Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Podcasts Grow Up

..and growing up is a mixed bag

Do you listen to podcasts? 

Podcasts are spoken-word audio or video files on a wide range of topics, some of which are bound to interest you. Some focus on technology, some on politics, some discuss cooking or hiking or gardening or travel. These files are made available through RSS feeds, so once you subscribe new episodes get delivered to you automatically. If you haven’t experienced them, give them a try.  iTunes provides a fairly good interface to get you started, and there are many other alternatives.

I’ve been listening to podcasts since their beginning in 2004-2005. In the beginning, they were usually low quality MP3 files of a techie speaking passionately about a techie topic, with only very simple production values.  They were great fun, and still are today.

Part of the promise of podcasts in the early days was that the little guy, armed with only modest equipment and some passion on a subject, could compete with “big media”. Anyone could be a broadcaster.  Maybe everyone.

A funny thing has been happening since those earliest days.  Companies formed, and these new media companies, such as TWiT and Revision3, collected more and more of the better podcasts under a small number of banners. The shows became much more polished, they included more commercial time, and over the years a small number of personalities have become real stars, such as Leo Laporte and Cali Lewis. They work hard, have charisma, really understand the medium and know how to produce well for it.  They have also managed to get the sizable audience and the advertisers needed to monetize podcasting.  In other words, in many cases new media started to become an awful lot like old media.

I really enjoy the top quality production from networks like TWiT, but a small part of me misses the old days and the idea that the field was level for anyone with a microphone and an idea.

What podcasts do you listen to? Would you ever consider producing one yourself? If you did, I'd subscribe.


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1 comment:

  1. Most of my favorite podcasts are on the 5 by 5 network. http://5by5.tv

    These days, if a podcast doesn't have good production values, I probably won't bother subscribing to it. It's too painful to have to put up with bad audio.