Sunday, April 30, 2006

Deborah (re)Discovers* Podcasts

I’d been working in the Internet biz, so I heard about podcasting since about the time people started playing with it--a few months after iPods were released. I heard all the hype. It was this innovative new way of listening to the radio without having to have a radio, whenever you wanted to listen to a segment. It was to be very exciting.

And I thought: “Oh boy, another new technology to keep up with. *Sigh.* Won’t do much good until there’s enough decent content to be worth listening to.” (When you work in the constantly-evolving world of the Web, it's somewhat easy to get a wee bit cynical.)

A few months ago, I discovered that the time for lots of decent podcasting content has come. And now that iTunes supports regular podcast downloads, I actually started to subscribe to a few. And now I listen to them. Sometimes. I don’t listen to them all the time, but I have fun with them sometimes.

Ironically, when I listen to them (which isn’t as frequently as I read my email subscriptions), I don’t do it on my iPod. I listen to them on my computer rather than on my iPod—I love my iPod but I’m too busy listening to music and audio books on it to keep up with podcasts on the device they’re named for.

I do like podcasts. I’m studying in Canada right now, but I’m an American, so it’s lovely to listen to NPR whenever I want to. And it’s nice to listen to free radio-like broadcasts when I’m not near a radio or the Internet. And it’s fun to choose when I want to listen to them. And if I want to share them with someone else from far away, it’s easier than with radio, even Internet radio.

So what’s the point? New communications technologies take awhile to catch on. And if they do catch on eventually with the general public, it’s because they’re well-supported. And good content helps tremendously.

All the same, I don’t think podcasting is the huge new wave I’d heard it was. Sure, it’s delightful to listen to live local acoustic music from Long Island whenever I want, and it’s easier than taping the radio used to be, but it’s really not that different. And, like most media, it’s not necessarily going to replace other media, though it might change the way we consume other media and in what proportions we consume it, as well as open up opportunities to participate in faraway communities. Which is of course both good and bad.

No matter what, it’s interesting to think about. Oh, and for those of you creating good podcasts, make sure they’re submitted to the iTunes directory. That’s the only way I and lots of other people will ever get around to subscribing to them.

* The parenthesizing of partial words is quite popular in academic writing, so I thought I’d try it since this was the first time I’d ever found an opportunity to use this fascinating (rather e. e. cummings-like) way to use words.

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