A trend that started in the Weblog scene, podcasting gives people a chance to speak their mind and even become a DJ. Some call it the radio of the future and an alternative to today's broadcasting.
The audible Internet has a sound selection to match any ear
It's been awhile since Weblogs made it simple for anyone to become a World Wide Web publisher using easy-to-update online journals. Now with podcasting, it's nearly as easy to become a radio broadcaster as well.
Apple's iPod nano portable music player
A combination of the words "broadcast" and "iPod," Apple's famous portable music player, podcasts are downloadable audio files, usually in MP3 format, that can be saved and heard whenever listeners choose.
Interest in podcasting has grown as MP3 players become more and more common, allowing listeners to put together their own mix of podcasts covering nearly every topic, including religiously themed "godcasts," the food lovers' "gastrocast" cooking shows and "educasts" that help listeners learn everything from foreign languages to physics. An array of news and music podcasts also keeps listeners well-informed and foot-tapping.
Listening to podcasts has several advantages over both Weblogs and traditional radio. Unlike Weblogs, also called blogs, that require readers be connected to the Internet, podcast users don't need to be online after downloading the audio file, making them independent of radio schedules that dictate when a program can be heard.
A number of programs, including Ipodder and Apple's iTunes, make it easy for users to find and subscribe to podcasts and automatically download the most recent ones to their computer, and portable music player if they wish. Due to the podcasts' large file sizes, usually between 30 and 60 megabytes, a flat rate, broadband Internet connection is recommend to speed up downloads and keep down costs.
Amateurs rival professional quality
Whether podcasting replaces radio remains to be seen
But not everything can be put into a podcast. Intellectual property rights keep commercial products, like most pop music and books on tape, from being included in podcasts, which are normally a free and made under Creative Commons licenses that allowing others to do what they please with the content for non-commercial purposes.
Though there are some professionally produced podcasts, commercial radio has yet to make many large forays into downloadable programs, most podcasts are still created by amateurs whose quality often rivals that of traditional radio.
Reaching new listeners
Some bloggers and Internet observers expect podcasting to be the radio of the future. The ability to rewind, fast forward and listen to a program outside a station's limited reception area make podcasts a way for today's radio broadcasters to find more listeners. Whether they decide to embrace podcasting on a large scale, however, remains to be seen.
"The positive response surprised me," said Wolfgang Harrer, a journalist and Weblog author who worked on a podcast during the 2004 US presidential election for DW-WORLD and German public broadcaster ZDF. "We were able to contact target audience member who we would have hardly been able to reach with traditional radio broadcasts."