Some of the work I’ve been doing over the past few years has attempted to consider that “Podcasting” is. In the early days, this was easy. You listened to podcasts on an iPod, simple. After all, this is where the name came from as a compound of the words “broadcasting” and “iPod”. Over time this has become more difficult, not least now that the majority of podcast listened is on smartphones and tablets. So, perhaps the device we use(d) for listening is unhelpful?… or perhaps it is the platform through which the audio is sent? Historically, this has been the open sourced RSS format, used to power blogs and news websites. Although, increasingly this may occur via other proprietary systems via apps.
In simple terms a podcast is piece of internet audio content, but for a while this meant that any bit of audio online was being called a podcast. I can see why, but for me a podcast is something that a listener subscribes to on an ongoing basis and is delivered to them automatically – rather than being something they need to collect themselves. It’s not live; it’s not synchronous and (mostly) it is unmediated. So, listeners choose when to listen and (often) media giants don’t get in the way. That said, increasingly gatekeepers like Apple and Stitcher are mediators – even if they mostly choose not to restrict content.
As one might expect podcasting is often considered to be part of radio, even though many aspects of it are distinctly un-radio like: podcasters may shun schedules, make shows that fit the content (rather than pad them out to fill a slot), the content may also sound nothing like radio. Now, this might not be a problem? Maybe no-one cares?. If it sounds like radio, then it probably is… well, if it doesn’t sound like radio, what is it? It’s actually, something that has developed a set of practices. Podcasts are starting to sound like podcasts, rather than radio.
A platform – A means of getting audio into your ears
Practices – ways of making content that are distinct
Cultures – ideas the shape practices, or defines how work is being made
Internet audio content delivered globally via subscription to a connected device and then consumed asynchronously by listeners.
There are a couple of key factors that might help us define podcasts, they are interchangeable but broadly we should be thinking about:
Audio Quality – Intimacy – Authenticity – Independence – (In)formality – Innovation – Intentionality
Podcasts can sound different; sometimes the sound is poor or sometimes it’s more detailed, but it’s often different to radio. They can also sound more intimate or authentic, through their subject matter or their position as home-produced media. This can take the shape of a more informal manner. Their economic independence can also be a factor here, as too to can their ability to innovate or experiment with form.
If you want to read more, this is an excellent place to start: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1PCqveZwFSexeMshI1rxBW6VbpCrC_VyJddyTwLif0R4/mobilebasic