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The US Navy blogs. Larry Kudlow of CNBC blogs. I'd say "everybody and their brother" except (1) it's a cliche and (2) it may be grammatically inaccurate. Dan Rather is only too aware that everybody blogs.
But just as blogging and the blogosphere have become widely accepted, blammo--along comes podcasting.
Just what is podcasting? Literally, it's broadcasts meant to be played as MP3 files on an iPod or other MP3 player.
Visit the podcasters discussion group on Yahoo! Groups and a dizzying variety of terms confuse: FeedBurner, Skype, GarageBand, iPodder, and the like. Since I'm not yet a podder myself it's not my intent to weigh the relative merits of the technologies or to discuss how they work together. I'm just here to offer some thoughts on blogging vs. podcasting.
Actually, podcasting seems to have grown out of blogging, and quite often, podders are bloggers who include podcasts in their blogs. The queen of this is Amy Gahran of Contentious.com, who talked about content long before anyone knew what Web content was or (gasp) that it was different than print writing: http://blog.contentious.com/. Amy has a terrific podcast on why more women should be podcasting, and it's part of her Amy's Adventures Audio Show.
Amy has an excellent definition of podcasting:
"In a nutshell, podcasting is simply online audio content that's delivered via webfeed. (Background: What's a webfeed?) Think of it as radio on demand. However, it gives you far more options in terms of content and program style than radio. While the field of radio has generally settled into few established types of programs, podcasting reflects more of the variety that is available on CDs.
"Plus, podcasting is like TiVo for radio. That is, you can download whatever programming you want and listen to it whenever and wherever you want. You also generally have full access to the audio archives for the programs you like. This removes time, use, and content restraints."
Plus, as Amy proves, podcasting and blogging can work hand in hand as means of delivering content. There are significant differences between the two as well as similarities. Let's look at a few.
Unlike blogging, which only involves discussions of RSS, feeds, syndication, and various blog platforms such as Blogger.com, podcasting marries technology, broadcasting and blogging. The technology may be easy to use, but it takes more time than to simply run a Web site or use Blogger.
Also, while bloggers may run into copyright issues, podders may want to use a particular piece of music only to have RIAA and the lawyers come after them. There are also home distractions in a podder's life that some podders decide to make part of the program, such as children walking in and out. While many of us wouldn't dream of posting our kids on the Internet because of all the cyberdangers, some podders have done so, sparking some much-needed discussion about privacy issues and what to include in podcasts.
Like everything else, not all podcasts are created equal. That's why podder leader Julian Doncaster offers the Yahoo! Groups podcast-review discussion group: http://www.herecomespod.org.uk/review/. Even people who have never created a podcast before can critique what podcasters are doing. The technical aspect is just a small part. What is important is whether the content is relevant to listener's lives. In this way it's similar to reviewing blogs. For example, I would find no relevance or value in a blog about hating a particular political party (and there are plenty) or religion (also sadly a plethora out there), or for example one about throwing javelins in the Olympics.
A recent review question on the podcast-review group about a podcast exercise show asked questions of relevance to people who do aerobics or a regular workout. This makes perfect sense, like Amazon.com reviews or Epinions.com or Bizrate.com. It's consumer review and also peer review for podcasts. In our media-driven age, review of everything is vital.
Blogs also get peer reviewed by the Weblog Review (www.weblogreview.com), the Weblog Awards (http://2004weblogawards.com/), and other Netizen sites who police the blogosphere. Peer reviews. Bloggers and podders have a responsibility to review and stand by their products. It's a pity the traditional mediaopoly of CNN and Ted Turner and the publishing conglomerates don't have that same accountability. In many respects we're back to the vernacular printing press and Gutenberg days when moveable type upset the elite publishing monopoly that was held by the only educated populations--namely, priests, monks, nuns and anyone affiliated with the Church. Suddenly, Bibles and Chaucer were printed not in Latin but in Irish/Gaelic and the native tongues of European countries. The leader of that movement was Dante, who wrote his Divine Comedy in Italian, not Latin. Similarly, podders broadcast not in the elite commercial-driven network-paradigm but in the voice of talk radio. Although there have been discussions on turning podcasting into a business. It was bound to happen--after all, bloggers employ Google AdSense to support their addiction to the written word. But podcasting started out as a way to challenge the traditional media.
Not that there aren't some mistakes in podcasts or blogs. One podcast about the 2004 Oscars mistakenly mentioned Michael Moore was snubbed in the Best Documentary category. Moore in actuality wasn't snubbed. He submitted "Fahrenheit 9/11" for Best Picture, and obviously Academy voters thought Hilary Swank learning to box was more convincing than Moore's flick. But on the whole, you haven't heard of any podcasting or blogging hoaxes--though as Theodore Sturgeon would agree, 90 percent of everything is of dubious quality. This includes blogs and podcasts, though thankfully I've only listened to the good 10 percent of podcasts and ignored most of the blogs, not out of any particular bias but out of a time crunch.
The marvelous thing about podcasts and blogs is that you can access them at any point. In our information overload age, you feel as though you have choice again, control over your time. You may not be able to get away from the media bombardment, but podcasts and blogs allow a civilized selectiveness over who you want to listen to. That's their greatest similarity and greatest gift.
Movie reviewer/screenwriter Kristin Johnson composes personalized poems, speeches, toasts, vows, and family memories. Visit http://www.poemsforyou.com to order your personalized memories. She is also co-author of the Midwest Book Review "enthusiastically recommended" pick Christmas Cookies Are For Giving: Stories, Recipes and Tips for Making Heartwarming Gifts (ISBN: 0-9723473-9-9). A downloadablemedia kit is available at our Web site, http://www.christmascookiesareforgiving.com, or e-mail the publisher (firstname.lastname@example.org) to receive a printed media kit and sample copy of the book. More articles available at http://www.bakingchristmascookies.com
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