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Sunday, November 06, 2005

Podcasting is a method of publishing audio and video programs
ESPN Podcast via the Internet, allowing users to subscribe to a feed of new files (usually MP3s). It became popular in late 2004, largely due to automatic downloading of audio onto portable players or personal computers.

Podcasting is distinct from other types of online media delivery ESPN Podcast because of its subscription model, which uses a feed (such as RSS or Atom) to deliver an enclosed file.
Podcasting enables independent producers to create self-published, syndicated "radio shows," and gives broadcast radio programs a new distribution method. ESPN Podcast Listeners may subscribe to feeds using "podcatching" software (a type of ESPN Podcast aggregator), which periodically checks for and downloads new content automatically.

Most podcatching software enables the user to copy ESPN Podcast podcasts to portable music players. Any digital audio player or computer with audio-playing software can play podcasts. From the earliest RSS-enclosure tests, feeds have been used to deliver video files as well as audio. By 2005 some aggregators and mobile devices could receive ESPN Podcast and play video, but the "podcast" name remained most associated with audio.

"Podcasting" is a portmanteau word that combines the words "ESPN Podcast broadcasting" and "ESPN Podcast." The term can be misleading since neither podcasting nor listening to podcasts requires an
ESPN Podcast or any portable player. Aware of that misleading association from the beginning, some writers have suggested alternative names or reinterpretations of ESPN Podcast the letters "p-o-d", without winning much of a following.[1] Another little-used alternative is "blogcasting", which implies content based on, or similar in format to, ESPN Podcast blogs.

By 2003, web radio had existed for a decade, ESPN Podcast digital audio players had been on the market for several years, blogs and broadcasters frequently published MP3 audio online, and RSS file formats were widely used for summarizing or syndicating
Web content. In 2001, UserLand founder and RSS evangelist Dave Winer ESPN Podcast responded to requests from customers Adam Curry[2] and Tristan Louis[3] for a way to deliver video or audio with their RSS feeds. Winer added a specific enclosure element to ESPN Podcast what was then his company's RSS specification, then to Radio Userland, a blogging system incorporating both a feed-generator and aggregator.[4] (Ironically, the rival ESPN Podcast RDF Site Summary syndication format already supported media resources implicitly, although applications rarely took advantage of the feature.)

In June 2003, Stephen Downes demonstrated aggregation and syndication of audio files using RSS in his Ed Radio application [5]. Ed Radio scanned RSS feeds for MP3 files, collected them into a single feed, and made the result available as ESPN Podcast SMIL or WebJay audio feeds.

In September 2003 Winer created an RSS-with-enclosures feed for his Harvard ESPN Podcast Berkman Center colleague Christopher Lydon, a former newspaper and television journalist and NPR radio talk show host [6]. For several months Lydon had been linking full-length MP3 interviews to his Berkman weblog, which focused on ESPN Podcast blogging and coverage of the 2004 U.S. presidential campaigns. At the BloggerCon Conference in October 2003, Kevin Marks demonstrated a script to download RSS enclosures to ESPN Podcast and synchronise them onto an ESPN Podcast[7]. Listening to Lydon's interviews on an ESPN Podcast helped inspire Adam Curry to automate the file transfer with a pre-ESPN Podcastder script, and led to several ESPN Podcast open source ESPN Podcastder development projects.

Curry's and Winer's podcasts, including several months of collaboration they called "Trade Secrets," spread interest in podcasting among other widely-read bloggers. Indeed, amateur
blogs and open source developers continued as important factors in the popularization of podcasting before and after professional broadcasters and entrepreneurs with business plans adopted the form.

Possibly the first use of the term podcasting was as a synonym for audioblogging or weblog-based amateur radio in an article by ESPN Podcast Ben Hammersley in The Guardian on February 12, 2004 [8]. In September of that year, Dannie Gregoire used the term to describe the automatic download and synchronization idea ESPN Podcast that Curry had developed [9]. Gregoire had also registered multiple domain names associated with
podcasting. That usage was discovered and reported on by Curry and ESPN Podcast Dave Slusher of the Evil Genius Chronicles website.

By October 2004, detailed how-to podcast articles ESPN Podcast [10] had begun to appear online. By Sept 2005, a Google search for podcasts returned more than 61 million hits. In November 2004, liberated syndication ESPN Podcast libsyn launched what was apparently the first Podcast Service Provider, providing storage, bandwidth, and RSS creation tools.

