Sunday, October 08, 2006

Podcasting Epiphany

The other day I belatedly realised why podcasting and video-on-demand will utterly supplant radio, airwave TV and cable TV.

I know that this means that I'm really behind the game here. But anyway, let me explain what it is I've come to understand after more than a year of listening to podcasts.

With the old media distribution channels, the content providers have all the programming on tape, and they decide what tapes you and I can watch, and when. For instance, my son wanted me to deliver him to his mom no later than ten o'clock yesterday because that's when the Cartoon Network offers a certain show that he likes. I snuck out before he was even awake and was chasing tupperware in the woods when the fated hour struck. Poor kid.

With podcasting and video-on-demand, you and I decide what we want to watch/hear, and when. The content providers' tape archives, as it were, are available to us in their entirety whenever we want over broadband. The Swedish State Broadcasting Corporation doesn't have an interviews show about the American counterculture (duh), and even if they did, its broadcasting hours would be very unlikely to fit my schedule. Podcasting is not just a convenient way for me to listen to the R.U. Sirius show: it's the only way I could listen to it. At irregular intervals, when I commute or drive longer distances. It's great. And the files will in all likelihood be instantly available for years and years to come, unlike the many brilliant radio programs that survive at best as dusty rolls of tape in the vaults of broadcasting companies.

So, Dear Reader, if you happen to be even slower than me on the uptake, let me tell you this: FM radio/TV broadcasting and cable TV are technologies of the past. Get your media over broadband. Get whatever you like, whenever you like.

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Blogger Frostbeard said...

Some of the old broadcasters are starting to clue in to this idea as well. The CBC here in Canada has been offering their best shows as podcasts for at least several months now, and I'm very thankful for it. If I couldn't do this, I'd never hear Quirks & Quarks (a truly excellent science show) at all!

08 October, 2006 22:23  
Blogger Martin said...

Yeah, Swedish broadcasters have implemented imited podcasting capabilities too. But their stuff is hardly ever kept on-line for more than a week, and there are no RSS feeds.

08 October, 2006 22:42  
Blogger mugabe said...

iTunes downloads your favourite radio shows automatically for you and keeps them stored locally.

08 October, 2006 23:31  
Blogger Martin said...

Aha, that´s interesting, equipping the crippled podcasting offerings of major broadcasting companies with local functionality. The next step would be to upload the shows to a public archive facility where anyone could get them anytime...

08 October, 2006 23:40  
Blogger Hans said...

SVT has some of its programs available for a short time, but since I can't trust them to have the stuff I want when I want it (which is the whole point of this) that's as bad as having nothing since I have to run my own archive anyway. For accessibility, the bittorrent channel is a better alternative.

More generally, I think people are realizing that media is something that they can at least to some extent control themselves. One of the most interesting technologies right now, I think, is userscripting. This is small pieces of javascript that run inside my browser. The difference to regular javascript is that I put it there myself for very specific purposes, like reorganizing the home page for a site to make it more navigable or removing uninteresting stuff from a page (like advertizing) or making layout changes (like making the very text box I type this in bigger if I think it is too small).

09 October, 2006 09:01  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The sooner the big media companies catch up on this, the better off we'll be. Tivo and BitTorrent downloads are already transforming the market model for TV by moving the viewing in time and cutting out the ads.

Any reasonable future business model will be certain to include streaming/downloading, although conservatism and intransigance will likely delay this considerably.

I expect the major media companies to (eventually) digitize their archives, giving us access to shows that would never be available otherwise. Look for several levels of subscriptions - cheap stuff with integrated ads, easy micropayment pay-per-view solutions, and monthly subscriptions on various levels.

Given sufficient bandwidth, carrying home storage media like DVDs from the shop or rental store will go the way of the dodo - this movement is already on the way for console games.


09 October, 2006 15:24  
Blogger Karen said...

Apparently I am WAY behind when it comes to technology. I've never listened to a "podcast" and wouldn't no where to begin. I do like the idea though of being able to access what I want and when I want it.

09 October, 2006 16:44  
Blogger Martin said...

Akkie: I think some of the impetus behind the podcasting boom is the relative esotericity of the medium. Listening to a new podcast that not everyone knows about feels kind of hip.

Karen: downloading podcasts is easy. If you're interested in, say, monkey breeding, then google "monkey breeding podcast". Download the latest instalment of the top show in that field and listen to it in your computer's speakers. Later you can stick it onto your mobile phone or mp3 player and listen to it on your morning commute.

09 October, 2006 22:30  
Blogger Mojoey said...

Martin - I face a 40 minute drive to and from work each day. I used to listen to public radio, called NRP here. It's a good general interest news program much like the BBC. I started downloading podcasts to my iPod a few months ago. Now, I listen to 15 shows a week. I spend fewer and fewer minutes on the public airwaves. It's great. I'm even thinking about producing my own podcast.

iTunes does a great job of managing my podcast content. I could not listen to as many programs as I do without this tool.

10 October, 2006 23:52  
Blogger CFeagans said...

Just thought I'd share some of my can't miss podcasts that I download via iTunes.

Skepticality (the official podcast of Skeptic Magazine)
Skeptic's Guide to the Universe (the New England Skeptic's Society - great interviews & discussion)
Point of Inquiry (from the Center for Free Inquiry - great interviews)
Archaeological News from the Archaeological Channel (no description needed!)
Penn Jillette Radio (funny, witty, the spoken half of Penn & Teller)

11 October, 2006 17:41  
Blogger Martin said...

Thanks guys! I'd like to add Escape Pod and the R.U. Sirius show (links above right). On my way to work this morning I heard an interview about the occult rumours concerning Led Zeppelin.

12 October, 2006 10:27  

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