How is podcasting defined?

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.

4 thoughts on “How is podcasting defined?”

  1. If your definition of podcasting is based on the notion that automation is the key component, how can you say that Audible is not a podcaster, and has been since 1997. Not only are Audible’s periodicals automatically downloaded to your computer (with no action taken on your part once you’ve subscribed), they are automatically transferred to your connected device, or automatically burned to CD and waiting for you in the morning. Perhaps you were not aware of this automatic synching feature or am I missing something?


  2. Jay, I would amend John’s definition by saying that Podcasting is…

    a standardized distribution of periodic audio (or video) content that seamlessly and automatically allows an audience to timeshift and/or placeshift the media of their choice.

    The standardization that RSS 2.0 brought with enclosures was the key element in creating a ubiquitous distribution framework. This enabled tool developers to focus solely on the frictionless experience John mentioned.All other solutions prior were either one-offs or proprietary.


  3. I believe that podcasting is simply the act of delivering rich media content via and RSS feed with enclosures. RSS gives people the ability to publish AND subscribe, which simple web posting does not do. Recording audio (or video) and placing it on a website alone does not qualify as podcasting.


  4. Jay,What Steve said. ;)Standards are the key here. Automated file downloads and transfer to other volumes could be scripted by anyone with sufficient programming knowledge or tools.It’s the widespread adoption of standars that make the difference.-jf.


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