Podcasting has come a long way in the last few years. It wasn’t that long ago that I had to explain what podcasting is when I talked about my show(s). These days the average person has at least heard of podcasting and understands the concept. But there is still a lot of confusion and misconceptions about podcasting.
Definition of Podcast:
A podcast is a digital medium consisting of an episodic series of audio, video, PDF, or ePub files subscribed to and downloaded through web syndication or streamed online to a computer or mobile device. The word is a neologism and portmanteau derived from “broadcast” and “pod” from the success of the iPod, as audio podcasts are often listened to onportable media players.
Why is a podcast called a podcast?
Where did the word Podcast come from?
The word podcast is derived from a combination of two words. iPod and Broadcast.
When the term was coined most people were using Apples` iPod to listen to podcasts. So when Ben Hammersley suggested the word podcasting to describe the new method of delivering content the term stuck.
He suggested a few options in a post on The Gurdian in 2004 :
“But what to call it? Audioblogging? Podcasting? GuerillaMedia?”
Too bad… to think I could have been a GuerillaMediaer!
Should podcasting change its name?
Is the term “podcast” confusing people?
A number of people have tried to change the name from podcasting to something else. The argument is that the term podcast implies that you have to have an iPod in order to listen to podcasts which of course is not true. Any device that is capable of playing an MP3 file can play an audio podcast.
Leo Laporte from This Week in Tech (TWIT) was a proponent of changing the name. He calls himself a podcaster but refers to all the shows on his network as netcasts. He prefers the word netcast and believes it is a more descriptive term for the technology.
Every couple of years someone resurfaces the idea of changing the name but it looks like the term is here to stay.
In 2005, podcasting was declared the Word of the Year by the New Oxford American Dictionary. This gave the term some credibility and cemented the term as the official word for online syndicated episodic media.
But what is a podcast exactly?
Describing a podcast to someone who has never been exposed to podcasting can be challenging. You can say that it is like a blog but instead of subscribing to the blog posts you subscribe and receive a media file. If they don’t know what an RSS Feed is then it can be especially difficult.
This video explains podcasting, in plain English.
A lot of podcasters use the term Internet Radio Show when describing podcasting to newbies because everyone understands what a radio show is. And combining the concept of a radio show with the internet is easy to understand. But there is more to podcasting than “internet radio”.
There are internet radio shows that are NOT podcasts. You can listen to streaming content on the internet that is not syndicated over the internet via an RSS Feed.
A podcast is only a podcast if it is delivered via RSS Feed.
What is episodic media?
Podcasting is by definition episodic media. Therefore there has to be at least two episodes to qualify as a podcast.
Episodic media can be audio, video or pdf / ePUB content that is produced in a series.
A TV show is an example of episodic media but a standalone movie is not (unless it is part of a trilogy, for example).
Some podcasters also adopt the concept of seasons which is borrowed from television programming.
Why does a podcast have to be delivered via RSS in order to be a podcast?
Adam Curry (The Podfather) and Dave Winer were early developers of the technology. They were working on a method of distributing audio content that could be subscribed to and distributed online.
The main point here (and what makes podcasting so powerful) is that you subscribe once and from that point on receive new episodes in the series until you either unsubscribe or the show podfades or intentionally comes to an end.
It is this syndication that makes a podcast a podcast.
Are there different types of podcasts?
Most people associate podcasts with audio even though a podcast doesn’t have to be audio. Audio is the most popular form of podcasting for three reasons. It is easier to produce audio because you don’t need cameras, lighting and video editing software in addition to audio skills and equipment. Audio is more portable which makes it easier to consume. Also, the hosting costs of video are prohibitive for hobbyist podcasters.
Video podcasts are are becoming more popular. Many podcast networks like TWIT produce audio and video versions of their shows simultaneously. Web TV shows are sometimes distributed as video podcasts.
Enhanced Podcasts are podcasts that have chapter marks and can display images, artwork and hyperlinks along with the audio and are playable only in iOS devices. They make a podcast seem more like a presentation. Garage Band removed support for producing enhanced podcasts in its recent update.
A podcast novel is also referred to as a serialized audiobook or podcast audiobook. It combines an audio book with a podcast and the novel is distributed in episodes via RSS Feed.
