Will iPod Kill the Radio Star?

In the 80’s it was all about how video killed the radio star. Now it’s about how iPod’s gonna kill the radio, period. A new medium, called “podcasting,” is flourishing online. The term is a portmanteau of the words “iPod” and “broadcasting”. It’s a form of Internet-based radio, though you don’t exactly “tune in”.


Podcasting content is pre-recorded audio and video. You use software on
your computer to subscribe to podcast programs. Then every time you
plug in your iPod, new content is loaded onto the device.

I should mention that you don’t specifically need an iPod to enjoy
podcast content – any garden-variety MP3 player will probably do the
trick.

The nice thing about podcasts being pre-recorded is that they happen on
your schedule. This solves my personal biggest problem with radio and
TV in general: time.

I sure would like to listen to CBC 2’s evening jazz show, but it’s on
way past my bedtime (don’t snicker; being a stay at home dad, I’ve just
about synced my sleeping pattern to my infant son’s). And I watch so
little TV that I almost always forget to sit down for the shows I
actually like (Everwood, in case you’re interested in my guilty
pleasures).

Imagine if both of these programs were podcasts. I’d just have to tell
my computer I like them. It would download them and have them ready for
me whenever I find the time to indulge.

Now you might think that a recording device, like a VHS or a satellite
TV Digital Video Recorder (DVR), would help me out. Well, as geek as I
am, I’ve never mastered the whole VHS programming thing. In fact, my
VHS has been relegated to that dusty corner of the basement that
collects items for next summer’s yard sale. And DVR’s aren’t in the
realm of affordability for me just yet.

Plus, with scheduled television and radio programming, the onus is on
me to figure out where, when and how to capture the shows.

Podcasting is programming on my demand. I just tell my computer what I
want to listen to and it takes care of the where, when and how of
accessing that programming for me.

Even better, though, is that podcasting content sticks around. I’ve
just recently started watching Coronation Street. I find myself lost in
the plotline, of course, it being a soap opera and all.

Now, if Coronation Street were a podcast, I’d be able to download and
watch back-episodes to get myself caught up on the characters. So it is
with most podcasts.

If you find a podcast that you really like but it’s been around for a
while, you can usually download all of its previous episodes.

Another good thing about podcasting is that content doesn’t come from
where you might expect. It’s not Fox News or CNBC or even CBC putting
this stuff together. Podcasting is a cheap outlet for the nascent
talents of the wanna-be shock jocks and closet CBC Radio hosts of the
world.

Pretty much all podcasted content is produced by regular people with a
little bit of extra time on their hands and a lot on their minds.

Podcast content is produced at kitchen tables. It’s recorded with one
mic shared between friends in a living room not different from yours.
People sit in their basement, stroll down the street, drive their cars
recording content and then post it online as a podcast.

The latest exception to this is the UK’s Virgin Radio. They’re posting
one of their most popular shows to the Internet as a podcast. It will
be modified for this seminal medium, of course. They plan to remove
information of a timely manner like news and weather.

Virgin’s always been on the bleeding edge of technology, so I’m not
surprised to see them enter the arena as the first major broadcaster to
dabble in podcasting. All the same, their move does a lot to validate
what is really a very young medium.

In fact, podcasting is not even a year old. It started just last August
when freelance journalist Adam Curry posted his first shot at a
podcasting program on the web. It had an immediate snowball effect.
There are now countless independent software programs, most of them
free, that support podcasting.

The community has also flourished. Podcasts number in the thousands
today. There are two directories that try to keep track of them all,
ipodder.org and podcast.net.

The content matter is across the board, from sports to science to shopping and everything in between.

Of course, with so much homegrown radio being produced, the quality
varies. Some content is produced by out-of-work former DJ’s fishing for
a new job. On the other hand, I’ve listened to a show called the
“Mourning Drive” that features a guy alone in his car commuting to
work. It was him, thinking out loud, for two hours. Oddly, it totally
worked and I listened to most of it.

Podcasting won’t kill radio, that’s for sure. But it’s a wonderful new
way to step outside the rigid boundaries of commercial media and hear
some voices that would normally be silent.

Andrew Robulack is an IT Business Strategist and Architect based in Whitehorse

Originally published in the Yukon News on March 18, 2005.
Copyright Andrew Robulack 2005