[Paleopsych] NYT: Tired of TiVo? Beyond Blogs? Podcasts Are Here
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The New York Times > Technology > Tired of TiVo? Beyond Blogs? Podcasts Are
February 19, 2005
["Are you ready to listen to a podcast?" is appended.]
GRAND FORKS, N.D., Feb. 16 - From a chenille-slipcovered sofa in the
basement of their friend Dave's mom's house at the edge of a
snow-covered field, Brad and Other Brad, sock-footed pioneers in the
latest technology revolution, are recording "Why Fish," their weekly
Clutching a microphone and leaning over a laptop on the coffee table,
they praise the beauty of the Red River, now frozen on the edge of
town, and plug an upcoming interview with a top-ranked professional
walleye fisherman. Then they sign off.
"I'm Brad" says Brad, in real life, Brad Durick, a 29-year-old
television advertising salesman.
"And I'm Brad," says Other Brad, a 44-year-old newspaper writer, Brad
Dokken. "Until next week, keep your hook in the water, keep your line
tight and keep it fun."
Their show, mostly ad-libbed, is a podcast, a kind of recording that,
thanks to a technology barely six months old, anyone can make on a
computer and then post to a Web site, where it can be downloaded to an
iPod or any MP3 player to be played at the listener's leisure.
On an average day, about 100 people download "Why Fish" from its Web
site. That is not a huge audience, but two fishermen can dream. Some
popular podcasters say they get thousands of downloads a day.
Since August, when Adam Curry, a former MTV video jockey, and David
Winer, an early Web log writer, developed the podcasting technology,
3,075 podcasts have sprung up around the world, according to a Web
site, Ipodder.org, that offers downloads of podcasting software.
From "Say Yum," a California couple's musings about food and music, to
"Lifespring," a Christian show whose creator said he had a vision to
podcast, to "Dutch Cheese and American Pie," by a Dutch citizen
planning to move to the United States, these shows cover a broad
variety of topics.
Podcasts are a little like reality television, a little like "Wayne's
World," and are often likened to TiVo, which allows television
watchers to download only the programs they want to watch and to skip
advertising, for radio or blogs but spoken.
And as bloggers have influenced journalism, podcasters have the
potential to transform radio. Already many radio stations, including
National Public Radio and Air America, the liberal-oriented radio
network, have put shows into a podcast format. And companies are
seeing the possibilities for advertising; Heineken, for example,
has produced a music podcast.
Inevitably, politicians are taking note, too. Donnie Fowler Jr. put
out "FireWire Chats" by podcast in his bid to become chairman of the
Democratic National Committee, saying Democrats had to embrace new
technology if they wanted to reach a grass-roots audience.
Still, most podcasts are made by people like the two Brads, who record
from basements, bedrooms or bathrooms, and devote their shows to
In Southern California, three men have hit the Top 50 on
Podcastalley.com, a podcast tracker, with "Grape Radio," a
"Sideways"-like program about wine. Their expertise? They drink wine
and like to talk about it.
There are music podcasts - cover songs, punk and "The Worst Music
You've Ever Heard." There are many religious podcasts, nicknamed
Godcasts. Then there is "Five Hundy by Midnight," a Midwest gambler's
musings on Las Vegas.
There are podcasts on sports and on bicycling, on agriculture and on
politics. There are poetry podcasts and technology podcasts.
In Northern California, Devan and Kris Johnson, young newlyweds, offer
"Say Yum," recording themselves making dinner and playing music after
work. (A snippet: "I hope everybody gets to eat avocados.") But they
are not even the first of their genre; one of the first and most
popular podcasts is recorded by a young married couple, talking about
their lives, and sex lives, from their farmhouse in Wayne, Wis.
There are even podcasts about podcasting and several Web sites, like
Podcastalley.com and Podcastbunker.com, that review and rank
podcasts and provide links to them.
People who study consumer behavior say the rapid growth of podcasts
reflects people's desire for a personalized experience, whether
creating a stuffed animal at a Build-a-Bear store or creating
playlists for their iPods.
"It's about control," said Robbie Blinkoff, an anthropologist at
Context-Based Research, a consulting firm in Baltimore that has done
several studies on how technology changes human behavior.
"Making something of their own, feeling like they've put it together,
there's lots of self-confidence in that," Mr. Blinkoff said.
The potential audience for podcasting is huge; Apple alone has sold 10
million iPods in the last three years, about half of those in the last
few months of last year.
And already, several podcasts have found sponsors. Dave Whitesock, who
under the show name Dave Miller records the "Miller Report," a daily
podcast from Grand Forks, got a limousine company to help pay for his
report in exchange for a daily mention: "For when you need a stretch
limo in Grand Forks."
