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Will the iPod Kill the Radio Star?Profiling Podcasting as Radio

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Abstract

The Apple iPod has not only become a ‘must have’ style accessory for the ‘wirefree’ generation but has also revolutionized the way we consume music. At the time of writing, (November 2005) the revolution has already started in the audio world, and has been going for the last 18 months. ‘Podcasting’ allows anyone with a PC to create a ‘radio’ programme and distribute it freely, through the internet to the portable MP3 players of subscribers around the world. Podcasting not only removes global barriers to reception but, at a stroke, removes key factors impeding the growth of internet radio: its portability, its intimacy and its accessibility. This is a scenario where audiences are producers, where the technology we already have assumes new roles and where audiences, cut off from traditional media, rediscover their voices.
Will the iPod Kill the
Radio Star?
Profiling Podcasting as Radio
Richard Berry
University of Sunderland, UK
Abstract / The Apple iPod has not only become a ‘must have’ style accessory for the ‘wirefree’
generation but has also revolutionized the way we consume music. At the time of writing,
(November 2005) the revolution has already started in the audio world, and has been going for
the last 18 months. ‘Podcasting’ allows anyone with a PC to create a ‘radio’ programme and distrib-
ute it freely, through the internet to the portable MP3 players of subscribers around the world.
Podcasting not only removes global barriers to reception but, at a stroke, removes key factors
impeding the growth of internet radio: its portability, its intimacy and its accessibility. This is a
scenario where audiences are producers, where the technology we already have assumes new roles
and where audiences, cut off from traditional media, rediscover their voices.
Key Words / commercial Podcasting / converged media / digital radio / education Podcasts / iPod
/ music Podcasting / Podcasting / ‘wirefree’ generation
When a ‘new’ medium arrives and is named one often wonders where the title came
from. In the case of Podcasting the origins can be traced back to early 2004 when the
Guardian journalist Ben Hammersley observed:
With the benefit of hindsight, it all seems quite obvious. MP3 players, like Apple’s iPod in many
pockets, audio production software cheap or free, and weblogging an established part of the
internet; all the ingredients are there for a new boom in amateur radio. But what to call it?
Audioblogging? Podcasting? GuerillaMedia? (Hammersley, 2004)
Hammersley was reporting on the growth of audio content created in an MP3 format
that users could download and play back on the expanding range of MP3 players. He
pointed to the audio interviews of Christopher Lydon, a Law Fellow at Harvard University,
and to ‘Audible.com’ a speech-led website offering a variety of speech-based content to
fee-paying subscribers. Both offered listeners a new opportunity to find commercial-free
content to listen to when and where they wanted. In the case of Lydon’s work those
Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies
Copyright © 2006 Sage Publications
London, Thousand Oaks & New Delhi 1354-8565 Vol 12(2): 143–162
DOI: 10.1177/1354856506066522
http://cvg.sagepub.com
ARTICLE
listeners can talk back to the producer and establish a dialogue unheard of in traditional
top-down vertical media. Neither of these forerunners of the Podcast revolution had any
notion of what was to follow, nor did they use the term. Nevertheless they opened the
door to new opportunities.
Within a year of Hammersley’s article being published the word he employed so
tentatively was in regular use as a label for a new media platform. This article seeks to
examine the medium that became Podcasting and attempts to provide a ‘snapshot’ of
where it is and where it might be going and provide a discussion of its characteristics and
implications for traditional media like broadcast radio.
Whilst the reader may not have listened to a Podcast one cannot fail to have been
suddenly aware that the new medium exists. It has been adopted by broadcasters around
the globe and has been widely discussed in media and technology pages since its birth
in 2004. At that time a Google search for the word ‘Podcast’ would return somewhere
in the order of 6000 hits (Terdiman, 2004): today (November 2005) the same search
returns over 61 million hits, such is the increasing use of the term and the medium. A
further testament is the decision in August 2005 to include the word ‘Podcast’ in the
Oxford English American Dictionary (Miles, 2005).
Podcasting is not only a converged medium (bringing together audio, the web and
portable media devices) but also a disruptive technology and one that has already forced
some in the radio business to reconsider some established practices and preconceptions
about audiences, consumption, production and distribution. Whilst Audible was estab-
lished to provide speech content for these devices, the automation, free access and the
radio-like nature of Podcasts contribute to the disruptive nature of the new medium. It
is an application of technology that was not developed, planned or marketed and yet its
arrival does challenge established practices in a way that is not only unprecedented but
also unpredictable. Converging technologies are not unique to Podcasting and there are
lessons that can be learnt from experiences elsewhere. For media businesses to join in is
potentially a risk as ‘it requires companies to rethink old assumptions . . . If old consumers
were predictable and stationary, then new consumers are migratory, showing a declining
loyalty to networks or even media’ (Jenkins, 2004). This is the real challenge for radio
when attempting to communicate with the ‘wirefree’ generation in the converged age.
It is time to rethink not only established practices but also our notions of what audiences
really want.
There are some issues over the name ‘Podcasting’ itself. It suggests exclusivity to
Apple and that company’s iPod media player and, although they are inextricably linked
to the development of Podcasting, Podcasts can be played on a variety of generic
media devices and computers. The term ‘Podcast’ is used as an over-arching term
for any audio-content downloaded from the internet either manually from a website
or automatically via software applications. The latter method of distribution is the
most potentially revolutionary, the most disruptive and represents a new medium
worthy of a new terminology. However, listeners will inevitably not see the boundaries
and will treat all content the same, given that no matter how they receive it their con-
sumption of that content will be the same. For the purposes of this research article, I
define Podcasting as ‘media content delivered automatically to a subscriber via the
Internet’.
144 CONVERGENCE VOL. 12 NO. 2
The New Medium
To grasp the core concept of Podcasting, one should look to consumer experiences of
other media, and the most appropriate analogy is print media. We could buy our favourite
periodical over the counter by physically visiting our local newsagent or we could
subscribe direct with the publisher and have it sent to our home. By subscribing we do
not need to do anything to get the content we want: it arrives shortly after it is issued.
Podcasting works like a subscription except it is audio files delivered to the home or office
computer rather than printed matter dropping through the door. The audio is (usually)
recorded in the MP3 audio format, a generic format used by portable audio devices, such
as the Apple iPod.
1
Podcaster and author of one of the many ‘how to’ books on the topic, Todd
Cochrane, describes Podcasting as ‘Walkaway Content’ which is a neat and vivid way of
describing it (Cochrane, 2004). Users download a simple piece of software, such as
‘iPodder’,
2
to their home or office computer; they then add the details of the Podcast(s)
they wish to subscribe to either by browsing the inbuilt directory or by adding details
manually. The software will then monitor the RSS
3
feeds users have subscribed to and,
when a new item is available, it will be downloaded to the users’ hard disks and then, if
they choose, transferred to their media player. Once on a player, listeners can mix various
Podcasts with their own music to create their own playlist of content. The listener is now
in charge of the broadcast schedule choosing what to listen to, when, in what order and
– perhaps most significantly – where. Effectively there is a move in power from program-
mers to listeners. Although the producers still maintain control over content the listeners
make decisions over scheduling and the listening environment and that is a fundamental
change for producers of radio content.
Anyone can create a Podcast: you don’t need a licence (although music royalties are
due) and you definitely don’t need a radio studio. ‘To many Podcasters, it is about reclaim-
ing the radio and using the powerful and easy technology many now have, to do what
they want’ (Twist, 2005). It is a convergence of technologies that already existed and, in
many cases, that users already owned. Portable media devices, such as the Apple iPod,
are now commonly seen in use on commuter trains, buses and in the high street and
each user is hungry for content. What Podcasting does is to combine these devices with
online audio content (such as the material already offered by Audible) and RSS feeds as
a distribution system.
The impetus for Podcasting came from two internet pioneers who were musing over
how they could share and download their favourite content. Internet developer (and RSS
creator) Dave Winer and the internet entrepreneur and broadcaster Adam Curry began
to discuss how these technologies could grab content from the web automatically. Curry
noted, ‘I liked the fact that people were starting to blog audio files, but I didn’t want to
go have look for them [sic]. I wanted a magical experience’ (Curry, 2005a). Despite
attempts to convince developers to write a program he finally taught himself how to
write a simple program and posted it on the web for ‘open source’ developers to use,
borrow and improve. He says: ‘This “pied piper” approach worked better than I ever
could have imagined! . . . Once people started to figure out that it’s fun to host and
record your own radio show, a community was born’ (Curry, 2005b).
