Review A Brief History of Podcasting

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Ever wonder about the evolution of the podcast? While podcasting is a comparatively young technology it still has a rather fascinating albeit brief history. The background of the word, “podcast” is quite fascinating and is reflective of the dynamic nature of the Internet community.

Podcasting is a term that was only coined in 2004, combining two words: iPod and broadcasting. Ironically, this definition is somewhat of a misnomer since neither component is completely accurate. Neither podcasting nor listening to podcasts requires an iPod or other portable player. In fact, podcasts can be listened to on any mp3 enabled device including a desktop computer. The name association came about simply because Apple Computer’s iPod was the best-selling portable digital audio player when podcasting began. What’s more, no over-the-air broadcasting is required either.

Even the editors of the New Oxford American Dictionary jumped on the podcasting bandwagon by declaring “podcasting” word of the year for 2005. The term was defined as “a digital recording of a radio broadcast or similar program, made available on the Internet for downloading to a personal audio player.” The word will be added to the online version of the dictionary during their next update.

The term, podcasting was coined by journalist, Ben Hammersley, and then popularized by former MTV VJ and media entrepreneur, Adam Curry. Mr. Curry created an Applescript application that automated the process of downloading and syncing audio files to iPods.

Other names or alternative interpretations of the letters, “P-O-D” were proposed, the most popular of which was “Personal On Demand”. Technology writer, Doc Searls came up with this phrase back in September, 2004. Terms such as “audio-blogging”, audio magazines” and “web-casting” have also been offered to describe this unique form of media distribution.

Other “pod”-derived phrases include “podcasters” (those who create podcasts) and “podcatchers” – the special RSS aggregators which periodically check for and download new content automatically. Podcatching software enables the user to copy podcasts to portable music & video players.

The popularity of podcasting is spreading like wildfire because of the rapid adoption of MP3 players and the desire of consumers to have fresh content. Podcasting has flourished because it gives people more control over what they listen to, and the freedom to take their programs with them with them.

Not since blogging has a technology seemed so unexpected and been so quickly and widely adopted as podcasting. Growth in this nascent industry is expected to accelerate quickly due to the rapid acceptance of the technology by the radio broadcast industry in 2005 and Apple’s iTunes distribution. The rising popularity of podcasts is challenging conventional radio’s broadcasting model.

While iTunes is less than two years old, roughly 4.8 million people downloaded a podcast in 2005, as compared with just over 800,000 in 2004. And 11.4 million listeners are expected this year, according to research from The Diffusion Group. Already the Apple iTunes service offers 15,000 podcasts and listeners have signed up for more than 7 million subscriptions.

A study by Bridge Ratings in November 2005 with radio listeners in ten national markets showed that approximately 20% of users who have ever downloaded and listened to a podcast do soon a weekly basis. This group downloads an average of six podcasts per week and spends approximately four hours a month listening to the podcasts they download.

This study projected even more dramatic growth in the industry in the future. According to Bridge Ratings, by 2010, podcast audience growth is expected to reach a conservative 45 million users who will have ever listened to a podcast. Aggressive estimates place this number closer to 75 million by this date.

How does this affect you?

With podcast listening rising exponentially, podcasts offer you a very powerful tool for promoting your products or services. The great thing about podcasts is that they are relatively easy and inexpensive to create. Podcasting can help ensure a closer relationship with your target audiences by providing them with engaging, informative and frequent updates about the goings on in your industry. If you have a website then there’s no reason you shouldn’t have a podcast available as it’s not difficult to set up and can bring a significant increase in traffic to your site. So in short podcasting should be a vital component of any online marketing campaign.

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