Podcasting Not All Hype After All

iPodderXThere are at least a few podcasting skeptics in my office, and until last week, you may as well have lumped me in among them. The technology seemed a bit too eagerly hyped to be really as cool as all that, plus I couldn’t justify finding the time to experiment with it. At some point, though, I downloaded the installer for iPodderX, probably the most well-known of the podcasting software aggregators (or whatever this particular sub-genre of software is termed), and installed it.

It was a week or two before I actually opened up the software and started to fiddle with it. In spite of its best efforts at imitating an Apple-style user interface, it’s not particularly elegant or intuitive, but I managed to get a few podcast feeds functioning and transferred to my iPod.

It’s Got a Beat and You Can Sync to It

Once you’ve invested the admittedly minimal effort required to get it working, though, it is a markedly easier process than manually downloading MP3 files and installing them on your iPod all by yourself. To me, this improvement in the user experience is the central innovation, in spite of iPodderX’s minor shortcomings.

It’s true that all the components of podcasting have been around for a while, and that bundling them together and giving them a trendy name seems suspect. But I’m a believer in the idea that improvements to user experiences are the meat of most truly meaningful technological innovations.

Now that I’m successfully and regularly subscribed to various podcasting feeds, I’m sold on the concept. It’s made my iPod seem many times more useful and indispensable. Right now, I only subscribe to a few feeds, but I’m already backlogged on my listening — there’s just not enough time to get through it all. I’ve tried and discarded my share of less-than interesting podcast subscriptions, but I’ve also found a very healthy amount of very good content being turned out on pretty aggressive schedules. I guess what I need is a longer commute.

Show Me the Money

Part of the excitement of this technology is that, in spite of the overly effusive hype, there seems to be some real business potential at play. It’s encouraging that media sources like NPR are taking it seriously — the fact that the public broadcaster’s On the Media program is available as a podcast was a very strong impetus for my initial interest. There are at least a few clients we’re working with that could benefit from the very specific and potentially lucractive demographic of users who’ve figured out how to subscribe to podcasts. In fact, I fully expect podcast handling functionality to start appearing in browsers next year. Forrester even estimates that, within 5 years, there will be about 12 million people “synchronizing podcasts to their MP3 players,” which sounds great to me. I’m just hoping that when we get to that stage, individual podcasters are still turning out genuinely interesting and diverse content.

  1. I haven’t found any, but there should be, right? I suppose the danger is that such a podcast may expose design for how boring it really is. Seriously, it’s probably difficult to discuss a practice so visual in a medium like radio that involves no visuals whatsoever.

  2. I think the technology is great, but I’m skeptical that there are any feeds that would be of great interest to me. I guess I’ll just have to give it a fair shot.

  3. Any recommendations? I’ve tried a few podcasts but haven’t stuck with any. I know that it has the capacity to be an excellent delivery system, but I just haven’t found the right content.

    A design-related podcast would work well if one were to combine the podcast with a series of images to display on an iPod Photo (or similar). I’d like to see (hear?) one produced for an event like the Salon de Mobil or Tokyo Designer’s Block.

  4. Triple J, Australia’s public youth-orientated radio station, has a great program called Hack, where they discuss relevant current affairs with refreshing and often brutal honesty. You’ve always been able to listen to Triple J through streaming Real Audio or Windows Media, but I’ve found out you can now listen to a couple of the non-music segments as podcasts.

    They are invariably highly controversial topics that most news stations would treat as a hot potato, I just downloaded a few segments on steroid use, media spin, domestic violence, the elderly and sex, marijuana psychosis and living with brain injury.

    For an example, on one show about drug smuggling, they had someone who used to be a large-scale drug dealer interviewed and responding to callers who have been or have known drug mules. It was definitely not a one-sided “drugs are bad” piece.

    I would recommend it to anyone, regardless of your age or location, the shows go for 15-30 mins, I think they’re broadcast every weekday, but I’m not sure on that one.

  5. Khoi,

    I saw you mentioned downloading iPodderX, I would check out iPodder (no X), its an even easier and more well rounded app, its cross platform…

    Also, I dont know if this is known or not, but if you add a RSS feed of a blog w/ audio files linked, iPodder cues ALL of the files for immediate download. I know w/ some Podcast apps, its a single file to feed solution…

    I started up my second Blog the other day based around freely available music, audio, ringtones and PSP content…

    Audio Arsenal

  6. You know, Newsfire is great for this, for Mac users. Really clean interface (it’s continued to be clean with the addition of the Podcasting feature – surprisingly), and it features easy addition of tracks to iTunes in the style of Mr Watanabe’s other app, Acquisition. But I haven’t had time to really find podcasts to subscribe to, nor tried any other podcasting apps. The Coverville podcast is pretty good – thanks for the tip – nice to hear the Paul Hester tributes coming in from Americans as well as Aussies.

  7. I recommend CBC Radio 3’s podcast. You can find it in the Canadian directory. It’s all about playing rocking Canadian Indie music. Really good stuff.

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