It is this open approach that has made Podcasting the rapidly adopted and popular
medium it has been. No one person owns the technology and so it is free to listen and
BERRY: WILL THE IPOD KILL THE RADIO STAR? 145
create content, thereby departing from the traditional model of ‘gate-kept’ media and
production tools. As word spread, people who had never thought about broadcasting
were suddenly recording their voices and posting the results online for the rest of the
world to hear. What Podcasting offers is a classic ‘horizontal’ media form: producers are
consumers and consumers become producers and engage in conversations with each
other. At a grassroots level there is no sense of a hierarchical approach, with Podcasters
supporting each other, promoting the work of others and explaining how they do what
they do. Whilst this is true of radio on the internet as a whole it is especially the case
with Podcasting because the means to create are as accessible as the means to consume.
In her discussion on the need for radio theory in the new digital age, Tacchi argues that
the internet challenges the way radio is and opens doors to innovation. So, the building
blocks were already in place for a revolution. Web streaming has been possible for some
time and the appetite for something new was being fuelled by narrowing playlists in the
USA and Europe (Tacchi, 2000: 294). Writing in the First Monday online journal a group
from the MBA programme at Indiana State University report that: ‘In addition to provid-
ing greater flexibility in when audio programming is listened to, Podcasting invariably also
offers listeners an escape from the advertising that plagues traditional radio broadcast-
ing’ (Crofts et al., 2005).
Various research bodies have attempted to come up with firm figures on the rise of
Podcasting. The first from Pew Internet Research in March 2005 estimated that some 6
million people in the US had downloaded audio content from the web, which they
claimed was 29 per cent of the 11 per cent of the US population who owned an MP3
player (Rainie and Madden, 2005). Figures like this suggest a takeoff rate faster than that
of DVD.
4
Whilst the small sample size meant the research was largely viewed with scep-
ticism by the ‘Podcasting community’, it is not unreasonable to assume that Podcasting
has taken off in a dramatic way. OFCOM research reveals that in their ‘residential tracker
survey’ at the end of 2004, 18 per cent owned an MP3 player already and a further 5
per cent intended to buy one within six months. This can be considered against a back-
ground of the lowest listening levels to commercial radio in six years (OFCOM, 2005a:
48). Unlike DVD or digital television, Podcasting is effectively a free technology. If
someone has an MP3 player it will cost them little or nothing to go online and download
a Podcast. More recent data from Forrester Research was seen as more realistic, estimat-
ing 12.3 million US households would be listening to Podcasts by 2010 (BBC, 2005c).
However, research revealed at the time of writing suggests that Pew may have had it
right after all: Bridge Research and Ratings projected that 8.4 million people had down-
loaded a Podcast during 2005, up from 820,000 in 2004 and, of those, 20 per cent were
weekly downloaders with those figures set to rise to between 45 and 75 million users,
and 18 million weekly users, by 2010 (Bridge Ratings and Research, 2005).
There are, however, no data to indicate how many of the downloaded Podcasts are
actually listened to by the subscribers. If the listener is using software to download
Podcasts on their behalf the process is automatic and it is possible (and likely) that many
downloads simply stay on the user’s hard disk and are never heard, such is the volume
of content that a reasonably sized repertoire of subscriptions can generate. The previ-
ously cited research by Bridge Ratings and Research in 2005 projected that only 20 per
cent of downloads are ever transferred to an iPod or similar device, although they take
this to mean that Podcasts are played on the host computer rather than suggesting how
146 CONVERGENCE VOL. 12 NO. 2
many subscribed items of content are ever played. It does, however, give us some guide
to listening patterns.
The Radio Advertising Bureau in the UK has identified two types of listening in broad-
cast radio; ‘habitual’ and ‘discretionary’, where habitual listening is peak-time or poten-
tially ‘wallpaper’ listening, and discretionary occurs in leisure time, with programmes seen
as ‘appointments to listen’ (Radio Advertising Bureau, 2004). We could consider that all
Podcasts fall into the discretionary category, with listeners making deliberate choices to
subscribe to content and to transfer to their playback device. As with music collections
listeners can choose Podcasts that appeal to them at that moment and so, one would
assume, would be more attentive and ‘active’ as listeners given that they have made the
choice to hear that specific piece of content at that point in their day. If this is the case
then that will have an impact on programme makers and how audiences are addressed.
Podcasting Precedents
Radio was developed in the late 1890s as a point-to-point communication system but set
owners began ‘listening in’. Slowly the medium developed from a means of talking to
each other into a means to talk to the masses, with broadcast organizations such as the
BBC emerging in the 1920s. Writing in 1930 Bertolt Brecht argued of radio:
The radio would be the finest possible communication apparatus in public life, a vast network of
pipes. That is to say, it would be if it knew how to receive as well as to transmit, how to let the
listener speak as well as hear, how to bring him into a relationship not isolating him. (Brecht,
1993: 15)
This equates with what Podcasting does, as one can listen or one can ‘transmit’ and
crucially there is no ‘gatekeeper’ controlling who can and who cannot transmit in this
space.
The same pattern of development can be seen in the internet insofar as another
system developed for one-to-one communication soon became a widely adopted system
of content production and distribution. When the web was still quite young Progressive
Networks launched their ‘Real Audio’ software in 1995, allowing radio to use the web
as a new distributive platform (Priestman, 2002: 7). The problem was that technology
had effectively ‘landlocked’ web radio (Wall, 2004: 34). Web radio lacks portability –
although Wi-Fi radios have recently been launched in the UK, as discussed later. The
development of downloads of audio content in MP3 formats may be seen as the web’s
equivalent of the cassette recorder or the portable radio. Both changed the way listeners
consume radio. The MP3 player, like the transistor, frees the listener from a large box
wired to the wall and, like the cassette recorder, it allows programmes to be time-shifted.
This demonstrates the virus-like nature of radio as a medium. Radio has found its way
into all parts of homes and outdoors, into transport systems, into the internet and now
into our MP3 players, an environment which is entirely suitable for radiogenic content.
Like a virus, radio is also very resilient, fighting off attacks from television, compact disc
and the increasingly visual world we live in. So for radiogenic content to find its way
through the web to portable audio devices should not come as much of a surprise. After
all, many people have taped radio programmes at home to listen to at a later point –
even if it was just the weekly Top 40 countdown.
BERRY: WILL THE IPOD KILL THE RADIO STAR? 147
Radio’s essential qualities may be related to those of Podcasting. Radio by its nature
is an intimate medium – users rarely listen to it as a collective and often listeners are alone
in the car or on the bus, all places that portable media devices now also go. It is probably
because radio invades these personal spaces that it is viewed more fondly than other
media. We trust it more and often rely on it more. We also engage with the radio more:
it is, as Crisell points out, a ‘blind’ medium (Crisell, 1986: 3). The listener paints the
pictures and as such is more active in the process of consumption. These characteristics
of intimacy and blindness shared with Podcasts enable Podcasting to reach individuals
and groups not normally found in mainstream radio, as the listener may feel that the
producer is ‘one of them’, a member of their community, whether defined by geography,
ethnicity, culture or social group. One major advantage audio has on the web is that
audio files are smaller than video files and so are more easily downloaded from the
internet. Despite the launch of a video iPod in 2005, it is unlikely that large numbers of
people will watch the tiny screens on the Number 49 bus – in the short term at least.
The car industry has also noted the rise in portable media and several leading manufac-
turers are actively promoting the fact that their latest vehicles allow drivers to plug in
their iPods. Consumers in the USA and Australasia are able to use devices like the ‘iTrip’
to rebroadcast the output of an iPod (or similar) on very low power for reception via
normal car radios. However, in Europe, EU clearance is required before such products can
be used legally.
5
However, despite its obvious strengths, radio listening amongst 15–24-year-olds has
fallen over recent years in both the UK and the USA, with various factors being blamed
for falling audiences. In 2004, the UK’s Broadcast and Telecommunications regulator –
OFCOM – commissioned a report into the so called ‘iPod Generation’ and the report
made uncomfortable reading for traditional broadcasters. The report revealed what radio
academics already knew from talking to students, that the medium was no longer
offering them what they wanted and that ‘younger people are listening to the radio
noticeably less than their parents’ (OFCOM/The Knowledge Agency, 2004: 5). Not only
that but they are fussier in their listening habits and choices and they were turning off
‘faceless presenters’ and a ‘playlist culture’ in favour of their own music, in their own way
(OFCOM/The Knowledge Agency, 2004). It seems as though the ‘wirefree’ generation is
growing up without the radio habit enjoyed by the previous generation and that offers
a threat to broadcast radio (Carter, 2005).
