Economy of Effort

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I’ve mentioned podcasting before, but as the phenomenon takes off, it’s come time to mention it again. The super short version: podcasts are radio shows recorded in MP3 format, and posted online in RSS feed blogs. Listeners use special software to subscribe to these RSS feeds, and the software downloads new radio shows automatically and adds them to the user’s media player (and portable MP3 player if they have one). In essence, it’s like TiVO for radio.

A few days ago, the USA Today ran an article on Podcasting on the cover of their “Money” section, and another one in the “Life” section, and even another one in the “News” section. Obviously, the USA Today is quite smitten with this new form of broadcast media.

As well they should be. In the last few weeks, the number of podcasts available has skyrocketed. Searching Podcast Alley yields an army of shows, vying for podcast listeners' attention. There are some great ones that don’t yet show up in Podcast Alley’s directory, though. Here, Google is your friend. Some shows are recorded in peoples' basements. Others, however, are real commercial radio shows that are recorded and then placed online (some radio stations are more permissive/progressive than one might expect).

I’ve added links to some of my favorite podcasts in the links menu on the right (if you’re reading my journal on Livejournal or Xanga, go to my actual journal to see the links).

BendingCorners: a monthly podcast featuring themed “jazz-n-groove” mixes, often sprinkling in electro-jazz, post-rock, and anything else jazz-inspired that fits the theme. The Metal Show: a weekly recording of a late-night metal show that airs on 92.3 FM Xtreme Radio in Cleveland, OH. A Night Drive Through Babylon: a weekly set of electro, IDM, techno, and obscure electronic music The Linux Link Tech Show: a weekly tech talk radio show from Lehigh Valley, PA, about the Linux OS and software Brainwashed Radio: a weekly hour-long show featuring post-rock, electro, and other experimental artists from the Brainwashed family of artists & labels E-MUSIC: a weekly radio show on WDIY 88.1 FM in Bethlehem, PA, featuring hour-long soundscapes of electronic, ambient, and space music Leo Laporte’s Tech Guy on KFI: a weekly tech radio show on KFI 640 AM in Los Angeles, featuring ex-TechTV personality Leo Laporte doing what he does best: answering tech questions with explanations even the newbie can understand The Laporte Report: Leo Laporte’s not-quite-daily tech news blog, usually in a quick 5-10 minute format

I’m still looking for even more interesting shows. The one show I would like to find but haven’t is a weekly progressive rock show. Particularly one that doesn’t just play cuts of the mighty Beard and Flowers and Porcupines. I would love if Sean McFee’s Progressive Shores show would release podcast archives of its weekly streams, but Mr. Irish Bastard is getting too old and falling too far behind the times to keep up with such newfangled technology. (Between you and me, I think he still hates MP3s - ssshh!)

USA Today seems to think that eventually, every radio show will be available as podcasts. Given how relatively small an audio show can be, in terms of data size & bandwidth needed for retrieval, there’s little reason for it to not take off. To me, the most exciting prospects are the shows on AM & FM radio in various parts of the country (and rest of the world, for that matter) becoming available to people outside of the paltry broadcast ranges of terrestrial radio stations. Shows like The Metal Show are conventional, but I don’t live in Cleveland, and there’s nothing similar to it near me. Likewise, I’m only a highway drive away from where Leo Laporte’s show plays but it’s too far for the FM broadcast to reach me.

Not to be overly dramatic, but podcasting is the unlocking of radio (IMO). Podcasting is radio no longer bound by either broadcast times or broadcast distances. Anyone can download any podcasted show, from anywhere, and listen to it anytime (and anywhere if they have a portable MP3 player). Plain, shackled-by-schedules and short range AM/FM radio seems downright quaint by comparison. I can easily imagine my future children growing up and being shocked at the idea of a time where you couldn’t listen to any radio show anywhere/anytime, however you see fit.