The medium that most of us call podcasting has gone way beyond the Pod. When I say that, I am referring to both known etymologies of the term podcast: 1) The first, which refers specifically to Apple’s iPod devices. 2) The second, which states that the letters P-O-D in podcasting are actually an acronym for the words Portable On Demand. Of course, almost everyone knows that the programs which are popularly called podcasts can now be played on computers and multiple portable mobile devices, including iPads, iPods, iPhones, Blackberries and a handful of other portable audio players and other smart mobile telephones. But beyond that, some people are not yet aware that the market is now being flooded with many other devices that can receive and play these “podcast” programs directly, without any computer in the loop, including some HDTV sets, and even an in-dash car radio which connects to the Internet wirelessly. In this article, you’ll discover those, plus Internet table radios and inexpensive set top boxes which tune podcasts directly, without a computer. You’ll also get to reason with me about whether we should still be calling this medium podcasting, and keep calling the programs podcasts… and what this all means, both for content producers and for listeners/viewers.
Tabletop radios that tune podcasts directly
The Squeezebox Radio from Logitech costs US$199.95 and tunes podcasts without a computer!
The Squeezebox Boom from Logitech costs US$299.95 and tunes podcasts without a computer!
HDTV sets with built-in podcast reception
Many HDTV sets now come with “podcast” reception built in.
Some Sony Bravia HDTV sets can tune podcasts without a computer.
TiVo with built-in podcast reception
Select from TiVo’s suggested podcast list or…. (see next photo, below)
Enter the RSS feed of a desired podcast
Set top boxes that add podcast reception capability to your HDTV set
Starting at US$79.95, Roku set top boxes receive podcasts via MediaFly, in addition to several other free and premium Internet services.
Popcorn Hour models start at US$179 and receive podcasts via MediaFly, in addition to several other free and premium Internet services. With a built-in Blu-ray player, they start at US$299
Internet car radio
At CES 2009, Blaupunkt and miRoamer showed what they called the first Internet car radio. Apparently it is not shipping yet to the general public, but it may already be available as a factory option in certain cars. Some reports say that it connects via Bluetooth to an Internet transceiver, while others indicate that it has built-in 3G. It is not clear whether the first unit is for Internet streaming only, or whether or it will also support RSS subscription.
Blaupunkt Internet radio, powered by miRoamer.
Blaupunkt Internet radio, powered by myRoamer, shown installed in dashboard.
Should we still call the medium “podcasting”, and the programs “podcasts”?
You have just seen a bunch of devices that play “podcasts” that are not from Apple, and -with the exception of the car radio- are not even mobile, so the don’t even qualify under the second etymology of “Portable On Demand”. If Kojak (Telly Savalas) were alive today, he’d take his lollipop out of his mouth and say: “Podcasting, you’ve come a long way baby!”
Should we still call the medium “podcasting”, and the programs “podcasts”? Some people have implemented the term “netcast” and “netcasting”. The advantage of this term is that is much broader than those are etymologically anchored to either the term iPod or -at best- mobile devices. That is the advantage of the term “netcasting”. However, the disadvantages are multiple:
Popularity-recognition-comprehension-establishment: Linguists and translators like me often use Google usage measurements to determine the popularity of terms. I just checked, and there are currently 92,100,000 uses of the term “podcast”, yet only 419,000 uses of the term “netcast”. I am afraid that there are much fewer non-podcast listeners/viewers who would have a clue what a “netcast” is, compared to the number of those who would grasp what a “podcast” is. Also, many of the devices listed above actually call the medium “podcast” in their menus! We certainly want to confuse our potential listeners/viewers.
It is also debatable whether we should be trying to label the medium at all. Whenever possible (in a non-techie environment), perhaps we should de-emphasize the techie name for the medium. I think that when possible, we should call them “programs” or “shows”. The content is the most important part. Before DTV, people used to ask: “Did you see the Tonight Show?”, not “Did you see the VHF Tonight Show?”, “Did you see the UHF Tonight Show?“, or “Did you see the Cable Tonight Show?”. Let’s try to say (or write) “podcast” or “netcast” only when necessary, and not as a constant descriptor of a program. Maybe we are better calling them “radio programs” when they are audio-only, and “TV programs” when they also include video. The term “podcast” has really become yet another anachronism… but like others, sometimes it’s too awkward to try to replace them.
What this all means for content creators, listeners, and viewers
Content creators who up until now have only used the conventional AM, FM, VHF, or UHF spectrum will discover that their colleagues who have only distributed their content either as live Internet programs or as subscribable RSS “podcast/netcast” programs now have a much larger market share. We not only have a much larger geographic coverage and a unique repeatability factor (put it pause, listen over and over) and referability factor (tell a friend and s/he can hear/watch the exact episode you did), but we are also reaching listeners/viewers who were previously unable or unwilling to listen to (or watch) our programs via a computer or by subscribing and syncing a mobile device. It also means that all content creators have an exponentially larger number of competing programs. On the other hand, listeners and viewers have an ever growing list of options to consume… so we content creators need to continue to produce increasingly better content, and do an increasingly better job of promoting that content… So let’s do it!
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Disclosure, to comply with the FTC’s new rules
None of the manufacturers listed above is paying Allan T©pper to write this article, and so far, none has sent him any samples or demonstration items.