Podcasting is a Movement

There’s been a lot of talk recently on the podcasting message boards and lists about Clear Channel’s announcement that it would be putting some of its content online as podcasts. Folks in the podcasting community are questioning the “big versus small” aspect of whether repurposed Clear Channel content is really a podcast. A lot of podcasters seem to think that podcasting is a new medium unto itself. I don’t necessarily agree with that – but I can see where they are coming from. What follows is a response I wrote to the Podcasters Yahoo Group on the subject:

Here’s the thing – if podcasting is a different medium then radio, then why are companies like Clear Channel, Virgin, NPR and others who are making their content available in podcasts referring to it AS podcasts? Why bother? Why not just say “Hey we’re making the highlights of our morning show available as an MP3 every day on our website”?

Let’s look at it this way – are blogs a different medium? Or is it just that they are a new way of delivering an existing medium (the written word) with a low cost of entry and publishing? Wouldn’t you say that’s the same as podcasts? Just because the entry is easy, doesn’t make any podcasts any less “audio content” then traditional radio – it’s just leveling the playing field, right? I can listen to Dawn and Drew, then I can catch a 10 minute “highlight reel” of what Elvis Duran did on Z-100 yesterday morning, and then I can listen to Reel Reviews, maybe check out the Dragon Page, and finally catch the technology podcast from The BBC’s World program. It’s my own station – with my own interests and schedule. Same thing with blogs – my RSS feed reader lets me see CNN, Engadget, MicroPersuasion and my friend Andrew’s blog all at the same time – showing me all the headlines and I pick and choose what I want to read. The playing field is LEVEL. That doesn’t make CNN less important to me. Nor does it mean that my friend’s blog is a different medium then CNN – it’s still all written word.

The question was asked if traditional radio will port over seamlessly – I think so – because people know it and know the players. I think they won’t be listening as MUCH – but they will be listening to the GOOD stuff from traditional radio – because it’ll be condensed into smaller shots of concentrated content. I’d love to hear the “best of” what Howard Stern says each day. I can’t stand to sit through 4+ hours of his show – but when he’s funny, man – he hits the nail on the head. So what if I could get 30 minutes of his best stuff that day in a podcast? I don’t know if I’d pay for it, but for free, sure – I’d listen.

So are they a different medium, or just a new way of delivery? Well, I think that if podcasters want to be known as a new medium entirely – they need to make a concerted effort to make sure that THEIR content is labeled as podcasts – and that traditional radio content is NOT. Educate the public that PODCAST = average joe user produced content. How will THAT happen? It won’t. Why? Because even blogs are NOT being used that way. Sure – average joe produces his own content with a blog. So does, say – Stony Field Farms, and even Yahoo. Wow. Does that make average joe’s content “not written word”? Not in the least. And you can bet your bippy since blogs came along that corporate America is catching on to podcasting a LOT quicker than blogs. (GM already experimented with it). Do bloggers consider themselves a new medium? Or just a new way of producing and distributing an exisiting medium – the written word? When desktop publishing first got popular and you saw all these “zines” and homegrown comics popping up everywhere – did that diminish the importance of mainstream magazines and comic books? Did the producers of those think of themselves as a new medium? Or was it just that they were able to get around the traditional means of slick production and distribution that traditional media had a lock on?

Podcasting is a repackaging and relabeling of audio content with a new distribution mechanism. It’s a MOVEMENT – not a medium. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, I’m just trying to tell it like it IS.

–*Rob

Back from Florida

We’re back from vacation in Florida and we had a great time. I’ll write more about it later – but I wanted to get up this gallery of new Melissa pictures – which is from January,February and March and includes pictures of her from Florida. More to come…including pictures from Seaworld….

–*Rob

A Somber Reminder

So let me tell you about my night last night.

