Podcast Acceleration

Although I haven’t written about them, I’ve been quietly monitoring the podcast space. I am amazed by how quickly they’ve taken hold and today’s announcement by Infinity Broadcasting that they were launching KYOU Radio, a radio that’s distributing podcasts seems to be the tipping point for that new technology.

For my readers who are not familiar with the concept, a podcast is essentially an audio file that is distributed via a syndication feed like RSS. Mosts podcasts are encoded in MP3 format and, for the most part, podcasts have been the equivalent of audio blogs. The initial concept behind them came in a dinner at Katz’s deli in New York (fall of 2000) when Adam Curry and I urged Dave Winer, who was then the only person keeping RSS on life support, to provide a way with RSS to distribute data other than text. Adam had written an article talking about the last yard issue in terms of delivering content in the home (realize this is before BitTorrent was popular.) From there, Dave added the enclosure item to the format and things were quiet for a long time. Last summer, Adam introduced iPodder, a program that simplified the creation of what he called podcast, with the idea that they would be distributed to the iPod. Since then, the idea has gone from being the domain of a few geeks to becoming a mainstream effort.

Today’s announcement about the creation of KYOU shows that the idea is now going mainstream and I expect podcasting to make the cover of many business magazines in the months to come, replacing blogs as the new new thing. While the station is small, it’s an interesting experiment in using consumer generated data to create new programming. In a way, this is the next evolution in media, going from tightly programmed shows (Sitcoms, TV dramas, etc…) to shows leaving room for more individual reactions (“reality” TV shows) to programming with no varnish whatsoever.

The one thing that fascinates me about this progress is the elapsed time between introduction and mainstream adoption for such technology. The web browser took half a decade before being adopted by the mainstream; E-commerce went from geek street to main street in a couple of years; but podcasting has gone from zero to hero in under a year. I was recently surprised when I heard podcasts being casually mentioned on my local radio station. With today’s announcement, this is the second time I’m surprised by the rapid adoption for this new technology.

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