While some podcasters take hours to edit their shows, many simply
embrace dead air and the "ums" that come with what Mr. Whitesock
called "Live to Hard Drive."
Brian Race, a radio station manager in Georgia who runs
Christianpodcasting.com on the side, picked up his cellphone in the
middle of a recent podcast to discover his mother on the line. He kept
The rawness is part of the appeal.
"Everyone says, 'They're amateurs, they're amateurs, they're
amateurs,' but sometimes, frankly, it's more interesting to listen to
someone who's not a professional but who has something genuine or
interesting to say," said Michael W. Geoghegan, an insurance marketer
in California and the host of "Reel Reviews," a movie review podcast
intended for people heading to the video store.
Mr. Geoghegan said he had "multiple thousands" of downloads a day. He
does no editing. "People stumble when they speak," he said. "I think
the listener appreciates when it's not superpolished as it is on a
Podcasting has tended to be contagious; after Mr. Geoghegan stumbled
on a Web site about podcasting in September and started his show, he
persuaded three friends who like wine to start "Grape Radio."
Mr. Whitesock, too, stumbled on a Web site about podcasting, and
persuaded the two Brads to do a fishing show, and then another friend
to do a movie review show. This month, they added a music show in
which a radio disc jockey for a local Clear Channel station plays
local music he would not get to play on the air, and persuaded the
part-time mayor of Grand Forks, Dr. Michael Brown, an obstetrician, to
do a monthly show, and put his State of the City address on podcast,
"We can reach people in the rest of the world who might say, 'Hey,
Grand Forks is a great place to move to,' " said Dr. Brown, who said
his shows had been downloaded by about 100 people, including some who
wrote in with complaints. "And technologically advanced young people
say, 'I can stay in Grand Forks.' There is a place for them here."
In California, the Johnsons of "Say Yum" added clip-on microphones to
their usual after-work routine to create their show.
"I'm usually cooking, and Devan's usually playing music, so we just
chat over the music," Ms. Johnson said.
Brian Ibbott had always loved making mixed tapes and CD's. His
podcast, "Coverville," has become one of Podcastalley's most popular,
and in many ways it is like a real radio show, without the
advertising. Sunday is all-request day, and listeners can call in
their requests. Mr. Ibbott, 35, plays back their recorded requests
before the songs.
"I don't know that I'm doing it so much as a protest against radio as
I am to develop the radio show I always wanted to hear," said Mr.
Ibbott, who lives in Colorado. The last great radio station nearby, he
said, was bought out by Clear Channel. "And they got the same playlist
everyone else did."
He pays a few hundred dollars to Ascap and BMI to allow him to play
copyrighted music, he said, and is negotiating with the Recording
Industry Association of America, which has filed lawsuits to prevent
unauthorized music downloading.
Mr. Ibbott, like the Johnsons and most podcasters, work in technology
jobs. But then there are some like Steve Webb, who fits his Christian
show "Lifespring" in between his regular job as a windshield
repairman. He was on a Cub Scout trip with his son, he said, when he
woke with a vision that he was to do a podcast.
"I felt it was leading in the Lord," said Mr. Webb, 50. "I felt he
wanted to have a voice in this new media. After all, the Gutenberg
Bible was the first thing printed on the printing press."
Technology watchers say that like blogs, some podcasts will be widely
heard and influential, while others may end up with no more reach than
local access cable programs. But many podcasters, like the two Brads,
say they are simply happy to have an outlet for their passion. As Mr.
Durick said, "You love to talk fish if you're a fisherman."
The New York Times > Technology > Are You Ready to Listen to a Podcast?
P odcastalley.com and Ipodder.org offer good overviews of
podcasting and links to podcasting software. They, and most podcast
sites, also give instructions on how to listen to and download
podcasts. Podcastbunker.com culls out the best of the podcasts and
allows you to listen to 30-second snippets. Here is a sample of
Graperadio.com - talk about wine
Sayyum.blogspot.com - cooking and music from a young newlyweds in
Grandforkscity.com - five podcasts from Grand Forks, N.D.,
including "Why Fish," the "Miller Report" and "The Mayor's Podcast"
ChristianPodcasting.com - Christian music and programming
Curry.com - the "Daily Source Code," podcasting and other news,
and musings, from Adam Curry, the podcasting developer and former MTV
Godcast.org - links to several Christian podcasts, including
Mwgblog.com - "Reel Reviews," reviews of movies on DVD
Coverville.com - cover songs
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