Music

Podcasting for the Plebian

The latest in Internet technology decoded

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Though podcasts have only been around since Adam Curry launched the first in August 2004, the topic already encompasses enough complexity to warrant a "where to begin" dilemma and add another 20 or so words to Webster's Dictionary. For starters, podcasting is the revolutionary art dubbed "a grassroots rebellion" against commercial airwaves by Wired magazine, and "the TiVo of Radio" by virtually all other media-savvy publications. Inherently a radio show listeners subscribe to online, podcasts use blog syndication technology RSS feeds to download home-made shows directly into MP3 players.

Curry's claim to newfound podcasting fame, is via the iPodder-his pseudo hybrid invention of the blog and the Apple MP3 player. The former '80s VJ who enraptured MTV viewers till 1994, Curry has initiated a phenomenon that gives a voice to anyone with the inkling to produce a show. At the moment, most podcasts are of the amateur variety but can range from anything as wacky as Chris Rockwell's Daily Download (literally comprising his ramblings while he takes a dump), to the BBC's experimentation with the medium for official news coverage. While the BBC can easily sponsor itself, Rockwell states on his Web site, "My ultimate goal is to have a toilet paper company sponsor me with a years worth of toilet paper to take the place of the cheap stuff my wife buys." So to help out a fella, visit www.apeboymonkeygirl.com.

Podcasting is an easy sell as it's free and the programs downloaded onto a PC or Mac are accessible at your convenience, making radio when and even where you want it-if you happen to have a portable iPod or MP3 player. Over 2,000 shows are currently available online and 500,000 people have downloaded iPodder since its inception.

The first Boise-based podcast on November 19 came from the marketing and multimedia company Produktion, in their now weekly program focused on independent musicians, artists, authors and comedians. Produktion's podcast Bandtrax is available at http://www.bandtrax.net, and also features local music outside mainstream circles like Rebecca Scott-in true podcasting fashion. "We really see podcasting as the next explosion in communicating thoughts, ideas, and entertainment through a true grassroots approach that lies outside the corporate-controlled media," said Produktion owner and producer Kevin Ryan.

Circumventing traditional restrictions imposed by the industry and the government is simply a preferred trend as well as a legal necessity. Producers are not eligible for the broadcast licenses reserved for radio stations and webcasters because listeners download each show, and the privacy of downloads do not fit into our current idea of audio media. Songs that can be podcasted are therefore generally not those policed by the Recording Industry Association of America. As downloads do not have to conform to the FCC's broadcast decency regulations either, the license restriction simultaneously means content freedom-and that includes the "seven dirty words you can't say on television," to quote George Carlin's once infamous remark.

Without possible FCC fines looming, or expensive complicated equipment necessary, anyone from my kooky neighbor down the street can produce a radio show or already is. This reality is capable of sending shock waves through the industry as anyone can have a voice for millions to download, and new talent will likely emerge to threaten the status quo once shows up their quality. At present, a husband and wife team bantering away for your potential enjoyment may dominate the market in The Dawn and Drew Show, while Whole Wheat Radio host concerts from the same shack they reportedly record in-when musicians stop through their tiny hometown of Talkeetna, Alaska.

Some cutting edge mainstream media have already cast their pod, so to speak. The BBC began a history show called In Our Time last November and NPR has faithfully podcasted Bob Garfield's WNYC show On the Media since January for "the 11 podcast enthusiasts," Garfield said, only partially joking, to Wired magazine. The 10 most popular podcasts are listed daily on PodcastAlley.com and always includes Curry's The Daily Source Code.

Though everyone in the "podosphere" may still oddly know the majority of everyone else by the end of 2005, this quaintness will doubtfully remain a cozy community for long when it inevitably catches fire like e-mail and cell phones did, once upon a time. "And geez, how did anyone ever safely drive longer than two hours without a cell? And do quick research, Internet-free for that matter?" Or so it typically goes for any similar befuddlement argument ironically founded on our collective ADD memory span-soon to include podcasting. "Once an average user figures out the ease with which he or she can access the content, podcasting will move quickly into the mainstream," according to Ryan.

When it is a household term synonymous with Adam Curry and indie music­-podcasting may somehow no longer be free, so take advantage now and start, uh, podding. Especially with signs of advanced interest emerging to foreshadow future costs of podcast downloads, such as Industrial Audio Software (IAS) announcing their iPodcast Producer on March 2. The iPodcast Producer is the world's first completely integrated software package combining recording, editing, RSS feed creation, and FTP uploading, according to IAS. Though that's true and it's not a rip-off by any means, the unnecessary iPodcast Producer is really the by-product from the world's first company to find a way to make a buck out of the whole podcasting buzz.

Essentially, if you want to produce your own podcasting show, follow these three steps and with a little patience you'll be rivaling Rockwell's Daily Download. First, plug a USB headset with earphone and microphone into your computer. Then install the free Audacity MP3 recorder for Windows, Mac, or Linux to make a recording and save it as an MP3 file. Finally, upload the MP3 file to your Web site or blog and follow the instructions at ipodder.org to create an RSS feed on your site. If that seems too effortless an explanation or you crave the single interface and "technical superiority" of an iPodcast Producer, visit www.industrialaudiosoftware.com instead to place an order, and bow your head in shame for a failed podcast-it-yourself attempt.

If you're still confused about even accessing someone else's show, the process begins with getting the free software to download podcasts to either a desktop computer, or ideally any portable iPodish device, as the freedom of listening to online material away from a PC is really the big difference. But even the computer-bound retain the bonus of choosing when to listen, as the technology archives all previously recorded shows. At ipodder.org, once downloaded onto your PC, Mac, or Linux, this free program allows you to subscribe to podcasts from its directory listing or add your own, while periodically checking for and downloading new podcasts that appear on an iPod once it's docked.

Operating at times from a castle in Belgium to his Audi A8, Curry eggs us all on. "Like all good things on the Internet," he said, "you can do it yourself." Look out for those of us at the Boise Weekly exploring just that, at our newly redesigned Web site www.boiseweekly.com.

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