Whilst the notion of programme and personality selectivity seems commonplace on
the web it goes against traditional radio models. Writing in the trade weekly, Broadcast,
in summer 2005 the then Managing Director for the Capital Radio Group stations in
London, Graham Bryce, suggested that listeners by and large choose ‘radio stations, not
programmes’ and, as such, Podcasting for music radio was unlikely to succeed (Bryce,
2005: 16). It is clear that in the Podcast world it is content that is king, with listeners
choosing material that appeals to them, rather than selecting radio stations or formats
as has been the case in traditional commercial radio models. Bryce’s lack of enthusiasm
is not unusual in the radio business, although many broadcasters have welcomed the
new medium into their businesses, making it work for them as a way of reaching their
audiences in new places and in new ways. The first UK broadcaster to take to daily
Podcasting was the national commercial station, Virgin Radio. Virgin was the first
European station to broadcast on the internet and is often quick to embrace new
148 CONVERGENCE VOL. 12 NO. 2
technologies (Virgin, 2005). Head of New Media at the station James Cridland says
Podcasting is ‘a threat and an opportunity . . . We have some great content here, and it
makes sense to make those available in different ways to our audience’ (Careless, 2005:
36). The station removes the music tracks from the weekday breakfast programme and
makes the Podcast available as a daily download and Podcast feed. For Virgin Radio it is
a way of reaching listeners in a new way, of finding new ways for their advertising clients
to reach the ears of the wider – and possibly more attentive – audience and represents
a step forward in the commercial adoption of the new medium.
The theme of Podcasting as a new threat was never very far away from several
sessions at the Radio Festival 2005.
6
A presentation on research carried out for the BBC
by Sparkler not only discussed a fall in radio listening amongst 16–29-year-olds in the
previous two years but, like OFCOM, gave radio’s lost audience a name: the ‘digi-life
generation’: an audience which has grown up knowing digital choice, computers, the
internet and mobile telephones (Gallie and Robson, 2005).
7
This is an audience which
communicates via text messages (SMS) and instant messaging and for whom using tech-
nology is easy and second nature. It is clear that for radio as a business to develop it
should recognize these fundamental changes in the lifestyles and expectations of the
audience. My own conversations with students reflect what the industry is hearing in
their research. Young people are disconnected by contemporary broadcast radio and seek
out new forms online or choose their own music over radio. Most cite poor commercials,
overly tight playlists and stations that do not target them directly as their reasons for not
tuning in as often as the previous generation did. It would seem that the notion of
audiences choosing the least objectionable – or the least worst – is over, with no radio
being preferable to unsuitable radio (MacFarland, 1997: 17). Historically, commercial radio
programming is safe, inoffensive and mass market to maintain advertisers and to build
and maintain the largest possible audience. To programmers this is consistency, whereas
to audiences it is predictability. MacFarland describes this philosophy as the McDonaldiza-
tion of radio with predictability and familiarity being guiding factors in programming
strategy. It could be argued (and evidence of student listening bears this out) that it is
predictability in commercial radio that has created the fall in listening by the ‘wirefree’
generation and the movement of audiences (in the UK) from commercial radio to BBC
national radio or to streaming web stations and Podcasts.
Feeding the Public Service Habit
For the BBC, Podcasting is an extension of their public service mission to find ways of
making their content available to the licence fee payer on multiple platforms. The BBC
Radio Player currently archives the vast majority of the output of BBC Radio and makes
content available for audiences to ‘listen again’ to programmes they have missed or want
to hear again. This ‘time-shifting’ of content has proved to be hugely successful, with
listeners streaming 4.2 million hours in January 2005 alone (BBC, 2004, 2005a, 2005b).
This is strong evidence that the BBC’s programme-led (rather than format-led) approach
is successful both in the broadcast arena and online. It could also be argued that it proves
that a programme’s appeal does extend beyond its broadcast ‘slot’, with listeners who
were not available to listen when it was broadcast catching up online. This was echoed
in the 2005 OFCOM radio sector review, where the movement away from ‘live radio
BERRY: WILL THE IPOD KILL THE RADIO STAR? 149
consumption’ to ‘listen again’ players – Podcasting and DAB (digital audio broadcasting)
radios with time-shifting capabilities – was cited as a growing pattern in the UK market
(OFCOM, 2005a: 40).
In February 2005 the BBC redesigned their ‘Radio Player’ to include links to MP3
downloads and reported more record figures for online listening. Furthermore, the three
programmes used in the Corporation’s 2004 Podcast trial (‘In Our Time’, ‘Fighting Talk’
and ‘TX Unlimited’) had been downloaded 270,000 times in the four months since the
experiment started (BBC press releases). This was clearly an unqualified success given
the relative newness of the medium. The first regular BBC programme to be offered as
a Podcast, ‘In Our Time’, was first made available in November 2004 and by the end
of the month had been downloaded 70,000 times. Prior to that a series of ‘The Reith
Lectures’ had been available as a download from the BBC Radio website and again this
was viewed as a success worth pursuing by the Corporation. Whilst it is unlikely that
all of these downloads were by UK-based licence fee payers,
8
the volume of adoption
is strong evidence that Podcasting was already far stronger than anyone could have
predicted. Today, the BBC makes 20 different programmes available as Podcasts, from
film reviews and news programmes like ‘Today’, to edited highlights from the ‘Chris
Moyles Breakfast Show’. The latter programme is broadcast on youth network BBC
Radio One and the Podcast version frequently tops the UK iTunes Podcast Chart. Remi-
niscent of the way Music Top 40 shows were videotaped, this suggests that audiences
like the ability to download content and to time-shift it to suitable points in their day.
Speaking at the Radio Festival in July 2004, Director of BBC Radio and Music Jenny
Abramsky noted the success of the download trial of ‘The Reith Lectures’ and that it
was ‘an extremely encouraging pointer to the way BBC Radio’s programme portfolio
can become increasingly available in ways our listeners will demand’ (Abramsky, 2004).
This is a significant point, as traditionally a major stumbling point for broadcasters is
the ‘availability’ of audiences to listen to programmes when they are broadcast. The
spikes in listening during breakfast, lunch, ‘drivetime’ and late night indicate when audi-
ences not only need to listen but can listen and this is not an issue in the digital
future.
The BBC is not alone in delivering public content to a Podcast audience. National
Public Radio in the United States also offers programmes, as does its affiliate WGBH in
Boston – whose ‘Morning Stories’ Podcast was one of the first broadcaster-led
programmes to be made available in this format (WGBH, 2005). NPR has recently
launched a spin-off service of Podcast-only content, titled ‘alt.NPR’. The website describes
the service as ‘a place for experimentation and innovation, featuring dynamic, eclectic
offerings from a variety of professional and non-professional contributors’ (alt.NPR, 2005).
It is an approach that does seem like an effective public service approach to the new
medium and one that seeks out invention and audience interactivity. The network radio
content offered clearly has already had an impact, with NPR reporting 4 million down-
loads during September and October 2005 (Paid Content, 2005). Other networks like
ABC Radio in Australia also Podcast, with both local and national programmes being
made available from RSS feeds or from easy-to-find links on their website at
www.abc.com.au (n.d.). ABC was also quick to cover the birth of the medium, broad-
casting the documentary ‘Music of the Blogospheres’ in October 2004. Their develop-
ment of Podcasts has been assisted by the Canadian-based radio consultant and
150 CONVERGENCE VOL. 12 NO. 2
Podcaster Tod Maffin, who had already worked with CBC to help bring in a new audience.
Maffin argues that:
public radio tends to be strong in the 40 plus age range . . . and podcasting helps to open up an
entirely new demographic . . . It is potentially a great way to introduce a younger audience to really
intelligent discourse, and . . . to extend the brand of the public broadcaster. (Fargas, 2005: 65)
It is perhaps ironic to note the success of Podcasts produced by suspended CBC staff
during a ‘lock-out’ in 2004, who used Podcasts and the web to produce their programmes
‘in exile’ during an industrial dispute before returning to work victorious.
Grassroots Radio?
Whilst large corporate broadcasters have found Podcasting to be a new way to access
listeners and in new ways, often with new experiences, it is at the grassroots level that
Podcasting offers the most significant challenge to the mainstream and exhibits the
characteristics of a disruptive technology. Podcasting has its roots in open source tech-
nology and draws extensively on the world of the written ‘weblog’ and, unlike traditional
broadcasters, the Podcaster does not require studios, transmitters or licences, making the
movement from listener to producer easy. Podcaster Todd Cochrane describes his
discovery of the medium as a revelation like ‘being given the keys to my first car . . . it
was obvious to me that everyday people with a passion were having fun creating
Podcasts’ (Cochrane, 2004: 6).
Unlike Cochrane, Podcast pioneer Adam Curry had already had a long career in
broadcast radio and television (as an early MTV ‘VJ’) before becoming involved with
internet start-up companies and then Podcasting. Whilst his skills as a broadcaster are
clear (he is a relaxed oral communicator with a standard broadcaster’s voice) he does not
use a traditional studio. Using microphones, basic mixers, MP3 players and a laptop,
Curry’s ‘Daily Source Code’ is recorded and uploaded from wherever he is. His Podcast
follows some traditional radiogenic conventions: they are linear in that what we hear
happens in real time or is an edited and compressed version of real time. We hear music,
DJ talk and programme jingles – including the opening sequence which proclaims ‘We
don’t need no stanking transmitters’ [sic] (curry.com, 2005). Whilst the programme is
unscripted he publishes his ‘show notes’ online to give listeners an idea of what he talks
about in each Podcast – again a slight departure from familiar approaches in ‘broadcast-
ing’. It is, however, the content that separates it from most broadcast radio and makes
it more intimate, realistic and engaging. He talks directly to the listener, sharing his life,
ranting about what annoys him without the concerns of a regulator dictating content,
and it is that absence of a censor that allows him to use occasional profanities and to be
open about his use of marijuana. It could be because this content is unheard of (certainly
in legal daytime UK radio) that makes this an engaging listen or it could be Curry’s skill
as a communicator and self-promoter that makes his Podcast amongst the most listened
to on the planet.
