Media feast

After a recent three-week journey (see my September 2005 column), I was extremely happy to return home. But I was taken aback by what I found waiting for me there—a gigantic stack of magazines, a TiVo bursting with shows, the new Bob Mould CD, and the new Harry Potter book. It was enough to overwhelm even a media junkie like me.

It was a feast for the senses, to be sure. But how would I find the time to consume it all? My life is already saturated with media options. I use my daily commute to read newspapers and magazines, as well as the occasional book. After the kids are in bed, my wife and I like to watch a spot of television. And now my Mac has added two more options:Podcasts and TV shows.

My Own Private Radio

Just after I left on my trip, Apple released iTunes 4.9. The marquee feature of this release is support for Podcasting. In case you’ve never heard of Podcasting, here’s a 30-second overview: It’s a system that lets people publish audio content on the Internet. When you subscribe to a particular Podcast, your Mac will download new audio files when they appear.

Steve Jobs calls Podcasting “TiVo for radio,” and there’s some truth to that. Just as TiVo’s groundbreaking digital video recorder and its competitors have given people unprecedented control over their TV viewing, Podcasting lets you pick what kinds of audio programs you want to listen to. And since Podcasts are distributed over the Internet, anyone can create a Podcast.

Within a few days of returning home, I had subscribed to a clutch of Podcasts: Baseball Prospectus Radio, Science Friday, Nightline, and a fascinating deconstruction of the Bard called Shakespeare-upon-iPod (all available from the Podcasts section of the iTunes Music Store). They automatically synced to my iPod, and my fate was sealed.

I really don’t like the radio, mostly because I hate not being able to skip over stuff I don’t want to listen to. With Podcasts, you can not only pick the Podcasts you want to listen to, but also fast-forward through a Podcast or skip it entirely if it starts to bore you.

There are, not surprisingly, about a zillion Podcasts aimed at Mac users, including Your Mac Life, Inside Mac Radio, and The Mac Night Owl . And I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that Macworld has its very own Podcast. Hosted by our assistant editor, Cyrus Farivar, the twice-monthly Macworld Podcast covers breaking news, as well as topics related to the current issue of the magazine. To subscribe, visit the Macworld Podcast topic page.

Video in My Pocket

But Podcasts aren’t the only thing I’m carrying around with me these days.

The latest piece of diabolical software that is threatening to ruin my life is The Core Pocket Media Player, or TCPMP. TCPMP plays various video formats on Palm and Windows CE devices, including my Palm-powered Treo 650 cell phone. (By the way, if you own a Treo, you should check out the excellent Treonauts blog.)

I’ve got to admit that, thanks to TCPMP, I can sometimes be found on a northbound evening bus watching reality TV shows on my phone. Is this a sign of the coming apocalypse? I’ll let you decide.

What I’ve Learned

There are only so many hours in the day. By adding Podcasts and TV-on-Treo to my palette of media options, I don’t actually create more time in my life to consume media. But these new technologies have given me more freedom of choice, and that’s a good thing. I can consume whatever suits my mood. I’ve listened to that Bob Mould album dozens of times already, and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince succumbed in a matter of days. But I’ve also listened to the lead scientist of NASA’s Mars Rover missions interviewed on NPR, listened to Baseball Prospectus’s Will Carroll deconstruct baseball’s steroid scandals, and, yes, watched the nefarious Team Guido attempt to cheat their way to the top of the first Amazing Race.

It has been a great media banquet—and, I admit, my tummy hurts a little bit. As these technologies creep into our daily lives, it’s important to keep that old saying in mind: Moderation in all things.

How have the Web, Podcasting, TiVo, and other technologies changed how you consume media? Drop me a line or visit our forums.

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