Podcasting

The geeks have lit their torches and are heading out to storm the walls of big media with yet another idle threat of disintermediation. This time, it’s “Podcasting,” and it too will fail to render the ‘man’ and his ‘system’ obsolete.
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Podcasting is internet-age jargon, like blogging, from which it was spawned. But unlike other neologisms coined every 15 minutes, this one sounds like it ought to make sense. The term comes from the ridiculously successful iPod, and the suffix “cast” which is appended to anything remotely resembling radio or TV.

Don’t get me wrong. Podcasting will be big. But not because it killed the radio, or the radio star, or even his middleman.

In a nutshell, Podcasting is like TiVo but for audio. When you first heard about TiVo, you probably thought it was just a glorified VCR. But now, if you have one, you’re talking it up like someone who just discovered sex or improved their golf swing.

Podcasting piqued my interests after I got bored with my iPod. The novelty of having 14 straight days of music at my fingertips wore off sooner than I expected. It was like having a Walkman with only one tape. Even I got sick of the 5169 most seminal tunes of all time.

Podcasting, however enabled discovery of new stuff, the missing link to my iPod bliss. Record something, it could be anything: music, talking, noise. Post the audio file on your Web site, and bingo, you’re a Podcaster. Now someone downloads that audio file and listens to it on their iPod, or Nomad, or even their computer.

Pretty cool huh?

What’s that you say? BFD, you say, that’s all been possible for quite some time. Gee, really? I didn’t know that.

Give me a break. I may be a shill, but I’m not an idiot. There is a difference.

What really makes it a phenomenon is the ability to subscribe to Podcasts and have the audio seamlessly downloaded to your iPod. Go to www.iPodder.org for a crash course and a directory of Podcasts, which are mostly about, well…Podcasting, followed by pointless monologues and shock-jock wannabes.

For those who lack imagination, or have actually listened to one, allow me to explain why Podcasting will matter: The medium is screaming for serious creative talent.

Today it’s quaint to listen to Dawn & Drew, America’s ugliest sweethearts. But tomorrow’s Podcasts will need people who can do more than just titillate with their sexual musings.

If history is any indicator, those who possess creative skills should adapt nicely. Twenty years ago, people thought they could just buy a Mac and fire their designer. Instead, it created more opportunities, and today the design business is bigger and more diverse than ever. Desktop publishing annihilated a lot of jobs in its wake, but not the creative ones.

Dreaming of unemployed industry gatekeepers dumpster-diving for dinner is not what Podcasting is about. Sure, it might eliminate the need for some. But it could also create a whole new breed of super-middlemen creative types. It’s more about who’ll be the first Sam Phillips or Phil Spector of Podcasting and recording (sorry, the Wolfman Jack role has been filled by former MTV VeeJay Adam Curry, the host of the Daily Source Code Podcast).

Podcasting is real and here, not some vaporware. And yet, some are still going to miss the boat. They won’t recognize its boundless promotional potential, or appreciate the tangible connections it will create with new and existing audio fans.

So you have a choice: Dismiss it now, fear it later, or take this golden opportunity to define and shape it for the better.