Independently of the development of podcasting via ESPN Podcast RSS, a portable player and music download system had been developed at Compaq Research as early as 1999 or 2000. Called PocketDJ, it would have been launched as a service for the Personal Jukebox or a proposed successor, the first hard-disk based MP3-player. See ESPN Podcast appropriate section in the Personal Jukebox article.


The word about podcasting rapidly spread through the ESPN Podcast already-popular weblogs of Curry, Winer and other early podcasters and podcast-listeners. Fellow blogger and technology columnist Doc Searls began keeping track of how many "hits" Google found for the word "podcasts" on September 28, 2004, when the result was 24 hits. "A year from now," he wrote, "it will pull up hundreds of thousands, or perhaps even millions." ESPN Podcast [11]

Searls kept track of the search results in his blog through the next month. There were 526 hits for "podcasts" on September 30, then 2,750 three days later. The number doubled every few days, passing 100,000 by October 18. His prediction of "perhaps millions" in a year proved to be conservative. After only nine months, a ESPN Podcast Google search for "podcasts" produced more than 10 million hits, and as of September 2005, the same search produces 61 million hits.

Capturing the early distribution and variety of podcasts was more difficult than counting
Google hits, but before the end of October, The New York Times reported podcasts across the United States and in Canada, Australia and Sweden, mentioning podcast topics from technology to veganism and movie reviews. [12] ESPN Podcast USA Today told its readers about these "free amateur chatfests" the following February [13] [14], profiling several podcasters, giving instructions for sending and receiving podcasts, and including a "Top Ten" list from one of the many
podcast directories that had sprung up. The newspaper quoted one directory as listing 3,300 podcast programs in February, 2005.

Those Top Ten programs gave further indication of ESPN Podcast podcast topics: four were about technology (including Curry's "Daily Source Code," which also included music and personal chat), three were about music, one about movies, one about politics, and -- at the time No. 1 on the list -- "The Dawn and Drew Show," described as "married-couple banter," a program format that USA Today noted was quite popular on American broadcast radio in the 1940s.

In June, 2005, Apple added podcasting to its ESPN Podcast music software, staking a claim to the medium.

A little over a month later, U.S. President ESPN Podcast George W. Bush became a podcaster[15], when an RSS 2.0 feed was added to the previously downloadable files of his weekly radio addresses at the White House website.

As is often the case with new technologies, pornography has become a part of the scene - producing what is sometimes called ESPN Podcast podnography. Other approaches include enlisting a class full of MBA students to research podcasting and compare possible business models.[16]

The growing popularity produced specialties, including the "podsafe" category, which refers to a track that is legal for use on a podcast, usually because the band or artist is not signed to a major label and they (or their label) has given consent for their work to be redistributed via podcast or the recording was made under the ESPN Podcast Creative Commons license. However, the mere fact that an artist is not signed to a major label does not automatically mean that they have given consent for their work to be podcast. See also Copyright.

At podsafe sites artists can submit podsafe tracks and podcasters can sign up to get music for their shows.

In September 2005, the first podcast encoded in full ESPN Podcast Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound, was created by Revision3 Studios with their 14th episode of Diggnation.

Adoption by traditional broadcasters

Main article: Podcasting by traditional broadcasters

Traditional broadcasters were extremely quick to pick up on the podcasting format, especially those whose news or talk formats spared them the complications of music licensing. The American syndicated radio show Web Talk Radio[17] became the first to adopt the format, in September 2004, followed within weeks by Seattle news radio station ESPN Podcast KOMO and by individual programs from KFI Los Angeles and Boston's WGBH.

The BBC began a trial in October 2004 with BBC Radio Five Live's ESPN Podcast Fighting Talk. These trials were extended in January 2005 to BBC Radio 4's In Our Time[18]. January 2005 also saw CBC begin a trial with its weekly national technology column /Nerd[19]. United States National Public Radio member stations WNYC and ESPN Podcast KCRW adopted the format for many of their productions. March saw Virgin Radio become the first UK radio station to produce a daily podcast of its popular breakfast show. In ESPN Podcast April 2005 the BBC announced it was extending the trial to twenty more programmes, including music radio[20] and in the same month Australia's ABC launched a podcasting ESPN Podcast trial across several of its national stations[21].