We had a fire in my building. Yes, everyone is fine and no – no damage to our place save a little smoke odor. But let this be a reminder folks – check your smoke detectors, have a fire exit plan, keep all your valuable papers, computer backups, etc.. in a fireproof box or in a safety deposit box. Until you have been through this – you don’t realize the importance of this. So here’s the full story:

6:30 PM – we had just finished dinner and I had just cleaned up the kitchen. Our downstairs neighbors knock on our door to ask if we are getting any water in our place from the ceiling. I tell them no – but I see a small amount of water on the floor in our utility room – a puddle coming out from under the washer. I know it’s not our hot water heater because it was replaced a mere three months ago. I go next door and I see water gushing down their walls, out of a hole in their ceiling. We go outside and see water gushing off the balcony of the unit upstairs. I figure their hot water heater burst. We walk back around the front, where the woman who lives in the downstairs unit is attempting to get the water company to turn off the water. Then – we see smoke – from the attic vent. Our building consists of 8 units – 4 downstairs, 4 upstairs, all corner units. So this is the unit on the opposite side of the building from us, upstairs. I run in the house and call 911 – operator tells us it’s been called in – fire dept. is on their way.

Brenda figures out where the woman upstairs works – we have talked to them on many occasions, an older couple – mid to late 50’s, kids grown, and they have always been nice to us. They are B and P. She tries to call her work, to get her cell phone # to call her. As she is on the phone trying to get that info, the fire trucks arrive. They usher us out of our house quickly. We snatch up Melissa and our important papers from our filing cabinet, and are out in a flash. Brenda tells the woman at B’s work that she needs to get a hold of her right away – her house is on fire, and hangs up.

Brenda sees J – a woman who lives across the street whom we see walking her dog all the time. Melissa loves her dog and she invites them in to get warm. I stand outside watching nervously. There are firewalls between all the units, but the fear is still incredible.

One firefighter kicks in the door with one kick. A number of them rush in. They break out the windows of the upstairs unit. Out of one sails a cat playground – of course – all carpet and cardboard, totally flammable. A firefighter emerges with a cat – her face is sooty but she’s squirming to get away, so she’s obviously ok. She’s handed off to a big burly police officer – who looks so thrilled to now have “cat duty”. At this point more fire engines pull up, and police cars. There are about 10 fire engines, and I can’t tell you how many people now congregating to watch. They pull an engine with a crane up – and firefighters get on the roof and hack away at the attic to increase ventilation, and check for fire up there. They throw more stuff out the windows. There’s not a lot of smoke coming out anymore. One of the EMS workers takes an oxygen tank over to the cat, and cups the oxygen around her face. I realize that our Tigger is out already, and he’s likely huddled behind some bush avoiding all the noise and activity. There are a sea of firefighters standing around. I guess better to have a lot in case the fire had spread. It seems like they’ve put it out in a small amount of time.

The rest of the night is pretty much just waiting around. Brenda and I take turns going outside to see what the story is. They have to go in and survey the place, figure out what caused the fire, then board it up. Thank the fire codes for fire walls. There is only water damage to the unit directly below the one with the fire. They check the units on the other side of the building and they are all fine, they let those folks back in. They do more surveying, check the unit next to it upstairs for damage – it is fine. They check us out – ours is fine too. They tell us we may smell the smoke odor for a week or so but that since no smoke ever actually entered our place it’s just a smell that will dissipate. They let us back in, but of course there are still all the fire trucks outside. It is still a buzz of activity. Melissa gets a bottle and we get her to bed – it’s now 9:15.

B and P come home. We invite them in. They stay outside for a while, then B and some of her friends – the people she works with whom we talked to initially – had come over. They all come in and we offer them our living room. B is devastated, but keeps apologizing to us for ruining our night, for disrupting us. We just comfort her and tell her it is not her fault.

We find out that it was the dishwasher – they had started it to run before they left – and something shorted out. Once the fire got hot enough, it burst a pipe – hence all the water. You’d think that the water would put out the fire – but it had already spread to the cabinets. The firemen all tell them their place is salvageable – it was contained to the kitchen/utility room area, and there is smoke damage and some water damage – but it is likely they will be back in the place in three to four weeks at earliest. They will need a new kitchen, and to have the place cleaned for the smoke damage, but most of their other possessions, though dirty from smoke – will likely be fine. Also – the fire department cut a whole in the floor – which I guess is to let all the water from their hoses go down in one place – so there are some major repairs to be done, but they were stressing how it will all be able to be fixed in the end. No structural damage.

