Podcasts bring DIY radio to the web
By Clark Boyd
An Apple iPod or other digital music players can hold anything up to 10,000 songs, which is a lot of space to fill.
'Podcasting' grew from a program that put audio directly onto iPods
But more and more iPod owners are filling that space with audio content created by an unpredictable assortment of producers.
It is called "podcasting" and its strongest proponent is former MTV host and VJ (video jockey) Adam Curry.
Podcasting takes its name from the Apple iPod, although you do not need an iPod to create one or to listen to a podcast.
A podcast is basically an internet-based radio show which podcasters create, usually in the comfort of their own home.
They need only a microphone, a PC, and some editing software. They then upload their shows to the internet and others can download and listen to them, all for free.
Using technology based on XML computer code and RSS - Really Simple Syndication - listeners can subscribe to podcasts collected automatically in a bit of software, which Mr Curry has pioneered.
The latest MP3 files of shows can then be picked up by a music playing device automatically.
Mr Curry records, hosts, edits and produce a daily, 40 minute podcast called The Daily Source Code.
He wants to make podcasting "the Next Big Thing" and says it is an extension of his childhood love of radio gadgetry.
"I was always into technologies and wires," he explains. "My parents gave me the Radio Shack 101 project kit, which allows you to build an AM transmitter and subsequently an FM transmitter.
"I had my mom drive me around the block, see how far it would reach on the car radio."
Mr Curry is American, but he grew up in the Netherlands where he hosted illegal, pirate radio shows in the Dutch capital. He tried university in the US, and ended up back in Holland where he hosted a music video show.
He spent the next seven years in New York where he worked at MTV hosting the Top 20 Video Countdown, but spent most of his hours tinkering with this new thing called the internet.
"At a certain point in 1995, I was driving in on a Friday afternoon, beautiful blue sky, one of those beautiful days thinking, this is so stupid.
"You know, I'm going do the Top 20 Countdown, take the cheque, go home, and sit on the internet until three in the morning.
"So, after I finished the show, I quit. I said, on air, it's been great, I've been here for seven years at that point, there's something on the internet, I've got to go find it, and I'll see you later."
But Mr Curry's technology and broadcast interests started to gel a couple of years ago when computer storage was growing exponentially and high-speed internet connections were becoming more widely available.
The MP3 format also meant that people could create and upload audio more cheaply and efficiently than ever before.
Most importantly, Mr Curry says, people across the globe were bored with the radio they were hearing.
"Listen to 99% of the radio that you hear today, it's radio voices, and it's fake, it's just fake."
Clark Boyd is technology correspondent for The World, a BBC World Service and WGBH-Boston co-production.
Which is why streaming MP3 stations are booming. Shoutcast has thousands of stations which simply play music which cannot be heard in a Clear Channel world.
Radio never played the best cuts, but man, now, except for Howard Stern, why bother listening. Air America is simulcast over the net and on sattelite radio.
When Jen came over for Christmas, she asked me about my stereo. I don't have one. I have a radio in my bedroom, but all my music is either on one of my machines or my MP3 player. Why do I need a stereo? To play MP3's on? It's cheaper to buy a sound card and good speakers. I certainly won't need a radio in 2006, at least one which plays terrestrial stations. The problem with current media is that they don't get the idea that their customers have moved beyond them to create a flexible media world. One where they can design the music they want, the way they want.
So I set up my speakers and my laptop and played Christmas music and it sounded just fine.
posted by Steve @ 12:39:00 AM