9
Curry’s Podcast has served its pioneer role well, providing content for
developers to refine his early software attempts, as a forum for new Podcasters to
promote their new content and as a vehicle for the new musical movement known as
‘Podsafe’ music – music where no royalties are due as the artists have agreed to waive
BERRY: WILL THE IPOD KILL THE RADIO STAR? 151
any fees in order to gain free exposure for their music. An early example of the perva-
siveness of the medium is this transcribed extract of the Daily Source Code from 2004:
hey, hey . . . someone [laughs] is holding up his iPod, roll down your window [talks in Dutch] Dude,
will you check that out a guy just drove up next to me and he’s honking his horn and he’s holding
his iPod up and he said I’m listening to the Podcast. Goddam, I’m recording one right now . . . That’s
very cool this is what I mean that’s what it’s all about. (‘Morning Coffee Notes’, 2004)
Curry has been an evangelist for the new medium, featuring in newspapers, magazines
and traditional broadcast media to talk about the birth of the medium he helped to create
and he has succeeded in developing his Podcast into a new business venture,
‘Podshow.com’ (2004–2005), a site where Podcasts can be heard, hosted and turned into
businesses through the sale of the advertising space that he sells in the Podcasts. This
success has, ironically, opened the door into broadcast radio, with Curry hosting a regular
weekday programme on Sirius Satellite Radio across North America and showcasing his
‘Podshow’ content. Many label Curry with the title ‘Podfather’ and associate him with
the creation of the medium. Whilst this is in dispute in the Podcast community, never-
theless, without the PR skills Curry has deployed, the medium may not have developed
at the rate it has.
Another pair of leading grassroots Podcasters (and part of Curry’s Podshow
‘network’) are Drew Domcus and Dawn Micelli, a married couple living on a former farm
in Wisconsin, USA. The ‘Dawn and Drew Show’ (http://www.dawnanddrew.com) provides
a pertinent example of the nature of Podcasting. The producers are not from a radio or
a media broadcasting background but both were drawn to the internet and saw Pod-
casting as a new and engaging activity. The Podcast (or programme) itself features the
hosts talking to each other and occasionally guests about a wide range of everyday issues
and ideas. Inevitably the topic of sex comes up and is talked about openly, frankly and
occasionally in graphic detail. Such exploits would be sure to outrage a broadcast
audience but, it seems, in the world of Podcasting this is acceptable material. It comes
across as unaffected radio, honest, genuine and occasionally very funny. Like many other
Podcasts ‘The Dawn and Drew Show’ celebrates, promotes and engages in conversations
with other Podcasters. There can be few media forms where producers of work com-
municate so freely with each other and persuade the listener to seek out the work of
others. It is this network building that develops a sense of community within the grass-
roots Podcast movement and, as a listener, I find this a refreshing experience. So success-
ful is their Podcast that Domkus recently resigned his job to become a full-time Podcaster
(Domkus, 2005).
Other Podcasts worth noting include ‘The Daily Download’ (2006), a Podcast where
we hear its creator going to the toilet and discussing the finer points of his bowel move-
ments; ‘The Commute’ (commute.org, 2004) a (usually) daily or twice daily unedited
recording of the journey to and from work by Voice One and Voice Two, commuting
Podcasters who have decided to record the conversations they hold on their journeys –
not necessarily because it will be interesting but because they can. This is not the terri-
tory of traditional radiogenic forms, yet the nature of Podcasting allows its existence and
seems to cultivate it. Pornographers have adopted the new medium, and, inevitably, so
has religion. Although not a ‘Godcaster’ as such, Father Roderick Vonhögen, a Catholic
priest from the Netherlands, has enjoyed success in the new medium. His Podcasts from
152 CONVERGENCE VOL. 12 NO. 2
the Vatican in 2005 made compelling listening as he shared a genuine insider’s view of
the feelings and events surrounding the passing of Pope John Paul II. His Podcasts now
regularly draw 15,000 listeners in part due to the fact that, despite first impressions, he
is not selling his faith, rather using it to discuss issues of modern culture. So successful
is he that Vatican Radio has consulted him on their Podcast plans (Grant, 2005).
There is much in the style of these Podcasts that is shared with reality or access tele-
vision, and much of the content at a grassroots level may be familiar to listeners of pirate
radio, internet radio or community radio and, in that sense, it may be considered to be
radiogenic in its broadest sense. However, Podcasters see their ‘work’ as doing what they
want in a style that comes naturally to them. Some more esoteric content shares common
ground with experimental radio services such as Resonance FM (London) or those
projects, stations and programmes outlined by Lander and Augaitis (Augaitis and Lander,
1994). But whilst some Podcasters may share the ‘audio as art’ view, others would not
consider what they do to be either artistic or experimental. One such example is ‘Sound-
seeing’ tours recorded by a team of Podcasters, following in the footsteps of Adam Curry,
who recorded the first Podcasters’ audio-tour in Florida in 2004.
10
There is much in
common with the more relaxed, personal style of weblogs and, as some Podcasts started
life as ‘blogs’, it seems logical that the style and tone will remain constant. Like pirate
radio before them, Podcasters use the technology around them to create work and – like
community radio also – are connected with their audiences by being listeners/subscribers
themselves.
Podshow.com was the first to begin the process of commercializing Podcasting.
Others like ‘Radiotail.com’ have followed, offering a similar service of hosting and adver-
tising sales. There has been some doubt if this will succeed (given the lack of success for
several web radio services) although, whilst listeners may turn off advertisements that are
not targeted at them, the niche nature of Podcasting offers a very focused delivery
mechanism, targeting smaller groups of geographically disparate yet like-minded
individuals. Podcast advertising is in effect radio advertising but ‘on steroids’ (Bryant,
2005). Podcast consumers are, in effect, open to messages but only if Podcasters are
telling (selling) them something that listeners are interested in. This commercial/sponsor-
led approach seems to make the most sense, given the only commercial alternative
requires users to pay for everything they download and, outside US satellite radio, that
is something consumers raised on apparently free-to-air television and radio are not used
to doing.
Other Applications of Podcasting
Much of the material discussed so far in this article comprises largely what one could
describe as radio or at least features strong ‘radiogenic’ elements or characteristics.
However, Podcasting is a medium that can do so much more, and so organizations and
individuals are finding ways to exploit the characteristics and the benefits of the new
medium for corporate gain, for self-help and for education.
Sci-Fi TV used Podcasts to provide Executive Producer commentaries to the first trans-
mission run of ‘Battlestar Galatica’ (similar to actor/director commentary features for film
releases on DVD). This exemplifies the use of the auditory nature of Podcasts to supple-
ment another activity, to promote a product and provide content of value to fans. Richard
BERRY: WILL THE IPOD KILL THE RADIO STAR? 153
Branson’s Virgin Atlantic has also adopted the Podcast as a new way to serve their
customers. The airline has produced a series of Podcast guides to the various international
destinations it flies to including New York, Cuba and Shanghai. Audio content in this
format has so many possibilities, from providing step-by-step help to learn a language
(such as ‘Trying to Learn Spanish’) to providing briefings and information within
companies or organizations.
11
Podcasting has been enthusiastically adopted in the public sector with large bodies
like NASA using the new medium. The space agency has been using Podcasting to build
its educational work, with scientists giving talks on various topics and even a Podcast
from the Space Shuttle in 2005. In the UK, organizations like St John Ambulance, the
Scottish Tourist Board and South Yorkshire Police are also using Podcasts to offer infor-
mation in this new, accessible format. Podcasting has also not gone unnoticed in politics.
American Vice-Presidential candidate John Edwards was the first to Podcast recorded talks
with his wife at their kitchen table, reminiscent of former US President Franklin D.
Roosevelt’s ‘Fireside Chats’ in the 1930s. Edwards’ example has been followed by City
Mayors and Californian Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Even George W. Bush makes
interviews and weekly radio addresses available as Podcasts.
12
In education, Podcasting has found an unexpected yet potentially valuable home.
