor maintains a list of audio or video files in a series on a server as a web feed, and the listener or viewer uses special client application software, known as a podcatcher, to access this web feed, check it for updates, and download any new files in the series. This process can be automated so that new files are downloaded automatically, which may seem to the user as if the content is being broadcast or “pushed” to them. Files are stored locally on the user’s computer or other device, ready for offline use. Podcasting contrasts with webcasting (Internet streaming), which generally isn’t designed for offline listening to user-selected content.

As discussed by Richard Berry, podcasting is both a converged medium bringing together audio, the web, and portable media player, and a disruptive technology that has caused some in the radio business to reconsider some of the established practices and preconceptions about audiences, consumption, production, and distribution. This idea of disruptiveness is largely because no one person owns the technology; it is free to listen and create content, which departs from the traditional model of “gate-kept” media and production tools. It is very much a horizontal media form: producers are consumers and consumers become producers and engage in conversations with each other.

The term “podcasting” was first mentioned by Ben Hammersley in The Guardian newspaper in a February 2004 article, along with other proposed names for the new medium. It is a portmanteau of the words “pod” —from iPod— and “broadcast”. Despite the etymology, the content can be accessed using any computer that can play media files and not just portable music players. Use of the term “podcast” predates the addition of native support for podcasting to the iPod, or to Apple’s iTunes software.

Many people and groups, including Dawn and Drew of The Dawn and Drew Show, Kris and Betsy Smith of Croncast, and Dan Klass of The Bitterest Pill contributed to the early emergence and popularity of podcasts.[9] Former MTV VJ Adam Curry, in collaboration with Dave Winer, a developer of RSS feeds, is credited with coming up with the idea to automate the delivery and syncing of textual content to portable audio players.

From its humble beginnings to its rise as an instrumental agent of change, particularly in the broadcast arena, podcasting’s mainstream acceptance has been documented and preserved for generations to come.

Podcasting, once an obscure method of spreading information, has become a recognized medium for distributing audio content, whether for corporate or personal use. A podcast is similar to a radio program with key differences: listeners can tune into their favorite shows at their convenience and listen to podcasts directly on any device that can play audio files.

The first application to make this process feasible was iPodderX, developed by August Trometer and Ray Slakinski. By 2007, through the evolution of internet capabilities, along with cheaper hardware and software, audio podcasts were doing what was historically accomplished via radio broadcasts, which since the 1930s had been the sources of radio talk shows and news programs.

In August 2004, Adam Curry launched his show Daily Source Code. It was a show focused on chronicling his everyday life, delivering news and discussions about the development of podcasting, as well as promotion for new and emerging podcasts. Daily Source Code is believed to be the first podcast produced on a consistent basis. Curry published it in an attempt to gain traction in the development of what would come to be known as podcasting, and as a means of testing the software outside of a lab setting. The name Daily Source Code was chosen in the hope that it would attract an audience with an interest in technology.

Daily Source Code started at a grassroots level of production and was initially directed at podcast developers. As its audience became interested in the format, these developers were inspired to create and produce their own projects and, as a result, they improved the code used to create podcasts. As it became known how easy production was, a community of pioneer podcasters quickly appeared. Despite a lack of commonly accepted identifying name at the time of creation, Daily Source Code is commonly believed to be the first podcast to be published online.

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