I’ve been listening to podcasts since last Fall and now that I have an iPod Shuffle, I’m listening to podcasts in a pod-like way instead of via burned CDs in the car or through the computer speakers. While I’ve been telling people about podcasting for a while, my less technologically experimental friends haven’t taken the time to download beta software and dig around to find things to listen to. With the introduction of podcast support in iTunes, things have changed dramatically.
Podcasting makes a lot more sense to more people all of a sudden. The podcasts that I love are personal and are done by people who care. Passion is the key ingredient. Many of the podcasts that I listen to I found through blogs or from mentions somewhere, and not through a guide. In the iTunes guide to podcasting there doesn’t seem to be a lot of independent stuff. In fact, there is a lot of Disney there with ABC or ESPN (both Disney properties) in all of the news slots. One of my favourite podcasts - Vu d’ici - Seen From Here by M-C Turgeon - is classified as an “Audio Blog”, but if I had to narrow it down, I’d probably put it under “Music”. M-C is annoyed at the iTunes thing and doesn’t want those commercial, slick and boring podcasts.
A really interesting thing that I noticed is that after listening to podcasts via the iTunes guide, a friend of mine asked where he could find the real indie podcasts made by people in their basements. I think that people will want to wander outside of the slick guides and find things that really connect with them. The iTunes guide is a good place to start and I hope that more people go outside of it (or even realize that they can add whatever feeds they want).
A very encouraging development is Odeo, which just opened up a bit more today. At first they’re providing a guide and a way to subscribe to podcasts. Later they’ll be providing podcasting tools to let you create your own podcasts. I’m testing the beta subscription thing now and I like it. You can listen to podcasts on pages on the site and add comments about podcasts which can help you figure out whether you’ll like the podcast or not. I didn’t use it for a while after the new version of iTunes came out, but now I’m back to use it. A very good sign is that they’re changing things quickly at Odeo and it’s very easy to add your Odeo subscriptions into iTunes through an RSS feed that is generated. So now I have the best of both worlds.
What makes me more excited about Odeo are the possibilities of community and more feedback that it provides. The other thing that will help people find podcasts that they like is the support of tagging in Odeo. Tagging and folksonomies are what allow many connections to be made in systems like del.icio.us and Flickr, and it will help a lot with podcasting. Instead of a gatekeeper coming up with a way to categorize podcasts (hmmm… “music” or “audio blog”…) the people who produce and listen to the podcasts add tags to categorize it themselves. That’s the way to do it. Down the road another feature for Odeo that I can see is people subscribing to certain tags via RSS feeds to be able to find new and interesting things.
We’re moving out of the first stages of podcasting much as independent film did a few years ago. While now there are films with massive, multimillion dollar budgets that are called “independent”, there still is a difference between a film with a marketing budget of several millions and a film made by people with a passion to tell a story and little or no money. That’s not to say that people can’t do good work for money in either podocasts or filmmaking, but the key is striking a balance and telling a story or creating something that connects with people on a personal level. Without passion you don’t have much and that’s what interests me in anything I consume.