Schools, colleges and universities in many countries have taken to the new medium to
deliver content to students, to share ideas, deploy communication skills or to get students
to discuss ideas with each other. Leading the field has been Duke University in North
Carolina, USA. In 2004 the University grabbed headlines by giving out free 16,250 iPods
to new students (Duke University, 2005). The idea was to allow students to record lectures
and download course content from the internet; to record themselves or location inter-
views for projects. The University has since rolled the project back to a few key subjects
but is still committed to the new outlet. The University has embraced the movement to
such an extent that they held the first academic symposium on the subject in 2005. Other
institutions such as the University of Florida, Georgetown University, Southern Cross
University (Australia) and the University of Lancaster (UK) are just a few known to be
using Podcasts. Their application of the technology is multifarious, including giving
students the option to download lectures (a listen again option, somewhat like cassettes
previously provided through distance learning), as a way for students to give presenta-
tions, or as a way of researchers publishing their findings. Like grassroots Podcasting,
Podcasting in education could be (and is, at some institutions) a two-way dialogue
between student and academic:
In the past, the paradigm was essentially a one way transfer of knowledge . . . The new paradigm
involves the student much more . . . students like Podcasting. They relate to it . . . I think there is a
definite role for it in education. (Fargas, 2005: 74)
Whilst the adoption of such a new technology could feel alien in an academic environ-
ment, it must be acknowledged that our younger students are the ‘iPod Generation’ and
as such take to new technologies easily and often with enthusiasm. Interviewed for the
Education Guardian newspaper, Casey Alt of Duke University argues, ‘The average first-
year student shows up . . . with more tacit digital literacy than many of their lecturers
combined’ (Adenekan, 2005). These comments are perhaps not unexpected: as tech-
nology moves it is mostly the younger generation who adopt it first. Alt’s comments are
154 CONVERGENCE VOL. 12 NO. 2
echoed by the authors of a report into the opportunities offered by Podcasting at the
University of Missouri who contend that:
the rapid evolution of audio-photo-video recording capabilities through phones and inexpensive hand
held devices will create a flood of multimedia content. They will be immediately adopted by the
current class of students and will be looked at with disinterest or uncertainty by many members of
the faculty. (Meng, 2005: 10)
Following this argument, it is apparent that the same issue of generational divide occurs
in both education and broadcasting. Like many learning establishments, the university I
work in uses a Virtual Learning Environment to deliver course content to students, such
as lecture notes, PowerPoint presentations or exercises.
13
This type of environment could
also contain Podcasts of lectures, allowing students to make clearer notes by listening to
lectures again in their own time and in their own space. Interviewed in ‘Secrets of Pod-
casting’, Richard Lucic, an associate chair at Duke, cites this as one of the key selling
points of Podcasting in education.
I think something that surprised the students the most was when they realised they could turn ‘dead
time’ (like commuting) into productive learning time . . . They eventually stopped taking notes during
lectures and paid more attention to the speaker. (Fargas, 2005: 74)
Other institutions have taken a step further, with Stanford University launching a
branded version of iTunes (the online music store run by Apple) offering ‘lectures, campus
events, performances, book readings, music recorded by Stanford students and even
Podcasts of Stanford football games’ (Stanford University, 2005). Podcasting will also have
a role to play in conferences and research work, where papers can be recorded and then
published online. The Radio Conference of 2005 at RMIT University in Melbourne recorded
all papers with a view to making them available as Podcasts. This means academic papers
have the chance to exist as ‘live’, linear artefacts long after the session has ended. An
argument yet to be had is whether or not this counts as (academic) ‘publication’.
Defining the New Medium: Is It Radio?
If we take the classic definitions of radio, as laid out in key texts like Crisell’s Understand-
ing Radio (1986), then we can classify lots of Podcasts as ‘radio’. Yet in some ways to
identify Podcasts as ‘radio’ might be ignoring some of the qualities of each medium and
perhaps terms like ‘radiogenic’ or ‘radioesque’ are more useful. Black (2001) contributes
to this in his discussion of radio streaming on the internet and the debate over what it
should be called, asserting that:
Listeners have a lot to do with it. A medium’s identity stems in part from how it is received and
treated by its users. Listeners may of course be nudged in this or that direction by the industry. But
if, for whatever reason, Internet audio is treated as if it were radio, then to some irreducible extent
it is radio. (Black, 2001: 398)
Podcasts like ‘The Daily Source Code’ (dailydownload.com, 2006), ‘Coverville’ (2004) and
the ‘$250 Million Radio Show’ all ‘sound’ like radio, with DJ talk, identification jingles
and music tracks interspersed with speech. However, unlike radio, they vary in their
BERRY: WILL THE IPOD KILL THE RADIO STAR? 155
duration, and they do not always appear at regular times or days and fit around the
routines of the producer. Other Podcasts such as ‘The Dawn and Drew Show’ (dawnand
drew.com, 2006) are still auditory but have fewer radiogenic features, whilst Podcasts
such as ‘The Sound of Silence’ (2006) and ‘Sound of the Day’ (2004) could be classed as
experimental radio or even sound art.
Nevertheless, I argue that Podcasting is a unique form insofar as it has distinct charac-
teristics that it can play to. Unlike broadcast radio it is moveable, with the listener not
being fixed to a timed schedule. Perhaps more importantly the listener is not fixed to a
defined format of content and can mix genres, styles, formats and even languages. There
remains some tendency to use the reference points of older media like radio as a way of
understanding Podcasts although there is much that is new and that requires a new
perspective. Writing on the transfer of content from print to the internet in the 1990s,
Microsoft founder Bill Gates said:
Whenever a new medium comes on the scene its early content comes over from other media. But
to take best advantage of the new electronic medium, content needs to be specially authored with
the new medium in mind. (Gates, 1996: 144)
If broadcast radio is a ‘push’ medium and internet radio is a ‘pull’ medium, then that
raises an interesting debate as to how Podcasting is defined, given that it lies somewhere
in between. Whilst the listener selects the content they want to subscribe to, the content
arrives by a ‘pushed’ mechanism and the user ultimately decides when it is played (‘pull’).
Podcasts are therefore defined as content with the lazy benefits of push media but with
all personalization features of pull media. This makes Podcasting ‘personalized media’ or,
as BBC ‘In Business’ presenter Peter Day would have it, ‘Radio-Me’, meaning a medium
that is more accessible than web radio and more in tune with the needs of some audi-
ences than broadcast services (Day, 2005).
Like a lot of radio, Podcasts are consumed alone and, like radio, they tend to be
linear in their nature in that the content is heard as though it were live but with the
added convenience of being able to pause or rewind if desired. It is this feature that led
many industry observers to call it ‘TiVo for Radio’ (Day, 2005). One of the problems of
radio (certainly in the UK) is that scarcity of frequencies available on the radio spectrum
forces stations into the mainstream to chase the greatest number of listeners to single
channels (or multiple channels in the same market under common ownership). This is not
the case for the internet, which can cater for a wider range of choices of ever decreas-
ing popularity on what has become known as ‘The Long Tail’: a term coined by Chris
Anderson, editor of technology magazine Wired. Anderson says that online retailers like
Amazon are not limited by shelf space like physical bookshops: they are able to stock
books which may only sell one copy but that doesn’t matter as the margins and the profits
are the same. Anderson observes:
unlimited selection is revealing truths about what consumers want and how they want to get it . . .
As they wander further from the beaten path, they discover their taste is not as mainstream as they
thought (or as they had been led to believe by marketing). (Anderson, 2004)
He argues that many of the assumptions made about taste are actually due to poor
matching of supply and demand. On a global scale small niches in Podcasting could
156 CONVERGENCE VOL. 12 NO. 2
generate enough revenue to operate. The Long Tail shows ‘the difference between push
and pull, between broadcast and personalized taste. Long Tail businesses can treat
customers as individuals, offering mass customization as an alternative to mass-market
fare.’
14
Implications and Conclusions
The term ‘Podcasting’ implies the use of an iPod or, indeed, any MP3 player but, whilst
the term may become redundant, the concept will not. A demand has been proved for
audio content delivered to users (by subscription) for time-shifted playback on portable
media devices. The next step will be content designed and delivered to mobile phones,
hand-held personal devices (PDAs), games consoles or connected media players, poten-
tially using the – newer – smaller and higher quality MP4 or AAC format (the format used
in iPod offering improved quality over MP3). The current ‘next generation’ or ‘3G’ mobile
phones do offer the capacity to access the web with speeds capable of sustaining audio
streaming, and downloadable applications already exist to run Podcasting clients on
‘smartphones’. This could be a step forward, bypassing the computer altogether and
capturing content on the playback device. In 2006 global mobile operator Vodafone
announced a partnership with Sony to offer ‘Vodafone Radio’, a personalized ‘over-the-
air’ music service for its customers. There are also rumours of a wireless-enabled iPod in
development. It seems inevitable that others will develop this, adding speech, personal-
ity and advertising content.
Many cities are now looking at wide area (or Wi-Max) wireless networks (rather
than small ‘hotspots’) that would give enabled media devices a means to capture
content on the move, without the cost of connecting via a mobile phone network.