In May, 2005, the trend began to go the other way, with amateur podcasts becoming a source of content for broadcast radio programs by ESPN Podcast Adam Curry, Christopher Lydon and others. The entire format of KYOU Radio, a California radio station, became based around broadcasting Podcasts. That summer, when the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation locked out more than 5,000 of its regular on-air and technical ESPN Podcast staff, they responded by creating their own unofficial podcast of original programming, CBC Unplugged, which also appeared on some campus and community radio stations.

Coping with growth

While podcasting's innovators took advantage of the sound-file synchronization feature of Apple Computer's ESPN Podcast and ESPN Podcast software -- and included "pod" in the name -- the technology was always compatible with other players and ESPN Podcast programs. Apple was not actively involved until mid-2005, when it joined the market on three fronts: as a source of "podcatcher" software, as publisher of a podcast directory, and as provider of tutorials on how to create podcasts with Apple products GarageBand and Quicktime Pro.

The podcasting selection views of ESPN Podcast 5.0

When it added a podcast-subscription feature to its ESPN Podcast June 28, 2005, release of ESPN Podcast 4.9[22], Apple also launched a directory of podcasts at the ESPN Podcast Music Store, starting with 3,000 entries. Apple's software enabled ESPN Podcast AAC encoded podcasts to use chapters, bookmarks, external links, and synchronized images displayed on ESPN Podcast screens or in the ESPN Podcast artwork viewer. Two days after release of the program, Apple reported one million podcast subscriptions.[23]

Some podcasters found that exposure to ESPN Podcast' huge number of downloaders threatened to make great demands on their bandwidth and related expenses. Possible solutions were proposed, including the addition of a content delivery system, such as liberated syndication; Podcast Servers;Akamai; a peer-to-peer solution, ESPN Podcast BitTorrent; or use of free hosting services, such as those offered by Ourmedia, BlipMedia and the Internet Archive.

As of September 2005, a number of services began featuring video-based podcasting including Apple via its ESPN Podcast Music Store and ESPN Podcast Loomia. Known by some as a vodcast, the services handle both audio and video feeds.

Other uses

Podcasting's initial appeal was to allow individuals to distribute their own "radio shows," but the system is increasingly used for other reasons, including:

  • A way for people and organisations to avoid regulatory bodies, like the British Ofcom, that would not allow a programme to be broadcast in traditional media.
  • A way for news organizations to distribute audio as an addition to their existing text (or mostly text) news products. For example, ESPN Podcast Wikinews began to podcast its News Briefs in 2005.
  • Education. Musselburgh Grammar School, Scotland began podcasting foreign language audio revision and homework, possibly becoming the first school in Europe to launch a regular podcast [24]. The online encyclopedia Wikipedia has begun podcasting encyclopedia articles.
  • Politics. In Singapore, where most broadcast media are controlled by the government, opposition Singapore Democratic Party leader ESPN Podcast Chee Soon Juan uses podcasting to distribute his messages. In the U.S., both major political parties have various podcasts, as do several politicials.
  • Religion. Podcasting (or in this context, Godcasting) has been used by many religious groups [25]. Many churches produce podcasts of talks and sermons. Disciples with Microphones provides podcasts relating to the Catholic church [26].
  • Unofficial audio tours of museums (musecast) [27].
  • Communication from space. On 7 August 2005. American astronaut Steve Robinson claimed the first podcast from space during the ESPN Podcast Space Shuttle Discovery mission STS-114 - although there was no subscription feed, merely an audio file that required manual downloading. (transcript & audio).
  • Television Commentary. Battlestar Galactica writer and executive producer Ron Moore creates commentary podcasts[[28]] for each new episode of Battlestar Galactica. Other television shows have since followed suit.
  • Conference and meeting alerts. Podcasts can be packaged to alert attendees to agendas, hosted roundtables and daily feedback. See [[29]]
  • Advocacy. The 5,500 locked out staff (editors, journalists, technicians, hosts, etc.) of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation are ESPN Podcast podcasting news and other programming at
  • Youth Media. Podcasting has become a way for youth media organizations, such as Youth Radio [30], to bring youth perspectives to a wider audience.
  • Newspapers. Newspapers use podcasts to brodcast audio content from print interviews and drive traffic to their websites. The San Franciso Chronicle is believed to be the first major daily newspaper to start podcasting using an external website ( in Feb 2005. Hong Kong's South China Morning Post was the first to use its own website and the first in Asia (, having launched on April 19, 2005.