Podcasting is Broadcasting

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There’s an interesting paper called The Politics of Podcasting by Jonathan Sterne, Jeremy Morris, Michael Brendan Baker and Ariana Moscote Freire over at the new issue of the Fibreculture Journal.

It’s basically a thorough history of podcasting (including the coining of the word) and a look at it in relation to what we normally consider broadcasting. The conclusion sums up what I think many have been thinking for some time:

If we free the term broadcasting from its corporate connotations and remember its longer history, then podcasting is not simply an outgrowth of blogger culture, but rather part of a much longer history of dissemination. Podcasting is not an alternative to broadcasting, but a realisation of broadcasting that ought to exist alongside and compete with other models. If broadcasting were a more generally available term, then perhaps we could begin to speak of our own broadcasts without sounding grandiose or pretentious.

Hidden Gems in Apple’s Announcements

Of course there is the usual commentary on Steve Jobs’ new Apple announcements and no doubt this will add to the slush pile, but I think there are a few hidden gems in there too.

The new iPods with fancier screens and better battery lives are all great, etc. as is less packaging (though I think Apple have a long way to go here, especially with recycling their products). Yes, the new iTV announcement of an Apple-styled media centre is big news too as is downloading full movies from the new iTunes store. But we all knew it was coming and if you had a MacMini you could already do a lot of it.

What suddenly struck as a flash of the obvious was the Podcasting part of that. Okay, so you can share you media across the airwaves and watch them on your TV and many of us have already done this plugging our laptops into the TV. But I’ve never bothered to do it with Podcasts. Maybe because the content hasn’t been so great, but maybe because the equation of effort to hook up the laptop vs the level of quality of the content made it not really worthwhile.

I think the new iTunes with movie downloads are probably the driver to actually purchase an iTV (or whatever they end up calling it) box, especially as it’s pretty cheap. But the real interest is that it may prove to be the tipping point for independent content – i.e. Podcasts. That’s a really big deal hidden away in there. Essentially Apple are providing a very simple (and this is important for sit back TV viewing) channel for independently produced content – the Apple channel, if you like. Except of course it is smarter and you can have all the material downloaded with smart rules, etc. So it’s even better than a TV channel. That means that you can start reaching millions of people in their living rooms, just like TV, except without the networks.

Of course there will be the usual issues of production funding, etc. but some of that model has been discussed elsewhere by the likes of Mark Pesce. There is also plenty of content that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to produce, or content that professional content creators make in their spare time. I think this is bigger news than the movie downloads, which are basically an extension of the iTunes store model.

The other gems are the seemingly small tweaks to the user interface of iTunes and the iPods which are actually quite big leaps. I’m always impressed at Apple’s ability to introduce new GUI elements that simply feel like they might have been there all along and don’t jolt people’s current user patterns.