Handsets with MP3 playback capabilities already exist, such as the Motorola E1 with
iTunes and the new range of ‘Walkman’ branded phones from Sony Ericsson, both of
which still require a computer to access and transfer content and so only offer the
convenience of storage. In 2005 Nokia was due to release the N91, a 3G mobile with
4Gb hard drive that can download music (and therefore Podcasts) over-the-air and even
access Wi-Fi (Rose, 2005). This type of convergence, although created with paid-for
music content in mind, could be a big step for Podcasting, and it is likely that more ‘all-
in-one’ devices will be available in the future. With the drive to online living Podcasting
was inevitable but it was the way in which technologies have converged that has been
the biggest development and is the medium’s biggest asset (Buckley, 2000; Lehman-
Wilzig and Cohen-Avigdor, 2004).
In the radio world Podcasting is competing with DAB radio on roughly equal terms,
with similar numbers of DAB radios and portable media devices being sold in the UK
during 2004 (Piggott, 2005). There is, of course, the potential for these technologies to
collide. In the UK a trial has already been conducted to stream live video to mobile phones
via data capacity on a DAB multiplex although, ironically, volunteers used the devices to
listen to digital radio rather than the TV channels on offer (Timms, 2006). Many DAB
broadcasters and developers have been looking at ways of offering content via DAB, such
as music downloads or radios that can read ‘flagged’ content and store it for time-
shifting. As DAB can offer faster download speeds than 3G the option is also there to
send audio content (as data) directly to devices for playback at times (and places) that
BERRY: WILL THE IPOD KILL THE RADIO STAR? 157
are convenient to the listener. This suggests that broadcasters are now realizing that they
are in the content business and not just the radio business.
Podcasting allows anyone – individual or corporate – to produce content for audi-
ences who do not particularly care where it comes from. MacFarland (1997: 22) identi-
fies this as being a key element to success in the digital age: ‘The answer will lie not so
much in technical improvements to audio reproduction as in improvements to the product
the audience is seeking – programming that is responsive to the listener’s needs.’ It is
likely that with the increased choice, digital content (whether via DAB, satellite, webcast-
ing or Podcasting) that is ‘in tune’ with audiences, using formats and styles other than
mainstream music, will develop. Linked to this, a role for speech-led content may develop
(Berry, 2004).
So what does the future hold for traditional broadcast radio (even those services
on DAB)? My contention is that it will (should) return to basics, do what it does best
on the understanding that the world is changing. Stations operating ‘more music’
formats cannot succeed in an environment where listeners have access to large libraries
of music on iTunes, Napster or Kazaa. Variety-led radio formats like ‘Jack FM’ have
been launched in the US to offer greater diversity, and KYOU Radio has launched an
all Podcast format in San Francisco in which listeners submit Podcasts for FM broad-
cast. These are the exceptions and will probably remain so. Podcasts may not only
reconnect audiences (as seen by CBC in Canada) but may also result in a rise in audited
listening, as audiences have access to material at any point in time (rather than at time
of transmission or production) and consequently slowly regain the radio habit.
However, there still remains a challenge for the reinvention of broadcast radio. Inter-
viewed by ABC Radio in October 2004, Nick Piggot of the GWR (now GCap) Group
in the UK said radio stations have some rethinking to do: ‘The main job will still be
to produce a radio station that people recognise . . . and is a good listen’ (ABC Radio
National, 2004).
I suspect that, like other trends before it, aspects of Podcasting will wither and dis-
appear as the next ‘new’ medium is launched. It may be the grassroots Podcasters who
lose out the most in this process, although some more committed individuals may
continue. Podcast pioneers Curry and Winer disagree about what Podcasting will do to
radio. Curry feels its effect will be profound whilst Winer is more sceptical, arguing in his
weblog:
It’ll become radio and vice versa. Airwaves are just another method of distribution . . . What will
change is who’s talking and who’s listening. Now the conversation will flow in all directions, with
broadcasters listening to people they used to think of as ‘audience’. Blogs changed the architecture
of written-word-journalism in the same way. (Winer, 2004)
If the commercialized Podcasters keep up with technology they could provide content
alongside large media groups and I would suspect that a degree of consolidation will
happen here, with the likes of AOL Time Warner, Sony or News International entering
the market and buying into established independent producers. Whilst some observers
feel that Podcasting is the end for radio and others claim it will be a short-lived fad, it is
more likely to prove a first step on a long road of change. Radio must accommodate the
changing landscape and demands of audiences. Maffin argues that ‘Every art form has
its moment of revolution. The Podcasters may indeed provide radio with its [moment]’
158 CONVERGENCE VOL. 12 NO. 2
(Maffin, 2004). It seems that this is not just a technological revolution but a revolution
in who is able to produce and distribute content to a mass market.
If the entire content produced by a radio ‘station’ is available to hear at any point,
then listeners are always available to listen and so theoretically overall listening can
increase. Industry research in the UK suggests that listening online and purchase of MP3
players is increasing whereas overall listening to commercial radio is down.
15
The UK
industry regulator shows an awareness of this phenomenon in its Preparing for the Future
consultation report, which argues that the radio industry needs to ‘innovate and adapt
to listeners’ changing expectations’ (OFCOM, 2005b). Whilst this does mean some
changes to (audience) research methodology the indications are that audience researchers
are mindful of this already. The alternative production methods Podcasting offers could
mean producers are able to focus on fewer content items and so drive up investment,
quality and focused opportunities for clients. This is potentially good news for the listener.
The shared experience of live radio (social listening at breakfast time, large sporting
events and so on) should secure a place for broadcast radio in the digital future. However,
in the future live broadcasters will need to become more interactive, more drawn to
speech-driven or excitement-driven formats, offering content not available on other plat-
forms. In the UK the broadcaster Chris Evans demonstrates this by involving his audience
in every facet of his highly produced live programme which is then edited into a weekly
Podcast.
16
Whilst live broadcasting could remain central for some listeners they will also
have continual opportunities to catch up with missed features via delivered audio content.
In the future there will still be a role for (live) broadcast radio but as a medium it needs
to consolidate and rediscover its strengths and its ‘liveness’. On a professional level,
producers will deploy ‘Long Tail’ principles and offer ‘sidechannels’ (specialized audio
downloads) to cater for spin-off niches. More non-broadcast businesses will use audio on
the new platform to connect with their customers, whether they are students or airline
passengers. The ability of grassroots Podcasters to compete on a level playing field with
big business is refreshing and means that more than ever it is content that is important
rather than brand, heritage or frequency position. That’s the lesson, the revolution the
radio industry needs to take away from Podcasting. The iPod has not killed the radio star
(yet) but radio may require some retuning.
Notes
1 Apple does not own the rights to the name and in fact kept very quiet about the whole movement
until they added Podcast support in their iTunes software in 2005. Speaking at the corporation’s
developers’ conference in 2005, CEO Steve Jobs described Podcasting as ‘the hottest thing in radio’
(Jobs, 2005).
2 There are several competing software options available. Nearly all are free: however, some such as
‘Blogmatrix Sparks!’ also offer Podcast production tools and hosting for a fee. Podcast support is also
finding its way into other products such as ‘Mozilla Thunderbird’, an open source email and RSS client.
3 RSS – Really Simple Syndication – is a method by which web pages or other content can be distrib-
uted automatically to dedicated readers. This allows users to subscribe to content and then to view
(or download) website content from a single piece of software without revisiting websites.
4 Compared to product data from Digital Radio Development Bureau/Digital One ‘DAB Digital Radio 5
year forecast’ (October 2004). Industry publication no longer available at http://www.drdb.org/.
5 See http://www.ofcom.org.uk/media/mofaq/rcomms/itrip/?a=87101 (accessed February 2006).
6 The Radio Festival is an annual event run by the Radio Academy, an independent body that organ-
izes conferences, regional events and the annual Sony Radio Awards. In November 2005, the academy
BERRY: WILL THE IPOD KILL THE RADIO STAR? 159
hosted ‘Radio at the Edge’, a one-day event on the future of radio that featured frequent references
to and discussions of Podcasting.
7 Unlike earlier media consumers who were offered choices although in very different modes and
technological formats: radio, newspapers, cinema, records and so on.
8 The BBC is paid for via the statutory television licence fee and as such all TV viewers in the UK pay
for the BBC, even if they do not watch or listen to any BBC programmes. To date there has been no
public discussion or data to suggest how many downloads or streaming hours are sent to non-UK
destinations. However, this may become an issue in the future requiring resolution via rights manage-
ment options or access restrictions.
9 Podcasting News (2005) ‘Top 25 Podcasts’, http://www.podcastingnews.com/forum/links_tophits.htm
(accessed 8 November 2005). Note, however, that research data into non-Anglophone Podcasting
statistics has not been readily available.
