Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Podcast Nation

[This will be a link-free post, only because I'm avoiding having to link to everything I might mention here. Anyone interested in any of the podcasts I mention should feel free to drop me a line and I'd be happy to give you the link.]

This past month, my love with podcasts has grown into a full blown romance. For the uninitiated or the apathetic, podcasts are essentially downloadable radio-type programs, generally made available as mp3s. Some radio programs actually turn their broadcasts into podcasts to allow listeners to enjoy the program on their own time, but the podcasts I'm more interested in are original creations. I started listening to more and more original podcasts this past fall because I had just grown so sick of the traditional radio. Even when it wasn't being interrupted by countless commercials, most of the stuff on the terrestrial radio just plain sucks. I've done Howard Stern, I've done Rush, and I've done countless sports talk shows, but the real problem with radio is, like the traditional television market of old, there's a limited amount of programming available and those programs needs to sell themselves to as large an audience as possible in order to remain on the air (unless of course, you're NPR).

As with just about everything in our culture, the internet changes everything by turning anyone into a potential broadcaster. Free of the limitations of traditional radio, anyone can put together their own talk show on any subjects. And I just love it. Rather than listen to sports radio I get the sort of sports talk I want to hear, with Bill Simmons on the BS Report and with Matthew Berry on ESPN's fantasy focus. Rather than having to listen to the traditional partisan political divide, I can enjoy the numerous podcasts, audio content, and original programs made available through the Reason family. And rather than have to wait for a sliver of news about Lost, I can listen to episode-by-episode analysis on podcasts with fans or even the show's actual writers.

What's fascinating is how remarkably similar they all sound, from the smallest fan podcast, from the biggest original content coming from a media behemoth like ESPN. Obviously, there are palpable differences in production quality, but even those aren't that great, nor that important when you're just talking about a discussion type program. What I mean by "sound" is how the listening experience is the same no matter how you dress it up. Either you're listening to a solo host carry on a free flowing dialogue with himself or you're listening to a discussion amongst two or more people and in the end it's the same whether you're in your car listening to more traditional radio or whether you're listening to a Lost podcast you burned on a CD. And with the wonderful world of podcasting, you actually may be listening to a dialogue or a discussion you're all the more interested in. Ain't technology wonderful?


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