I have started downloading podcasts to my iPod mini to try out this new wave of broad-based internet radio. Getting stuck waiting for subway trains at 11pm at night, surfing through the podcasts on my iPod, I suddenly got the appeal of this weird technology.
Before I thought, why is podcasting qualitatively different from existing internet streaming radio broadcasts and other shows made available as MP3s? Isn’t this all just media-hype for something that exists already?
I realized the other night that the brilliant part about podcasting is that it combines several different technologies in unexpected and creative ways, namely:
- RSS news syndication
- MP3 players (not just iPods)
- Cheap microphones (like the Belkin iPod mic)
Strangely enough, it was Adam Curry, of MTV fame, and David Winer who dreamed up the idea of combining these technologies to enable regular joes to create their own radio shows and make them available to a mass audience. The duo spurred the development of the freeware iPodder application that basically enables the user to specify which podcasts they wish to subscribe to. When new podcasts are available, the software automatically downloads the MP3 and puts them in the user’s iTunes folder (or wherever), which gets synched with the user’s iPod the next time they connect it.
How do you find podcasts? There are a number of podcast directory services out there, with iPodder.org and podcast.net being two of the biggies. Ipodder lists 4,949 podcasts in their directory, ranging from comedy shows, news, music, and people’s random musings. When you find something interesting, you just add it to the list of RSS feeds in your iPodder application. The software does the rest.
Currently I am subscribed to:
- WeFunk Radio, out of Montreal
- The Bitterest Pill
- Inside Mac Radio
- and Coverville a radio show devoted just to interesting covers of songs.
That’s four solid hours of programming, updated regularly, and downloaded directly to my iPod when I sync. So very cool.