Tech Trends: Podcasting hits the mainstream
The word is barely a year old, and already it seems 2005 is the year of the podcast. The marriage of portable audio players and radio broadcasting, podcasting is a kind of radio on demand [All the hits on WYOU (5/2/05)]. People can download audio files from the Internet and listen to them at their leisure from their iPods or other devices. Last week, Apple released its new version of software for the iPod, which includes a directory of podcasts available for download.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs calls podcasting "the next generation of radio." It is a simple concept, which is perhaps why it is catching on so quickly. People download audio commentary, talk radio shows, or music sets (although distributing music for free may violate copyright law). Amateur talking heads are embracing the medium, and quirky radio shows are abundant online, taking blogging from the written word to the spoken. In an April report, the Pew Internet and American Life Project estimated that 6 million people have downloaded a podcast.
Most downloads are currently free, and advertisers are just beginning to find ways to sponsor them. Even if podcasting is not yet profitable, it is finding its way into many parts of society. The opportunities are vast:
- Education: Starting in the fall of 2004, Duke University gave all new students an iPod. Now it is beginning to include podcasting capabilities into its curriculum. Lectures can be disseminated through podcasts, teachers can listen to professional development audio files, and students can submit oral projects.
- Business: Public relations departments, including those at General Electric and Walt Disney, use podcasts to deliver news such as quarterly financial announcements.
- Politics: In March, former Sen. John Edwards posted a podcast in which he talked about a number of topics, including his wife's battle with breast cancer. With podcasting, virtually any politician can create his or her own regular radio address.
- Religion: An Anglican church in Australia makes sermons available via podcasts, an early example of how anyone may someday be able to go to church without actually leaving home.