10 Soundseeing Tours are audio recordings of a walk around an area, using portable media devices as
recording devices. Podcasters describe what they see and may stop to chat to people as they walk.
11 Virgin Atlantic http://virginatlantic.loudish.com/ (accessed February 2006), and ‘Trying to Learn
Spanish’. http://ttlspodcast.blogspot.com/ (accessed February 2006).
12 Californian Governor. http://www.photos.gov.ca.gov/radio1.html. NASA. http://science.nasa.gov/
podcast.htm. Scottish Tourist Board. http://www.visitscotland.com/sitewide/edinburghpodcast. South
Yorkshire Police. http://www.southyorks.police.uk/podcasts/. St John Ambulance. http://www.sja.org.
uk/firstaid/info/. White House. http://www.whitehouse.gov/radio/ (all accessed February 2006).
13 Virtual Learning Environments such as Blackboard or Web-CT offer a secure server method of
delivering content to students. They are used to offer support materials or deliver remote and online
courses.
14 The Long Tail derives its name from a graphical impression of how products are stocked in depth at
the popular end of the market but thinly at the opposite end. Issues of volume cease to matter in
digital environments as conventional rules of supply and demand cease to apply. Anderson is currently
writing a book on the phenomenon but has been maintaining a detailed and fascinating weblog on
the topic. The first post explains his thoughts in more detail: http://www.thelongtail.com/the_
long_tail/2004/10/index.html (accessed February 2006).
15 In broadcast radio, the availability of listeners to hear a programme has always been a limiting factor.
Whilst a station may reach a large number of people, the actual number listening at a given point
may be significantly lower. With Podcasting all content is always available and can be picked up and
listened to at any point in the day. Future audience research methods are likely to include Podcast
listening, given that the potential to reach more people more often is hugely increased. See the
OFCOM Sector Report for Radio 2005 (OFCOM, 2005a), which reported the lowest commercial radio
figures since Q1 1999 for Q4 2004 despite a greater number of services available (p. 48). OFCOM
reports that 19 per cent (of those with web access) of their tracker group listened to radio via the
internet and 36 per cent listen via digital TV (p. 41). This suggests a move away from traditional
broadcast models to platforms offering greater choice and interactivity.
16 In the UK, stations in the former GWR group use SMS to tell listeners who have requested songs via
text when their track will be played on the air.
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BERRY: WILL THE IPOD KILL THE RADIO STAR? 161
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03/25#When:5:03:44AM
Richard Berry is a senior lecturer in radio studies at the University of Sunderland,
UK; teaching radio production, theory and history on undergraduate and post-
graduate degree courses. He is a member of the Steering Group of the Radio Studies
Network, co-owner of the radio-studies email list and has previously published work
on digital and internet radio.
Address The Media Centre, University of Sunderland, Sir Tom Cowie Campus at St
Peters, Sunderland, SR6 0RJ, UK. [email: richard.berry@sunderland.ac.uk]
162 CONVERGENCE VOL. 12 NO. 2
... En esta línea, el antecedente más directo del podcast es la distribución de audio en Internet a través del streaming (Serrano, 2016), pero para Berry (2006), el principal problema de la "web radio" basada en streaming reside en la falta de portabilidad. "El habilitar la posibilidad de descargar los podcasts en formato MP3 supone un cambio en la forma de consumir radio, similar al que en su momento produjo la aparición del transistor y el casete" (Velasco, 2006, p. 25). ...
... Aparte de la mencionada portabilidad, otra característica importante que provee el podcasting frente al streaming es la posibilidad de consumirlo bajo demanda y de manera asincrónica, es decir, el usuario escucha un programa en el momento que elija y no está supeditado a un productor. Se apunta también como primer antecedente del podcasting las grabaciones de programas radiales en cintas de audio, práctica realizada por numerosos usuarios desde la década de los 70 (Berry, 2006). ...
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El entorno actual, se constituye en una era tecnológica marcada por la utilización de Internet, herramienta que ha sido muy poderosa debido a su facilidad de uso y a su accesibilidad, y que ha permitido que las nuevas generaciones tengan a su alcance mucha información que puede beneficiarlos o perjudicarlos. Esa realidad también ha llegado a Latinoamérica, donde los jóvenes del siglo XXI forman parte de una generación que ha experimentado una etapa, marcada por el auge de las tecnologías que han facilitado la vida de una manera impresionante, desde el uso de herramientas como los buscadores para la realización de sus tareas y la obtención de nueva información, hasta la existencia de los medios sociales para comunicarse y conocer información sobre sus diversos intereses. Es así que, los jóvenes y adolescentes han creado nuevas formas de expresarse, de escribir, de relacionarse, eliminando las barreras del tiempo y el espacio, e incluso se han concebido nuevas costumbres y normas de comportamiento. Orozco (2001) hace también una apreciación acerca de “los límites espacio-temporales del intercambio social” (p. 157), en donde las redes sociales sin duda han estrechado las fronteras en cuanto al espacio sociocultural, político y geográfico, pero este acercamiento muchas veces deslegitima la contextualización de la información, las audiencias se encuentran en un “mar abierto” de información no verificada, la cual termina con el empoderamiento de una información que no ha sido debidamente contrastada.
... En esta línea, el antecedente más directo del podcast es la distribución de audio en Internet a través del streaming (Serrano, 2016), pero para Berry (2006), el principal problema de la "web radio" basada en streaming reside en la falta de portabilidad. "El habilitar la posibilidad de descargar los podcasts en formato MP3 supone un cambio en la forma de consumir radio, similar al que en su momento produjo la aparición del transistor y el casete" (Velasco, 2006, p. 25). ...
... Aparte de la mencionada portabilidad, otra característica importante que provee el podcasting frente al streaming es la posibilidad de consumirlo bajo demanda y de manera asincrónica, es decir, el usuario escucha un programa en el momento que elija y no está supeditado a un productor. Se apunta también como primer antecedente del podcasting las grabaciones de programas radiales en cintas de audio, práctica realizada por numerosos usuarios desde la década de los 70 (Berry, 2006). ...
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La gestión de las marcas vinculadas, por un lado, a los públicos internos, es decir a los colaboradores, y por otro, a los potenciales talentos es lo que se ha denominado como employer branding, un tema que viene desarrollándose en el área empresarial y académica desde los años 80. Lo largo de estas cuatro décadas se ha abordado a partir de enfoques que van desde el marketing o la administración de recursos humanos hasta la gestión de la comunicación corporativa aunque “las prácticas del employer branding parten de la premisa esencial de que el capital humano es el activo más valioso de las organizaciones, de forma que una adecuada inversión en el mismo puede suponer un desempeño superior” (Sánchez & Barriuso, 2007, p. 3147). La gestión de la marca empleador ha ido tomando importancia en las organizaciones norteamericanas, primero, y, posteriormente, en las europeas. En Latinoamérica, hace tan solo unos pocos años que se habla de la creación de marca orientada a los empleados como una estrategia de marketing, relacionándola también como la gestión del talento humano, el employee engagement y la reputación corporativa. En Ecuador, a pesar de ser un tema reciente, empieza tomar relevancia para las organizaciones y ya se refleja en el desarrollo de ránquines como Great Place to Work, Merco y otros, que año a año presentan a las mejores empresas para trabajar en el país a partir de un diverso listado de indicadores como son: la percepción de los colaboradores, las prácticas de liderazgo y la gestión de personas, y los comentarios. Este capítulo analiza la evolución de la conceptualización y el abordaje del concepto marca empleador desde la mirada académica y empresarial de modo que se puede explicar cuál es el proceso y mostrar los beneficios y las tendencias de la gestión de employer branding en las organizaciones ecuatorianas. Para ello, desarrolla en primera instancia una revisión bibliográfica de la evolución y el abordaje del employer branding, mostrando los enfoques de estudio y estableciendo su relación con la gestión de otros valores intangibles corporativos, que posteriormente son contrastados con los indicadores de los ránquines de las mejores empresas para trabajar en Ecuador.
... En esta línea, el antecedente más directo del podcast es la distribución de audio en Internet a través del streaming (Serrano, 2016), pero para Berry (2006), el principal problema de la "web radio" basada en streaming reside en la falta de portabilidad. "El habilitar la posibilidad de descargar los podcasts en formato MP3 supone un cambio en la forma de consumir radio, similar al que en su momento produjo la aparición del transistor y el casete" (Velasco, 2006, p. 25). ...
... Aparte de la mencionada portabilidad, otra característica importante que provee el podcasting frente al streaming es la posibilidad de consumirlo bajo demanda y de manera asincrónica, es decir, el usuario escucha un programa en el momento que elija y no está supeditado a un productor. Se apunta también como primer antecedente del podcasting las grabaciones de programas radiales en cintas de audio, práctica realizada por numerosos usuarios desde la década de los 70 (Berry, 2006). ...
