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Some notes on podcasting and online audio.


After rejigging my podcasting career I am indeed an audiophile.

I may be a very crude engineer when it comes to sound quality but my preference is playing around with different expressed points of view when layering an edit.

Audio like that is so goddamn dense. It is such a rich medium, such that in the space of a very few minutes you can either say a lot or express it very well. It's the intensity of the package wherein  nothing much distracts from what is being said and how it is being expressed.
German playwright  and Marxist, Bertolt Brecht wrote in  his 1926 essay The Radio as an Apparatus of Communication.:
"Radio is one sided when it should be two. It is purely an apparatus for distribution, for mere sharing out. So here is a positive suggestion: change this apparatus over from distribution to communication. The radio would be the finest possible communication apparatus in public life, a vast network of pipes. That is to say, it would be if it knew how to receive as well as transmit, how to let the listener speak as well as hear, how to bring him into a relationship instead of isolating him. On this principle the radio should step out of the supply business and organise its listeners as suppliers."
This reminds is of the internet does it not? Maybe he could not envisage talk back radio but I guess it's the thought that counts.
It also raises, to my mind, the option of actually vox popping the people rather than have them come to you, such as in a studio context. Podcasting, even when low tech,  can do that. When I do a later post I'll address this question and its engineering issues.
However, radio or online  audio suffers from a major handicap: it's not video -- and, as we know, video killed the radio stars. 

But the current celebration of online video per  YouTube  is ironic given:
  • that you have to stay on the same web page to watch it
  • that is is extremely demanding of bandwidth 
  • you have to pay for the time you use all that  bandwidth
Nowadays as folk enjoy faster internet times with more bandwidth to exploit, watching video is an online, and very casual, habit. .. for those who can afford it. Indeed, video files -- watching, downloading and sharing of them -- are a major driver of internet use and creativity. This is so much the case that you'd think that video (and games) was where it is all at. 

On that point I too was seduced.That's one of the reasons why I gave up podcasting and switched to exploring video. 

Was not a good move. Hindsight speaking here. 

In the years of my exile things have changed. Podcasting has survived. As Radio Survivor points out, the business of podcasting is booming. But aside from the question of money and start ups, amateur, small scale and hobby podcasting does have a continuing niche. Why? RS comments:
Of course, the ability to produce podcasts does not inherently result in listeners. While I don’t mean to dismiss this imbalance, this is truly no different than any mass medium. Just because you build it does not mean they will come. At the same time, if you don’t build it, you can guarantee they won’t come. I think it’s worth examining the drive to reach a large and ever-growing audience. Not that I think one shouldn’t have this goal, but it doesn’t have to be everyone’s goal. What often matters more is that media message is available for those people who may enjoy or benefit from it. That may be millions, thousands, hundreds or just a few people. But if you don’t ever put your podcast out there, you’ll never know. Even if a podcaster’s audience is small, each one of those listeners is still important. It’s like the well-worn observation about the Velvet Underground: They didn’t sell a lot of records, but everyone who bought one went out and started a band (influenced by VU). Impact, influence and connection can and must be measured by more than downloads and CPMs.
I also suspect that as most community radio stations digitalise they will be forced by government to move onto the internet  as part of their funding arrangement.This has already happened with community television. Of course this sabotages any geographical sense of 'community' as  masts or towers traditionally transmit  to a confined area and its community of peeps.

While community radio does podcast (Example: 3CR) the Catch 22 complication is that copyright regulations make it very difficult (read 'mostly  illegal') to do so if any music is used as part of programming. Songs included need to be removed before the podcasts is shared online. On top of that are some archaic regulations like the requirement for frequent station identification...and that all programs need to be archived if later scrutiny is required.

So the push is likely to be for online  streaming  -- but there, streaming isn't audio on demand as you'd still be held hostage to what's being streamed in real time...just like radio today. However, even online streaming has been cause for copyright disputes
Example: Around 200 local radio stations to cease online broadcast in music licence stoush.
And therein hangs one of podcasting's advantages: on demand audio. You get to listen to your program or episode preference as it suits you. And you can do that very conveniently either by listening online, downloading the audio file or by subscribing to the programming for automatic download  in-the-background of your other online activities.

All that's then required is the inclination and time to listen.

But who's listening?


I've been thinking about that -- given that listening to audio online does  not seem to be the fashion. 

Or does it? 

In that I think Spotify is a game changer.
Spotify is a commercial music streaming service providing digital rights management-restricted content from record labels including Sony, EMI, Warner Music Group and Universal. Music can be browsed or searched by artist, album, genre, playlist, or record label. Paid "Premium" subscriptions remove advertisements and allow users to download music to listen to offline. On computers, a link allows users to purchase selected material via partner retailers.
By May 2014,after 5 years of online existence, Spotify had grown to ten million paying customers and 30 million free users.

I'm not concerned here so much with DRM but the popularity of Spotify changes the way folk use the internet. They're listening ONLINE....rather than looking at screens.

Just like a podcast.

If you are unfamiliar with podcasting you also need to know that most podcasts are listed and shared as part of the iTunes package, my own included. To find a podcast, listen to it and subscribe is a very easy DIY. At present there are 800 million iTunes accounts on the planet...and,in sync with such a figure, there are over 1 billion podcast subscriptions.
Apple says that those billion subscriptions are spread across 250,000 unique podcasts in more than 100 languages, and that more than 8 million episodes have been published in the iTunes Store to date.
So are you getting my drift?

Rather than falling by the wayside, podcasting is not only surviving but doing OK.  Many of the most popular podcasts are no doubt   programs shared online by already existing radio stations. Here in Australia, the ABC offers many podcasts. In the US, the NPR network is a major and popular podcast generator....and the daily news program,  Democracy Now!  --while it began life as a Pasifica Radio Network program broadcast, quickly adapted to podcasting --is probably one of the most successful transitions to podcasting from 'community radio' . With its combined video and audio offerings, it is one of the top 50000 sites in the world according to Alexa (ranking:#15,820).

There's more to the podcasting story which I'll follow up with a later post but for now, my message is that podcasting still talks the talk and regardless of whatever may seem otherwise...folk are listening...and they are listening on a massive range of mobile devices as well as desktops.

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