Just about anyone that would bother reading a blog nowadays has heard of podcasting. Its really a revolutionary thing. A lot of people seem to "get it", a lot of people fail to as well. Its going to be an interesting thing to watch develop and evolve. For the first time in our history, people from all over the world can let their voice be heard. Not just some words on a screen like the internet has traditionally been, but their actual voice, talking about whatever interests them, speaking whatever is on their mind. The combination of the internet as a vehicle for worldwide delivery, and the ready availability of affordable portable media players is fueling a grass roots explosion of podcasts. The sheer number of ones available in this very new market is staggering, and more are popping up all over the place. To me the great thing about this is how it finally gives us choices for news and entertainment not controlled by big media and marketers. I've done several rants before on how disgusted I am with our traditional media. Both the "news" and the entertainment side of things. There simply is very little out there I feel has any redeeming qualities. I know lots of people that feel the same way. Problem is, if you aren't part of what is considered the profitable mainstream demographic, then your tastes, values, and interests, won't be reflected in the mainstream media. Even if they are, the media is more and more a vehicle for the delivery of marketing messages rather than a channel for information and entertainment.
With the podcasting phenomena you can actually find programs that you might be really interested in. You can find things that are original and done by people that really care about what they are saying. Of course you can find lots of junk and crass commercialization as well. With not much of a barrier to entry just about anyone can put a podcast of some sort out there, and thats fine. The beauty of the system is that everyone has a right (or more appropriately, the chance) to speak, but no one needs to listen if there is nothing interesting being said. Still, the fact that anyone with the passion to produce a program about a topic can do so regardless of the expected size of audience on the receiving end, is a powerful shift in the world of media. Its liberating.
Of course the great crushing gears of marketing and corporate blandness will do their best to dominate this new media, but its going to be tough to do. It costs next to nothing to get something out there, and with increasingly intertwined social book marking and rather anarchic online communities, a small personal show can reach millions if it has something interesting to say. Thats got to be galling to the media conglomerates that spend millions to coerce us into swallowing junk that has done nothing interesting in years.
I don't think this is the death knell for traditional media. There will be a place for well edited, fact checked news delivered by pleasant and professional journalists (despite "news" generally being a rather strong term for the stuff they peddle these days), and well funded movies and shows with real professional polish for some time to come. But with luck it will force them to do better. Once they realize they are no longer the only game in town they will need to start offering quality to compete. Its a concept that they seem to have long since lost touch with.
This same concept is already beginning to color my listening habits. I listen to more podcasts now than television or radio. After subscribing to a multitude of shows through Odeo I've found I simply don't have time to listen to them all, so I very quickly abandon the ones that don't hold my interest. This is a far cry from the days of sitting in front of the tv watching whatever happened to be on since there were no other choices.
Long post I know. But I'm really excited about this whole thing, I really think we are on the verge of some very big changes in how we will view entertainment and media. I have long expected something like this to happen, though I did not foresee the method of delivery. I personally thought that we would begin seeing more and more "pirate" or personal radio broadcasts. I figured as technology got to the point where transmitters were cheap and powerful people would take to the air to let their voices be heard. But this is so much better, its global. Time and geography are removed from the equation. You can now listen to pretty much anything, anytime, anywhere. I encourage you do so. Life is too short to spend watching reality tv and reruns of friends.