Podcasting History… It is Short

The last two days in the car; I have been listening to a podcast from IT Conversations. It was an interview with Doug Kaye the founder of IT Conversations by Michael Geoghegan on the Podcast Academy Channel. Doug talks about the history of podcasting on IT Conversations. If you have listened to podcasts from IT Conversations you will enjoy the interview. But I was thinking about my current predicament of trying to replace a co-host for The Global Geek Podcast and the history of podcasting.

A History Lesson

As mentioned in the interview the first “podcast” was accomplished by Dave Weiner the developer of the RSS format. He demonstrated the concept on his blog on the 11th of January 2001 after defining a new element called an “enclosure“. By the way he did this by “enclosing” a song by Grateful Dead on his blog feed of Scripting News.

For the first two years there were very few users of enclosures in RSS feeds. In September 2003 Weiner gradually released to his feed a series of 25 interviews with bloggers, futurists and political figures. Weiner announced these audio features on his blog as they were released. This threw out the challenge to other aggregator developers to support enclosures. As up until this point most feeds were text only.

In October of 2003 the first BloggerCon provided the platform for a demonstration by Kevin Marks of a script that enabled RSS feeds and pass the enclosures to iTunes for transfer to an iPod. Marks and Adam Curry discuss collaborating. After the conference Curry offers readers of his blog a script called RSStoiPod a script that moved mp3 files from on-line to iTunes, he encouraged developers to further the concept. Initial efforts were based in the command line. The first podcasting client with a user interface was iPodderX (now Transistr). The name change was due to the threat of legal action by Apple and trademark issues, obviously related to the iPod. From here the development of “podcatchers” or aggrregators was fast and mainly resided in the open source community with the show of Juice, CastPodder and PodNova. There are many aggregators now on offer and go from the simple to the highly sophisticated.

In September 2004 the term “Podcasting” was referred to as one possible; out of multiple terms for to listening to audio blogs, as coined by Ben Hammersley:

“…all the ingredients are there for a new boom in amateur radio. But what to call it? Audioblogging? Podcasting? GuerillaMedia?”

In the same month Dannie Gregoire used the term to describe the automatic download and syncrinisation of audio content. The name stuck and entered into common usage. Note the absence of anything related to an iPod? No it had nothing to do with iPods or Apple. In hind sight the association of the iPod with podcasting and podcasts has been detrimental in my opinion. As many people still to this day believe that you need an iPod to listen to podcasts and until I investigated the medium I too thought that the case. Or at least an association.

In September 2004 Adam Curry launched the ipodder-dev mailing list. A huge 100+ message conversation on Slashdot resulted in more attention in the development project. October of 2004 saw detailed “how-to-podcast” articles on-line. Then November 2004 saw the launch of Liberated Syndication, which offered storage, bandwidth and RSS creation tools. LibSyn for short, still provides the service to this day at some of the cheapest prices on the Internet.

As a final point, in February 2005 out rolled the first of the podcasting networks. The first was The Podcast Network, created by Cameron Reilly and Mick Stanic. The Podcast Network was and is the first Commercial Network. PodTech was founded in May 2005. Many others have followed and I think this is only the begining! I have every reason to be proud that The Global Geek Podcast lives at The Podcast Network.

So What has that got to do with Me?

Do you notice the dates in our history review? I use the word history very loosely as we can only say that it refers to past tense regarding podcasting and it’s past. Podcasting is a very new technology! In many respects the technology is still rapidly evolving and very dynamically at that. So being new it offers great challengers to the new user.

I would not say that subscribing and listening to podcasts is easy for the average user. In brief the user has to take the following steps:

  1. Realise what these strange links called RSS are (in addition to not writing it off immediately after seeing a page of RSS!)
  2. Source and install an RSS Aggregator
  3. Figure out how to subscribe to a feed, and realise that it is free.
  4. Know that not all aggregators are built equal (some support enclosures and some do not)
  5. Actually download a podcast using their tricked out aggregator
  6. Find some application to listen to it with or
  7. Figure out how to transfer the mp3 file to a portable mp3 player
  8. Enjoy

Phew! Now that is an effort. In reality most people probably start by right clicking and saving a podcast directly rather than use an aggregator. To try and explain to somebody exactly how to do all of the above is difficult and you generally loose the individual as soon as you mention aggregator. If you keep them that long.

Then I realised today, in light of listening to the interview with Doug Kaye that I can not expect every user that surfs by the Rooster’s Rail to know what podcasting is or what a podcast is. Given that; no wonder I have had bugger all responses to my plea for a new co-host. No wonder they might think that it is hard and intimidating or that they are not cut out for it. Or even that they have any idea what so ever and think I have a screw loose!

I think that the next huge leap in exposure to podcasting will be the simplification of the subscribing, downloading, transferring and listening process. It won’t be long until the manual procedure described above becomes a seamless automated process that the “average” user will be unaware of. Much of this I believe will come about when it is built into something like Windows Media Player. While that might disgust some people, the fact remains that most users use Windows! So it stands to reason. In addition to this factor will be the ever connected Generation Y, podcasts for them will be a thing that they have intergrated into their lives as a part of it rather than something they have to introduce.

So I have resolved myself to my crusade to expose as many people as I can to a medium that while young is transforming the global media landscape. In Cameron Reilly’s words “…this is something I have to do”.

Welcome to the revolution… For the rest of us that means hardcore brain cell re-programming.

[History of Podcasting Sourced from Wikipedia]

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