Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The People Take Back Their Radio

radio dj
Unless you have been living under a rock for the last few months, you have probably heard of something called a Podcast. Even major news networks are doing stories on it. With so much hype around podcasting, its easy to forget that all a podcast is, is a pre-recorded radio show. Not really an amazing & new idea, but it was bound to happen eventually. The coolest part however, isn't so much the technology, but the possibilities of this simple technology. With podcasting, anyone with a computer, microphone and recording program such as Audacity, can make a show about anything they feel like talking about. There are currently 1000's of podcasts available, covering most any topics that you could want. There has even been a growing number of downloadable video shows or "vidcasts" surfacing, but those are still a pretty new thing, therefore covering mostly geeky topics. Many believe though, that vidcasting will eventually become the new platform for public television similar to PBS.

Another cool aspect of podcasts is the convenience. Let me make a comparison to the trends in television. Television, from its conception was a limited number of channels where the same content is broadcast from a network to subscribers all over the place. Then along came things like TiVo, Digital Cable, On Demand TV, etc. which gave the control to the viewer rather than the broadcaster. Seems only natural that people would demand the same from radio. Why should you have to wake up at 7am to listen to the morning news show that you like? With the huge number of podcasts out there, it also wouldn't be too convenient to have to search around for good podcasts from random places or even a list on the web. Then after finding a few that you like to listen to, having to visit multiple sites a day to check for new broadcasts and download them all to separate folders on your system. Well that's where this cool thing called RSS (really simple syndication) comes in. Already popular with blogging, RSS is basically a system that lets you subscribe to a RSS feed and get simple, interactive information delivered to you in some kind of RSS aggregator. Well its pretty much a podcasting standard to attach RSS to your podcasts making it really simple to get your podcasts with minimal effort. A podcast RSS aggregator or "podcatcher" is a program that you use to automatically downloaded podcasts to your computer/mp3 player as soon as they are released, by subscribing to the RSS feed for that podcast show. Some podcatchers even host lists of podcasts to save you the trouble of having to search all over the web for shows. Pretty easy right?

So you may ask "That's all well & good, but I'm not a computer geek. Where do I find this stuff?" Well, it's a good thing I'm pretty geeky already and have been listening to these for a while, so I can probably get you started. First of all you are gonna need an aggregator. I used iPodder which is pretty good. Here is a list of various podcatchers for Windows, Mac, Linux and a few other platforms. The latest version of iTunes has podcatching features that have impressed many people. Everyone except for the podcasters themselves who are annoyed by the numerous changes Apple made to the standard & widely used RSS which Apple believed would improve the whole system, but instead just forced everyone to change to their new "better" standard. It would have been nice though if they had consulted the podcasting community that they are trying to serve though, but when has Apple ever asked for constructive criticism?

Once you get your podcatching software, it's time to find some broadcasts. If you are using a podcatcher that has a list, such as iTunes, you will have this pretty easy. Keep in mind though that there are going to be a lot more shows out there than are going to be on your programs list. Podcast Alley is pretty much the best all-in-one collection of podcasts out there right now. The Podcast Network is a collection of podcasts centralized in Australia, but featuring podcasts from many other places. As for a couple that I frequent: Escape Pod is a podcast of science fiction short stores (kinda like a weekly audio book). TWiT (This Week in Tech) is a good technology geek podcast. Diggnation is a weekly podcast/vidcast that goes over the most popular (dugg) stories on the turbo cool Digg interactive blog. Speaking of vidcasts Here Is A List of the technology & video game vidcasts that have come around in recent times.

Now that you know all about the next big thing in media, I hope you find some cool stuff to fill your talk radio appetite which has probably gone largely unsatisfied by the radio now-a-days. Enjoy.

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