This post is from September 28, 2004, and ran in a Linux Journal blog called IT Garage, now archived at the Wayback Machine. Its significance is the research data point it provided for podcasts, which was then new and now brings up 171,000,000 results (at least for me) on Google. (Update on 6 September 2022: “About 5,780,000,000 results. Meanwhile, Spotify alone says there are 4 million podcasts in its index.) Read on.
There was a time — until my late 30s, I guess — when most of my radio listening was to music. Then there was a time — roughly the last couple of decades — when most of my radio listening was to NPR and talk radio. When that got boring in the morning, I’d switch to Howard Stern.
But there was a problem for me with talk radio, as there had been with music radio; and that was a growing irrelevance. Or a growing awareness of the irrelevance that had always been there.
Since the Net and the Web came along in the early and mid-90s, I’ve had a growing impatience with waiting around for stuff on the radio I might care about. Another way to look at it: All radio, commercial and noncommercial, including what we call “content”, was turning into the same kind of stuff-to-endure as the advertising and promotional announcements that paid for it.
But now most of my radio listening is to what Adam Curry and others are starting to call podcasts. That last link currently brings up 24 results on Google. A year from now, it will pull up hundreds of thousands, or perhaps even millions.
So this morning, here in my hotel room, I listened to the latest edition (September 27) of Adam Curry’s Daily Source Code, Dave Winer’s Morning Coffee Notes about the open-sourcing of Frontier, and a conversation between Adam and Dave about all the above, iPodder, Trade Secrets Radio and much more.
In the midst were references back to the 24 September Gillmor Gang where iPodder, podcasting, Adam and the new radio platform were mentioned, plus Evil Genius Chronicles, a blog/podcast home where (among many other things) Dave Slusher corrects errors he hears on the Gillmor Gang.
At one point I paused to re-read Steve Gillmor’s If RSS Ain’t Broke…, which makes sense of what’s actually happening here, which is the emergence of a whole new form of broadcasting that’s DIY in the Xtreme.
The key virtue of traditional radio is its immediacy: the fact that it’s live. They key virtue of this new breed of radio is that it’s Net-native. That is, it’s archived in a way that can be listened to at the convenience of the listener, and (this is key) that it can be linked to by others, and enclosed in an RSS feed.
It’s because of that last feature that Adam could create iPodder, which automatically routes a podcast to an iPod (it’s what Adam calls “an iPod filling station”). Note, as I said Sunday, that this does not need to be limited to iPods. iPodder is just one implementation that addresses the device that has become the modern equivalent of the transistor radio (the first truly personal portable radios, which not coincidentally made rock & roll happen in the 50s and 60s).
What matters is that all the standards we’re working with here are open. They’re the new and growing infrastructure for a new class of ‘casting. It won’t replace old-fashioned broadcasting, just as FM didn’t replace AM, and TV didn’t replace radio. And it’s not narrowcasting, which is conceived as broadcasting for fewer people. It’s podcasting. I’ll create an acronym for it: Personal Option Digital ‘casting.
(Should we call it PODcasting, then, to make it clear that we’re talking about a category and not one company’s product? Let’s try.)
PODcasting will shift much of our time away from an old medium where we wait for what we might want to hear to a new medium where we choose what we want to hear, when we want to hear it, and how we want to give everybody else the option to listen to it as well.
I hesitate to promote it, because, as Adam points out, the NAB — National Association of Broadcasters — is one of the most powerful lobbying organizations on Earth: far more influential, even, than the RIAA. (For more about that, and other alternatives to traditional radio, read Scott Woolley’s Broadcast Bullies, at Forbes.) And the day will come, perhaps soon, when commercial broadcasters, and perhaps even NPR affiliates, will feel threatened by personal podcasting.
So what the hell. Let’s bring it on.
Meanwhile, a big thanks to Adam, Dave, and the other pioneers making this thing happen.
Also a plug for Ogg Vorbis, which Adam mentioned, but needs to pay more attention to (hint, hint). Ogg has been waiting around for something like this to happen, for waaay too long.