It’s pretty clear that when a trend becomes so popular that Microsoft finally jumps in with a tool or service to capitalize on it — as it has with its MSN Space blogging service — that trend is about as fresh as the block of last year’s fruitcake weighing down the southwest corner of the Frigidaire. So if blogging is passé, what’s hip today?
Jump to select corners of the Web and you’ll discover that sites that once offered blogs and RSS feeds now also provide RSS feeds with audio attachments that can be pushed to a portable music player for later listening. Look elsewhere and you find testimonials declaring that podcasts may someday drive a stake into the heart of commercial broadcasting — that this is a movement akin to the birth of the freeform radio that characterized the FM dial in the mid-60s.
At the risk of installing speed bumps on this expressway of enthusiasm, may I just mention that Podcasting bears an aroma similar to such “power to the people” trends as public access cable television, web cams, and, of course, blogs. Each has promised the power to make your voice heard with an immediacy undreamed of in days gone by.
While this may be the case, you don’t need to slog through two hours of the progenitor of Wayne’s World, any non-pornographic webcast (if, indeed, any remain), or your cousin Jo-Jo’s latest Fingerhut screed to understand that many people don’t have a hell of a lot to say and those who do often don’t have the wherewithal to say it in a form interesting enough to engage an audience.
Despite the tone of the preceding paragraphs, I’m quite keen on Podcasting. Although it’s possible to move much of the audio I want from the web to my iPod without subscribing to a podcast (as outlined
), I’m attracted to the convenience of subscribing to a podcast feed as easily as I can to any other RSS feed. And I’m confident that a few compelling voices will emerge from this trend and offer something of real value.
But let’s also recognize that along with this we’re going to have the opportunity to feed our music players an endless supply of unadulterated crap — poorly recorded and edited voices talking at length about nothing. With that in mind, here are a couple of hints for those interested in leaping aboard the Podcasting bandwagon:
Treat it like radio.
One advantage of the printed word is that the reader can scan ahead a few paragraphs when the author has failed to deliver the goods. Punching an iPod’s fast forward button to speed through a particularly dull portion of your podcast isn’t the same thing.
Understand that, like radio, you’re delivering time-based content that the audience must sit through. Radio that works has something to say, makes its point clearly and concisely, and offers elements other than your voice (music, for example) to entertain the listener. Fashion a radio show rather than a rambling blog entry, and you’ve made a good start.
Just because you
record your podcast into an iTalk mic attached to an iPod doesn’t mean you
. Your computer is capable of recording high-quality audio when used with a decent microphone. This “gee whiz, look what I can do with these two cans and a bit of string” bravado wears thin quickly. Get the right gear for the job.
Podcasts aren’t real-time — they’re not going directly from your mouth to your listeners’ ears — so take a few moments to cut out the flab with an audio editing application. While there’s no need to excise every “uh” and “you know,” from your monologues, you can certainly do your listeners the favor of deleting the 15 minutes you spent troubleshooting the hum coming through your headphones.
Strap on a thicker skin and play your podcast for someone who will give you an honest assessment of the content and its delivery. Learn from your mistakes and make a podcast you’ll be proud of.
Tune me in.
Among my list of things to do is to compile a collection of podcasts worth your while. If you’re aware of some particularly good ones, use the Comment link below and let me know. Before Microsoft issues its MSN ‘Caster, I’d like to promote the best this trend has to offer.