PDF / ePub Podcasts
Technically, any media file that is distributed via RSS Feed is a podcast. You can publish a podcast that distributes PDFs or ePub documents if that tickles your fancy. Although there are PDF and ePub podcasts, I’ve never utilized podcasting in this way and don’t have any experience with it.
What is NOT a podcast?
- An audio file that is playable from your website (but not enclosed in an RSS Feed) is NOT a podcast.
- Youtube videos are NOT podcasts. (unless they are also separately set up as video podcasts)
- Live streaming audio is NOT a podcast
- An email newsletter with a media file attached is NOT a podcast.
- An iPod attached to the end of fishing line is NOT a podcast either.
How can you tell if a web show is a podcast?
A good test to determine if a web show is a podcast is to check and see if it is in iTunes. If it is in iTunes or other podcatchers then it is a podcast. If it isn’t in iTunes (or the others) it still could be a podcast but it has to be capable of being added to the iTunes directory if it is to be correctly called a podcast.
What makes podcasting so attractive?
– Time Shifted Media Consumption
The RSS Feed allows your media content to be time shifted.
Just like a PVR/DVR allows you to record content from your TV and watch it whenever you want, podcasts allow you fit your consumption into your own schedule. You can subscribe to programming and listen, watch or read it at your convenience. You don’t have to be present when it is recorded live or when it is released like you do with Radio or live television programming.
There are many different ways to consume a podcast. You can push the play button on a website and listen from your desktop computer, Tablet or Smartphone. You can use an app like the iOS podcast app or Pocket Casts to download the podcast and listen to it later. These apps also allow you to stream the podcast which downloads the file while you listen to it. Some people still consume podcasts the old school way which involves downloading the file through iTunes or Zune and then syncing the shows with their iPod, iPhone, iPad or MP3 Player.
So for the podcast consumer podcasting offers them something they have never had before. A convenient way to get the niche content they want. Because podcasts are produced by individuals that are talking about their true passions, there is content for almost every niche. Some of these subjects are too narrow to appeal to radio stations because they need to attract a broad audience in order to sell advertising.
For content creators (and marketers) podcasting is an incredibly powerful tool. You can create very specific niche programming and attract subscribers that are most likely to consume your content and buy your products / services.
But Steve Jobs called podcasting amateur hour!
Are podcasts really worth listening to?
There are tens of thousands of podcasts (series not just episodes) available in iTunes and other directories. You have a ton of options when it comes to podcast content in almost every niche. But is the quality of the content professional?
There are a lot of hobbyist podcasters that are podcasting just for fun and who don’t take the production values of their show too seriously. There is nothing wrong with this. In fact it is part of what makes podcasting great.
As a result, a lot of podcasts are far below broadcast quality – the quality people are used to hearing when they listen to the radio.
Why is the quality of the average podcast so poor?
A lot of podcasts have poor audio quality which can be caused by a number of factors.
- Recording with the built in microphone on their computers.
- Recording in environments not suitable for quality recording.
- Not doing post production, audio processing or editing.
- Using platforms like Blog Talk Radio which encodes your audio in less than AM quality.
- Equipment set up that causes humms or hissing sounds.
- Poor microphone techniques (popping and sibilance).
- and many other possible reasons.
And some podcasts may have poor content.
- lack of enthusiasm by the podcaster
- no structure or organization
- no show notes or research (winging it)
- bad interview techniques
- unprofessional behavior or conduct
- explicit language or content (without proper explicit label)
- lack of focus on the topic
Are there great podcasts? Absolutely!
There are many podcasts that rival major broadcast networks in quality. Both in the content and the production value.
iTunes and Stitcher do a good job of featuring the well-produced shows with great content in their directories.
You can also check out some of the podcast networks which generally take podcasting seriously and produce great podcasts.
Some podcast networks to check out:
BBC World Service
Quick and Dirty Tips
Are you going to start your own podcast?
If you have been thinking of starting a podcast don’t be discouraged by the high percentage of shows that have poor audio quality, lousy content or both. Your podcast doesn’t have to have poor audio or bad content.
You have an opportunity to rise above the masses by taking a little extra care and investing in a better quality show.
Take a little time to learn the technical side of podcasting and you’ll avoid making common podcasting mistakes. And invest in some inexpensive podcasting equipment, software and media hosting that will make you sound great without breaking the bank.
It doesn’t take much to stand out from the crowd.
References: Check out these sites
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