They stick around a while as they complete their investigation. They come to get B and P to take them up to get out any valuables. They say that even though it looks bad – not to worry, it will all get fixed – there is no structural damage – it’s all cosmetic. They go upstairs, and then come back down a few minutes later. We talk with B’s friends some more, and then when they come back down – I offer P a drink. I tell him we have scotch if he wants something a little harder and he accepts. He and B were out to dinner – they go out every Wednesday to the same place. She heard her cell phone ring but she let it go. P told us he said “Nah – let’s enjoy ourselves.” We tell them if they need anything to call us. They wait for the fire and police to finish their respective reports, and then go. All the fire trucks pull out, and most of the police leave too. Eventually there is one police car and a contractor left. We hear a lot of banging as they board up the windows. Brenda goes out and walks down the street to call for Tigger. He comes bounding out of bushes on the other side of the building, happy as a clam to see her. I pick him up and bring him in – the front walk is covered in glass and other debris, and I don’t want him stepping in it.

We finally settle in, but we’re still wound up. We watch American Idol – which the TIVO dutifully recorded, in spite of everything. They never even shut off the power to the whole building. Just those two units affected. We finally decide to go to bed, but lay there watching some TV. I think I drifted off about 11:30. Brenda probably took longer. It amazed me how fast everything happened. It was only about 4 1/2 hours. We weren’t even out of the house that long – maybe from 7 to 9:15.

This morning I walk around the other side of the building to survey the damage. Mostly broken glass out there. A kitchen light fixture and a lot of drywall – probably from the ceiling of the downstairs place. There’s a plastic basket sitting on the lawn – the basket is fully intact – only the top of the contents – some cleaning products – are all melted off. Probably from under the sink. There’s some pots and pans too – all sooty and singed. There are a bunch of things on the balcony – but they never broke out the patio door. Just the corner and front windows. It IS all just “stuff” but I still can’t imagine having to deal with replacing it all. Everyone is OK, everyone is safe. It happened while everyone was awake, which is a good thing. I don’t want to think about how much worse it would have been had it happened in the middle of the night.

I realized that we don’t have any of the neighbors’ phone numbers, let alone cell phone numbers. We’re all so isolated in our own little lives, that we barely get to know anyone around us. Yet – in a condo development – we live so close together. But if something like this happens – you realize that it’s not just your friends you need – you need to know your neighbors – or at least have points of contact for them in an emergency. You just never know when you will need them.

Not only that – but the need for a disaster plan. People talk about this all the time, but how many of us actually, truly do it? Do we have our own fire drills? Do we keep our important papers offsite? And don’t forget your PC – how much is on there that you wouldn’t want to lose? Back it up, and take it with you. Of course the obvious thing – smoke detectors. Check ’em. Make sure they work.

And finally – we all have cell phones. Use them. Answer them. You never know when it might actually be important.

Everyone’s OK. But I wanted to throw out the reminder. It hit too close to home last night.

–*Rob

Podcasting – Here To stay

John Edwards is going to be podcasting.

How cool is that? He may not have been able to be Veep, but I know I’ll be listening to see what he has to say. If you thought podcasting was a fad – think again, Hamurabi….

Other podcasts I have found lately that are cool::

Area 51 – A really warped, skit style show – leans to the Sci-Fi side but not too much.

Slacker Astrononmy – a ten minute podcast about anything in the world of Astronomy – has a humorous bent to it…very fun to listen to.

–*Rob

Wild About Harry

As you can see……

The new Harry Potter Book is not too far off! The folks at Mugglenet have this wonderful counter, and they also have the newly-revealed covers (US, UK and UK Adult versions) up for the world to see.

I also noted that there is a pretty cool store linked from their main page – Alivans. They sell real magic wands and brooms (as well as other Harry Potter memorabilia). I like the Rosewood Wand, but I might just let the wand choose me and see what comes up!

–*Rob

Convergence!

As I have been getting more into listening to podcasts and portable solutions to my media viewing/watching habits, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what the future looks like. I want the future right now – but of course I can’t have it because it would be prohibitively expensive. Using Tivo, and Tivo to Go has only solidfied these ideas in my head – and I’m sure you’re now wondering what I mean.

