Watching the Point Sail By

In the clambake I talked about that episode of Webtalk Radio and Mitch Ratcliffe’s addendum. I want to capture this point in text. Those guys and others are missing the point. Here’s how they hear the elevator pitch:

Podcasting is Downloadable! Audible! Content! that can be subscribed to and automatically appears on your device of choice

whereas here is how I hear the elevator pitch:

Podcasting is downloadable audible content that can be Subscribed! To! and Automatically! Appears! on your device of choice

That it is audible isn’t the big deal. That I can put my iPod Shuffle in a USB port and without any thought or effort have 10 hours of the podcasts I have previously subscribed to magically appear on it is unbelievably huge! Like I said in the show, I used to use AvantGo and Plucker to have web pages waiting for me on my Handspring device. What they are doing is the equivalent of dismissing that as an innovative mode because of the prior existence of web content. Your em-PHA-sis is on the wrong syl-LAB-le.

There is another important difference between podcasting and streaming that didn’t occur to me until after the episode was in the can. Because podcasting is driven entirely by XML files and audio files that come from standard HTTP, anyone can do this with any commodity hosting in a few minutes. Hell, you could use that webspace that comes with your cable modem or DSL (I’ve never used any of that. Have you?) You absolutely cannot create an MP3 file or a RealAudio file and have it streamed on any commodity account in a few minutes. You need a special server and to handle a load of more than a certain amount you need to beef up the processor and/or bandwidth. There is an entirely different order of magnitude involved with getting rolling. That’s why we have new people coming to the party as listeners and creators in droves. It’s the difference between having all automobiles arriving as kit cars vs being able to drive one off the dealer’s lot ready to go. In the former case only certain people with certain skills and/or resources get to drive, in the latter case almost anyone can.

To claim the previously existing world of streaming is equivalent to the present world of podcasting is to fail to appreciate how low the ante to the game has fallen, and to fail to appreciate how important that is to people starting to play.

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Dave Slusher is a blogger, podcaster, computer programmer, author, science fiction fan and father. Member of the Podcast Hall of Fame class of 2022.

3 thoughts on “Watching the Point Sail By”

  1. The point I was making is that Audible invented downloadable content that can be subscribed to and magically appears (as well as updates your portable device based on how much of a long program you’ve listened to, provides user bookmarking for better navigation than MP3 and, better yet, is much more compact than an MP3 of comparable length). Podcasting is just a new name and an RSS-enabled approach to delivering part of what has been doing for almost a decade.

    That’s why this is an accretive change, and also why it will last, because Audible demonstrates that there are ways to generate revenue on self-produced content. (And, keep in mind, that I work with Audible and have since they launched.)

  2. > You absolutely cannot create an MP3 file or a RealAudio
    > file and have it streamed on any commodity account in a
    > few minutes. You need a special server and to handle a
    > load of more than a certain amount you need to beef up
    > the processor and/or bandwidth.

    Maybe 5 years ago this would be true when no one really had broadband. The reality is that MP3 files are not as hard to stream over http today as most people think. Just ask eric rice he built a whoole company around the fact.

    Just go over to my site Audioblog 2.0 @ and you will see that I have about 200 different podcasts (only 200 because I just started about 2 weeks ago) streaming over http with no problem. What is amazing none of these were designed technically with streaming in mind.

    I even have my own podcast streaming out off an old http server in the basement over my cable modem.

    Another point: My “streaming” (I prefer to refer to it as audio on demand) is totally driven by blog posting and RSS XML. So it is no harder to author/produce then an audioblog/podcast post.

    The debate should not be streaming over the web versus downloading to a mp3 player. The problem we should be solving is how podcasters can do both in a creative/uncomplicated manner to increase their reach. Geeting your podcast to a bigger audience is what it is all about.

    Fact: More people have flash in their browsers then have IPods! What a unmined resource that podcasters today are totally missing out on. My mother uses a web browser i just never see her using an IPod. Why leave her generation out as potential podcast listening audience today?

    Here’s a comment that a podcaster left on my blog yesterday:

    “I was wondering where all those new listeners were coming from. Neatest thing I’ve seen in a while. Thanks for the mention! This is definitely a site for my blog roll- my audience will love it.”

    If you are interested in my solution to the problem, keep an eye on my blog/podcats as I explain how I integrated what I have assembled and working so far.

    You will be amazed to find out that my main breakthrough has been right under all of our noses all the while.


    Harry Gilchrist
    Audioblogging 2.0

  3. I’m not getting into a pissing contest with you on this one, but I still don’t think that they are missing the point. I think you missed their point. You assert that they downplayed podcasting to begin with, which I don’t think they did. I have listened to that original four times now and can’t find anything I would qualify as a dismissal of the importance of this medium. In fact, I would take it as the opposite. All they said was that the technologies for doing exactly what podcasters are doing now have been around for some time, it’s just that now people are kind of getting into it more and they think that is great, too.

    You have been defending podcasting so much, I think you are starting to see attacks where there are none. Chill, bro. Podcast, enjoy podcasting, and anyone who doesn’t believe in the power of it can feel free to not participate. This is a party, everyone is invited, and the only people not joining in the fun are the ones who choose not to. If they change their minds they are free to come back in.

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