The Podcast Revolution

Podcasting (also) is a relatively new form of media distribution, and it’s got quite a bit of buzz about it. While not quite taking the world by storm, it is changing the way we think about media distribution. Functionally, however, I think that most people see podcasting as “radio shows for your ipod” — This is certainly the case, but I think that this is just the beginning. We’re already seeing podcasting clients written for pocketpc, and it’s only a matter of time before we see them in other devices, too — palms, cellphones — everything. The most intriguing thing to me, however, is having your MythTV/Tivo subscribe to podcasts. Not because it’s your tv, but because of what it will eventually do.

Currently, it’s really cheap to produce a podcast. However, as the market expands, there will be bigger budgets and higher production values (as well as commercialization of the content itself). As a result, the higher production budgets/values will allow people to do a lot more with their podcasts. A couple weeks ago, Adam Curry was talking about embedding images into podcasts to be displayed along with an audio stream. (for example, on your ipod photo). That’s great, i think it’s a wonderful idea; and i want to figure out the best way to get it done. However, it’s going to be a while before ipod photos (or whatever device you’re listening on) are prevalent enough to support this. I think tivo/mythtv podcast clients could do this pretty easily — i mean, they’re already hooked up to your tv.

By taking the idea of podcasting+images and extending it a little bit, you’ll get podcasting with metadata. One way to think of it is a long mp3 with text, notes, images, videos, whatever, packaged together. Another way to think of it is as a package with instructions. In other words, you could send an archive of your information with instructions on what to do. An example of this would be to send a SMIL file packaged with your media. Some media would be there for informational purposes, other media would be there to be displayed depending on the attributes of your player. Basically, whatever your current device can handle, it handles — the rest is ignored.

Taking this to the extreme, you basically have dvds — notes, outtakes, extra video, alternate audio, alternate camera angles, etc. I’m not saying you have an actual DVD, you just have the mechanism to distribute that type of content. This is where the creative destruction begins. Now, anyone with some bandwidth & the ability to produce content can publish their own — anything! Video editing is becoming easier and easier to do w/ home computers these days, and there are lots of people out there who want to do tv/film, but just need a way to get their content to people.

That way is podcasting. Not podcasting now, but what it will become. The “podcast distribution mechanism of the future” will allow people to subscribe to feeds for whatever they’re interested in, just like it does now. The difference is that with a rich media fabric to embed content, and a large existing distribution base, there will be interest from bigger media. Maybe it’s not the major networks, but it will be someone. There will be networks that are eager to distribute their content who will produce and distribute it this way, and there will be small people doing what they love, putting their content out there too. Tools (software) will get better, and the end product will be decent — decent enough to get an audience, ad revenue, to bring more viewers, and grow the medium.

I think some of this is already happening within Tivo, with their “Tahiti” project. See here

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I'm a software engineer in New Orleans interested in making things, growing things, big fast computers, media convergence, and pugs.

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