Chapter
Con el surgimiento del Internet, los medios de comunicación iniciaron un proceso de transformación continua como respuesta al surgimiento de nuevas tecnologías (Serrano, 2016). Estos cambios crean transformaciones sociales, puesto que acarrean nuevas formas de comunicación, nuevos tipos de contenidos y nuevos usos (Tubella, 2012). En el caso particular de Internet, se modificó el proceso de Emisor-Mensaje-Receptor. Los medios tradicionales acostumbraban a tras-mitir información de pocos a muchos, con escasa participación de la audiencia (Velasco, 2008). La multiplicidad de canales que se abrieron creó un abanico de posibilidades para comenzar a difundir contenido y transmitir la información desde distintos puntos y de distintos tipos. Las historias, por ende, tenían que evolucionar y buscar sus propios métodos para llegar a las audiencias.
... En esta línea, el antecedente más directo del podcast es la distribución de audio en Internet a través del streaming (Serrano, 2016), pero para Berry (2006), el principal problema de la "web radio" basada en streaming reside en la falta de portabilidad. "El habilitar la posibilidad de descargar los podcasts en formato MP3 supone un cambio en la forma de consumir radio, similar al que en su momento produjo la aparición del transistor y el casete" (Velasco, 2006, p. 25). ...
... Aparte de la mencionada portabilidad, otra característica importante que provee el podcasting frente al streaming es la posibilidad de consumirlo bajo demanda y de manera asincrónica, es decir, el usuario escucha un programa en el momento que elija y no está supeditado a un productor. Se apunta también como primer antecedente del podcasting las grabaciones de programas radiales en cintas de audio, práctica realizada por numerosos usuarios desde la década de los 70 (Berry, 2006). ...
... In radio, considerable effort is made to make content available to listeners on diverse platforms, creating formats such as podcasts and radio on-demand (Bonet et al., 2011;Laor, 2019a;Steinfeld and laor, 2019). The word 'podcast' (a combination of 'iPod', a brand of portable media players made by Apple, and 'broadcast') refers to information-based online broadcasts available for live listening or downloading at any time (Berry, 2006). Many consumers consider podcasts to be a type of radio platform because a podcast's audio content can be listened to without reference to visuals (Punnett, 2016). ...
... Many interviewees noted that listening to live broadcast schedules is inconvenient or impossible due to other obligations. Audio on demand effectively makes obsolete past behaviours of accommodating oneself to station transmission schedules, as consumer flexibility and control have become an integral part of the on-demand content experience (Berry, 2006;Bonet et al., 2011), a development first seen in the television industry (Abrahamsson and Nordmark, 2012;Moshe, 2012). ...
Article
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This research is an investigation into changes in the radio listening habits of consumers who use on-demand radio. Findings indicate high daily listening rates to online on-demand radiophonic content as listeners are not dependent on schedules. Listeners proactively use the options offered by on-demand radio to satisfy listeners’ diverse needs, in line with the uses and gratifications theory. The diversity of online radio offerings encourages frequent consumption of more varied content. Findings indicate that radio’s entry into the new medium offers interactivity, demassification and asynchroneity, expands its distribution and helps it maintain its role as a relevant medium of influence.
... Si las características de la radio convencional es que es un medio ciego, invisible, efímero, íntimo, personal, inmediato, informativo, conversacional, en vivo, interactivo (Edmond, 2014;Berry 2006), ¿cómo es la radio en Internet? ...
... Para el autor, la radio lucha en un mundo cada vez más visual, por lo que la posibilidad, gracias a Internet, de liberar al oyente de los artefactos conectados a un enchufe ha permitido que llegue a todos los lugares (Berry, 2006). ...
Thesis
Full-text available
Vivimos en un mundo cada vez más consolidado digitalmente, en el que los medios de comunicación buscan adaptar las herramientas que han traído estas nuevas tecnologías. En este contexto, esta tesis capturó un momento de la evolución de un medio digital cuya matriz es una radio reconocida por los peruanos: RPP Noticias. El estudio analizó el nivel de innovación del lenguaje digital en su edición web. Esta tesis tiene como objetivos: identificar sus elementos multimedia, analizar sus tipos de herramientas interactivas, detallar sus características de hipertextualidad, examinar el uso de las herramientas de web analytics y detallar los nuevos perfiles de periodistas digitales en su sala de redacción. Para ello, se realizó el estudio de una muestra de 180 notas, seleccionadas bajo la estrategia metodológica de la ‘semana construida’ y correspondientes a dos periodos de análisis (2016 y 2019). Además, se realizaron entrevistas a redactores y editores. La evidencia muestra que el uso del lenguaje digital tuvo avances moderados y en sus nociones más básicas. Asimismo, la audiencia es tomada en cuenta por parte de editores y redactores, a través del uso de las herramientas de analítica web. Sin embargo, ambos actores hacen un balance constante entre su propio criterio y las preferencias de los usuarios.
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The fact that traditional radio is synchronous and unidirectional, with little or no room for interaction and content selection, is one of the main reasons why young people have turned their backs on it. In retrospect, conventional radio never cared for the younger generation, never designing strategies to bring them in. As a result, radio lost its relevance and it does not feature as part of young people’s digital diet. Over the last year, the number of podcast consumers has steadily increased, which is causing this format to become more and more cemented in society. It could be a way to gain younger listeners, an opportunity not to be missed by the radio industry. In the past, young people continued to listen to the radio as they got older, but that is no longer the case nor is radio seen as the go-to resource for new musical content. The challenge for radio is clear: regaining its influence through proposals with added value to differentiate itself from global platforms. In order to carry out this research, a total of 410 young university students were surveyed. The results show what the current picture is in such a changing atmosphere. It has been observed that this audience bases their audio consumption on personal preferences, they mainly access it via social media and they would find it useful and interesting to create their own podcast. This paper includes a podcast where academic experts and audio professionals, interviewed for the doctoral thesis “xxx (anonymity for review)”, reflect on the strategies that radio should adopt in order to gain young listeners.
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This essay addresses two questions on the topic of podcast innovation. The first, ‘What is a podcast?’ is answered via a review of the literature, investigating podcasting history and its evolution. The definition of podcasting arising from this analysis – centring on episodic audio, convenient both to produce and experience – takes into account recent changes, providing an up-to-date description of the term, useful for further research on the topic. It is also required to answer our second question: ‘How do we design new ways to produce and listen to podcasts without denaturing the medium?’ By reflecting on the essential features of podcasting and the necessity for innovation in this interdisciplinary medium, a framework of six-tensions is proposed as a means of grounding and potentially boosting innovation. Answering these questions could prove valuable for the future of podcasting, hypothesising a basis for reflection and development in both academia and industry.
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A pesquisa apresentada neste artigo foi realizada com o objetivo de estudar os formatos de podcasts brasileiros de divulgação científica e identificar quais estilos são predominantes nessa produção de conteúdo. O estudo se caracteriza como um levantamento exploratório, que procurou sistematizar o objeto estudado usando uma abordagem qualiquantitativa. No levantamento da pesquisa foram identificados 69 podcasts, dos quais 37 foram selecionados para análise. Os critérios para a seleção foram popularidade, regularidade na publicação e longevidade. Ao todo, foram ouvidos 109 episódios. O resultado da pesquisa apontou que, dos formatos de podcast encontrados, o bate-papo ou mesacast é o principal modelo adotado seguido da entrevista e a maior parte das produções tem sido realizada por universidades ou cientistas independentes.
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Podcasting has become popular as it allows listeners to time-shift content, i.e., to listen - when it suits them - to radio-like programming on portable MP3 and related devices. Dissatisfaction with traditional radio - which has too much advertising and is perceived to have generic programming - is fueling interest in programming that better meets the individual needs and interests of consumers. Podcasting represents a shift from mass broadcasting to on-demand personalized media. We look at the development of podcasting technology, the social context within which this development has occurred, and outline the legal constraints that podcasters face. Then we examine some business models for podcasting.
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Responding to the contradictory nature of our current moment of media change, this article will sketch a theory of media convergence that allows us to identify major sites of tension and transition shaping the media environment for the coming decade. Media convergence is more than simply a technological shift. Convergence alters the relationship between existing technologies, industries, markets, genres and audiences.
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Democracy and communication are inextricably linked, so much so that the existence or otherwise of certain forms of communications can be a measure of the limits to which democracy itself has developed or is held back. This article takes a brief world tour to examine the development of radio as a popular communications tool. It then compares different forms of media construction against a typology of democracy and it sets out the challenges which popular communications media face to survive in the context of globalization and digitalization. Radio worldwide remains the most pervasive of the electronic communications media, but a reflexive and communicative democracy needs to underpin this with supportive policy measures grounded in human rights and linked to further development of the freedom of information and expression.
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Steve Jobs on Podcasting', Podcasting NewsThe Natural Life Cycle of New Medium Evolution
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