A podcast is a multimedia file transmitted via the internet to a personal computer, often-then downloaded to a portable device, such as an iPod, for viewing or listening.
Podcasting continues to make its ascent out of obscurity with greater production values and a wider variety of content, making the medium as diverse and relevant as any other. The greatest advantage that podcasting has over radio, TV, and even PVRs, is that material can be consumed at any time, any place and as many times as desired.
With unprecedented remix-ability and the consumer’s control over their own consumption of advertising, providing credible content with a focus on relevance is key to winning and keeping a subscriber glued to a podcast feed. Although it’s unclear what impact podcasting will ultimately have on commercial radio/TV networks, the music and television industries will inevitably need to take note of this powerful new medium as advertisers seek better understanding of how they can deliver messages in a contextually credible way.
Podcast types can be broken down in many ways. The most obvious division is the primary format of the file:
Audio podcasts usually include “album art” embedded into a file which consists of a show name, company logo, or photo of the host. Also frequently included in the file itself are ID3 tags, which contain information (“metadata”) such as the episode title, host, topic, show number, and any other relevant information about the file. Audio podcasts can run for any duration at any compression rate. However, most podcasters keep the show under a half-hour, encrypted at 128kbps or lower to keep the file size down and the content digestible. Audio podcasts are often targeted to commuters who want to listen to their specific interests during the drive to and from the workplace.
Also known as ‘vidcasts’ or ‘vodcasts’, video podcasts are very similar to their audio-only cousins. Using mainly the same delivery mechanism as the audio podcast, the video podcast is delivered on demand to the media consumer’s personal computer or portable media player. As wireless network capabilities expand, vidcasts are finding a new audience on mobile networks. Critical mass for the vidcast is expected to hit as next-generation handsets better capable of video download/playback become more common. Vidcasts are often targeted to transit commuters looking to fill their time on the bus with something that interests them.
Within these two types of podcast formats, production categories can also be identified:
- Original Content
Original content is just that: content created for the sole purpose of distribution via podcast. Don’t confuse amateur production quality for lack of substance; the medium exists because of the hard work, often unpaid and seldom rewarded, of thousands of podcasting enthusiasts who are simply seeking a way to be heard. Thousands of podcasts already exist and their content ranges from professional insights to language lessons, from poetry to rants and raves on just about everything. Podcast content is as diverse as content found on the internet itself.
- Re-purposed Content
Many broadcasters and publishers re-purpose content as podcasts in video/audio formats. The CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) is the current leader of this type of content. Many of CBC Radio One’s hit shows like ‘the Current‘, ‘Q’, and ‘Quirks and Quarks‘ are available as repackaged podcasts.
With any new medium, old content often gets a new life, updated, reformatted and finding new relevance. From retellings of Aesop’s Fables to archives of golden era cartoons, from Oxford Biographies to great speeches in history, the referencing capability of podcasting will make this medium an integral format for the 21st century library.
- Professional Content
Also a characteristic of any new medium: entrepreneurs and advertisers are never far behind. Not to be confused with Original Content which may offer an ad spot in return for corporate sponsorship, Professional Content should be identified as a production category unto itself. Podcasts boasting professional interviewers, audio engineering and editing are beginning to emerge. TV networks are looking at podcast specific news and drama shows but advertisers are not waiting for them to get into the game. Many advertisers are going for it themselves, creating the content and advertising on it. ‘Aesthetic Intent’, a podcast from General Motors which offers professional quality interviews, was created entirely as a vehicle to sponsor. This may remind some of the early days of both radio and TV.
Content categories are very diverse. iTunes breaks the down into 16 categories including;
Arts, Business, Comedy, Education, Games & Hobbies, Government & Organization, Health, Kids & Family, Music, News & Politics, Religion & Spirituality, Science & Medicine, Society & Culture, Sports & Recreation, Technology, TV & Film
Each parent category contains several sub-content categories, thereby casting a net over all classifications of content imaginable.
With all of this content out there, it’s amazing that most podcasts are still cost and advertising-free.
Is podcasting social media?
For every person who defends podcasting as social media, you’ll find another who happily points out its limits, citing it as simply another platform for a single voice to shout from.
Social media or not, ‘Podcast’, ‘Media on Demand’, or whatever you want to call it, this exciting new medium with unlimited potential. The radical trust is in releasing complete control of the file over to the consumer and allowing them to determine its destiny. Will they play it, share it with a friend, store it or simply delete it? Will they respond to it in another channel, will they remix it? This unique consumer control over a ‘published’ media file is much more interesting than simply running a TV spot, posting an MP3 to a website, or mailing a brochure.
Infinite remixability, maximum viral capability and the ability to respond in other channels makes this an extraordinary medium in my books. This liberation of ‘control’ reaches deep into the heart of radical trust, making it a radical do.
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