My vision of the future of computers and media – as they converge – has each person having one singular device. This device would essentially be a wireless device that uses wireless broadband internet – and is constantly connected, always downloading updates. The device would have telephony capabilities, as well as media player, camera (still and full motion video at a high resolution) and a full blown PC built in(which of course keeps all your contacts, calendar, etc…) It would connect and get whatever media you wanted dynamically, on the fly all the time. In my vision – you’d never have to bother figuring out what time a TV or radio show was on – it would just show up in your “playlist.” The latest traffic report from say – a minute ago – would automatically be there in your device, as well as the latest episode of Star Trek. Everything would be constantly streaming in. You’d have all your data backed up either at home or on a server out on the internet somewhere – just for backup. Storage would need to be massive on the device as you’d have all your video shows, audio shows, and data all on the one device.

You would take your device with you everywhere – and everywhere you go, you’d simply be able to wirelessly link into a public terminal if you needed say – a full size keyboard and monitor to use to type email or whatever. Printers – same thing – just find a wireless connected one if you really needed a hard copy. Take it into your office and “dock it” wirelessly to the terminal at your desk. Take it in the car and “dock it” there. Same thing at home. Terminal upstairs, terminal downstairs. Maybe a wireless monitor and keyboard – set up wherever you want.

Your TV (for lack of better term) hangs on the wall and can also become your terminal – or play whatever video you want. “Shows” are released on a weekly basis and downloaded as they are available. The TV network is almost a thing of the past – your just watch what you want, when you want. Sound like TIVO? One step further then that – no commercials – pay for your programming – or get it for free with commercials in it. You subscribe to media like magazines – get a whole “season” of a show for a discounted rate, or get individual episodes for a small charge per episode. Get a certain “network” full of shows for a discounted rate as well. Audio content – same way. Everyday folks also produce content for pay or free – podcasts, video podcasts, etc…

I want that device, and this way of doing things. I want it now. Because right now – everything is still too clumsy. I get my podcasts – but I have to set up iPodder to get them – inputting the RSS feed address. I get my written content – but again – I have manually set it all up on RSS and such. My video – well I watch the TIVO at home, but if I want to watch a show at lunch at work – I have to have pulled it off the TIVO (with TIVO-To-Go), then put it on my iPod’s hard drive, then take it to work and play it there. It’s all so clumsy – but it works. I want it all to just be there – wherever I go. I think it’ll eventually happen – but it’s likely to be a good 10 years before all this comes to fruition.

Still, it doesn’t stop me from wanting it all now.

–*Rob

WE SHALL OBEY….

As a followup to my post from yesterday regarding the gov’t trying to regulate Cable/Satellite TV and Satellite Radio – here’s another story on it.

So it looks like they actually have the SUPPORT of Clear Channel! Well, of course CC is in the current administration’s pocket as they are part of W’s good ole boys network. Since CC has a partial stake in XM Satellite radio, they’d be willing to sacrifice some on that side – to hurt Sirius – where Howard Stern in going.

But further along then this – what is really scary is that it is mentioned that indecency cases would be made a top priority – along with the WAR ON TERROR? I mean – what the hell? These two things are NOT even close to on the same level!

Oh man….if this continues we really WILL live in an Orwellian society….

–*Rob

Puritanical America

So it looks like so yo-yos in Washington are trying to go after cable and satellite radio and TV. They want to apply the same broadcast standards. This is the top of the slope. If they do this, down we go.

I cannot put into word the sheer open mouthed rage that someone even ATTEMPTING to do this brings out in me. You PAY for cable TV. You PAY for Satellite radio. You pay a premium for something that is NOT regulated like broadcast TV. For your CHOICE.

So here’s the thing. Should this go through, and I am not convinced it will….but…if it does – this is where the internet comes into the picture. Ain’t no way the government is going to be able to regulate the internet. I talk about podcasts a lot – and for good reason. Podcasts would be the place to go to get your choice of radio if they hit satellite. AND – video podcasts are the next logical step for TV. Content downloaded direct to you – bypassing even the cable TV lines and the airwaves.

–*Rob