Year of the podcast

As the host of the Macworld Podcast and the author of the first article that appeared in Macworld about how to podcast, I’m usually the first guy that my co-workers talk to when there’s something new about podcasting in the news.

Which is what happened this week, when we learned that podcasting isn’t just for the hardcore geeks anymore. It’s become much more than the insular and self-referential world of Adam Curry, Dave Winer, Dawn and Drew, Michael Geoghegan and others. Now, it’s gone mainstream—so much so, that “podcast” was declared as the Word of the Year by The New Oxford American Dictionary .

Here’s what I like about podcasting:

  1. It’s relatively inexpensive. I can make a near professional quality podcast for much less than $1,000.
  2. It’s audio— cool ! While my day job is to be a writer, and to put letters together to make sentences, there are often times when I am interviewing someone, and I know that the way they say something makes a difference. Words generally are only good when thought out, but they’re not very good at capturing the spontaneous emotion that most people have when they talk.
  3. More variety of content. Since I’ve owned an iPod, I’ve found that my personal preference for what I want to listen to varies with my activity and locale. For example, for the gym, I have one playlist—mostly upbeat rock and rap songs that I don’t need to think too hard about and will always enjoy. When sitting at my computer, I can listen to pretty much anything in my library. Now I have a a new category to add: podcasts. When sitting on a train, or driving alone, podcasts are great, because they allow me to focus on what the podcasters—in my case, often Dawn and Drew or The World’s Technology Podcast —are saying.

Here’s what I don’t like about podcasting:

  1. You’re probably not going to make money off of podcasting anytime soon. Deal with it. I’m sick of so many companies trying to “extend their brand” into podcasting just because it’s cool. If you have something to say in audio form, then podcast. But don’t do it just because it’s the Next Big Thing.
  2. While there seemed to be an initial surge of amateur podcasts, they’ve been usurped by “old media.” If you look on the iTunes Music Store, you’ll see that most of the top podcasts are from media companies that have simply made their show available as a podcast, such as National Public Radio offerings, The Al Franken Show or The News Hour with Jim Lehrer. Where are the future Dawn and Drews of the world?
  3. It’s still far too difficult to create a podcast. I happen to know a little bit about audio editing and production. Sure, you can create one relatively inexpensively, but I want an audio editing program that’s multi-track with easily adjustable volume curves like Digidesign’s Pro Tools (what I use for the Macworld Podcast)—but something that doesn’t cost $500.

How long will podcasting last? Will video podcasting overtake audio podcasting in 2006? I don’t know, but to me, podcasting is fun, and that makes it worth doing.

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