Podcasting: The New On Demand Radio

Thursday, July 12, 2007 23:12
Posted in category Hardware, Internet, Software

Over the decades, the perception of the individual has shifted. This can be seen in the technologies that we use. For instance, in the past, more people relied on mass transit systems to get around. This meant that people were at the mercy of the schedule and routes of mass transit. If we shift the same thought to media, radio was the commonly accepted way to listen to music. However in that category, if you wanted to listen to a specific song, you needed to wait until it was played.

In this modern age, we’ve learned how to adapt technology to provide us with comfort and ease of movement. Personal cars allow us to go from point A to point B at our own leisure. The introduction of personalized CDs, iPods and MP3 players allow us to listen to what we want, when we want.

The bottom line is that the world where we were small and insignificant is gone. We no longer revolve around our world, it revolves around us. While the moral and social implications of such a shift would make a great debate, I would prefer to touch a different subject. Podcasts. This is a great example of the shift I’m referring to. There are many people that enjoy listening to radio hosts as they talk about various subjects ranging from the local news to the darker side of Hollywood. One unfortunate draw back is that the radio show comes on at a certain time of the day. In order to listen to it, you’ll need to arrange your schedule around it. Podcasts follow the same concept, but provide the listener the ability to listen in on their own terms.

Podcasts, or podcasting, is an emerging technology. By emerging, I don’t mean new; rather, it is becoming more popular and mainstream. People have placed audio files on the Internet for years. The ability to organize and broadcast the availability of new audio files also existed. However, I would argue that it didn’t take off until Apple took the music market by storm with its iTunes software and iPod media device. iTunes provides users the ability to sync songs with their iPod. Not only that, they can purchase songs as well as subscribe to podcast feeds. The word “podcast” was first introduced by taking Apple’s iPod trademark and mingling it with the word “broadcast.” (This has actually sparked some debate as to who owns the prefix pod-, but that is yet another subject I don’t wish to touch.)

Apple’s iTunes, mixed with it’s iPod, created an easy way to subscribe to various “internet radio shows” which could be copied to the iPod for later listening. As I said before, this isn’t a new concept or technology. Other software developers have also created software (in some cases, they’re available for free), which would allow a person to do the same thing with any portable media device (MP3 Player).

There are ups and downs to any software. If you own an iPod, iTunes is the best bet. However, if you’re like me, and have invested in a less expensive device (Sandisk m240), there are a plethora of other options. Of all the many, many, many options out there, I’m a fan of Juice along with Media Monkey. I feel they provide me with the best technical experience. But my ideal experience may not line up with yours. Experiment with various options before settling on one. (Juice downloads podcasts into a directory that Media Monkey watches. Media Monkey will then add and remove files to my MP3 player as I add and remove them from my hard drive.)

If you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t want to worry about it, just want “it” to work and have the cash, get an iPod. If you’re on a limited budget and are willing to get your hands dirty, don’t get an iPod.

After you settle into your new multimedia experience environment, start looking for podcasts which fit your persona. I’ve found that many of the radio and news shows in my area provide an audio recording of the show in podcast form. To the right, you’ll find a few of my favorites which deal with a more technical genre.

Any vehicle we have in our family must be able to handle a portable media player. (Driving with headphones is illegal in most states.) There are a plethora of car stereos which provide you with an auxiliary input (looks like a headphone jack) which will allow you to pipe your iPod or MP3 player into your car’s sound system. If your car doesn’t have one, upgrading a car stereo can be very simple… especially when they can be installed for free by the store where you purchase it from. (Very important… find out what the parts will cost. Some cars with an integrated audio bus can cost an extra $400 dollars.) If your car has a cassette deck, a $20 adapter will provide you with the same functionality.

I find the commute to work is fun and mind-engaging with podcasts. The radio hosts work on my timetable. I can play, pause, rewind and fast forward at any time. The best part, I’m not a slave to the mindless dribble that comes from my car radio while I drive.

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