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How is podcasting defined?

John Federico

One of the topics of discussion that surfaced at last night's meeting was the definition of podcasting.

A recent New York Post article miscommunicates the value that the experience plays in defining the medium:

Once you've downloaded free podcast software (like iPodder or jPodder), you subscribe to a podcast feed and upload the file directly to your MP3 player.

While it might seem like a trivial point, there's no mention of the word automatic. The article intimates that additional action is required on the part of the listener. This is patently false. Automation is one of the key contributions to the perfect storm that has created podcasting.

Analogous to this is the concept of the DVR (TiVo, Replay, etc.). Think about it - if you had to remember to manually set the record start and end times for each show, it would just be a glorified VCR that stores its content digitally on fixed hard disks. The true, tell-all-your-friends-about-this-thing experience is in the way that a DVR allows you to record entire seasons of shows or only record new episodes or record only movies that feature Keanu Reeves. (John shudders.)

Frank Edward Nora has been producing his Overnightscape downloadable audio show since March 2003. Was he podcasting then?

No. (But he is now.)

Audible has been offering downloadable periodic audio content (radio shows, newspapers, magazine) for years. Are they podcasting?

Also no. (Well, not yet, anyway.)

Podcasting is defined by the experience. It is the frictionless distribution of periodic audio (or video) content that seamlessly and automatically allows an audience to timeshift and/or placeshift the media of their choice.

Without the combination of audio compression, broadband, RSS 2.0, podcatching software and iTunes (if required), anything else is just a file download.