July 1, 2005 – 2:07 pm
As you might expect, I’ve been messing about with the new version of iTunes to see how they’ve integrated podcasting. I have to say, I’m pretty impressed. There are some pretty unexpectedly clever things going on in there – and one or two oddities with non-standard RSS tags…
But the whole point of iTunes incorporating podcasting into its new release version (4.9) is that it expands podcasting beyond the realm of the geek and enthusiast to the wider audience of millions who just happen to have computers and connections to the internet, and no interest at all in RSS tags, standard or otherwise.
There are some people who read this blog to try and decipher what I’m up to on the other side of the world, and don’t have any reference point for the technological things I tend to focus on. When you’re this close to a technology on daily basis, it’s easy to forget that there are people who use the computer to send the odd email and check a couple of regular websites for general information.
This seems to be the right time to bring those worlds together.
(That said – if life is complicated enough without podcasting, we’re fine, eating well – off to Edinburgh tomorrow for the big march – and you can stop reading here.)
As a standard software media player, what iTunes does is move podcasting from a relatively rarefied special-interest media form to a mainstream phenomenon. It brings podcasting to an audience that previously had no particular reason to go to any effort to find out what it is.
So – if you haven’t quite worked out what podcasting is all about yet, then iTunes wants to be your introduction. Think of it this way: it’s a regular or semi-regular audio show, distributed over the internet. It’s a bit like radio in some ways – in fact, sometimes the shows are actual programmes from the radio.
You subscribe to a particular show (not in the sense that you pay money, just that you sign up to receive it), and then your computer periodically checks in to see if there’s a new one available.
When there’s a new show, it downloads it, and you can listen to it when you feel like it. If you have a portable player, such as an iPod (hence the name) then you can take that podcast show with you and listen to it wherever you happen to be.
That’s the great thing about podcasting from a listener’s perspective: a whole new range of interesting things to listen to from all over the world – and a much more convenient way of just getting the shows you want and listening to them when it suits you. If you get tired of a show, you can just unsubscribe and listen to something else instead.
The great thing about it from the production side of things is the fact that because you don’t need a radio station and a broadcast licence – just a computer and a microphone – lots of people are making amateur podcasts.
There’s an awful lot of rubbish out there, but there are some great podcasts to listen to. Things that you’d never hear on the radio. There’s this one where two guys just chat to each other on the way home from work…
There’s a measure of new technologies I always apply when evaluating them: if my Dad took this out of the box, would he be able to make it go? The answer for any of the wireless networked music systems I’ve tried has been a resounding no. Podcasting software – until now – had been in the same ballpark of trickiness.
iTunes makes it all easy and entirely uncomplicated, and that’s what the new version of it does best. It also makes finding things that you might actually want to listen to an absolute breeze. Good design, well thought out – and entirely intuitive to operate.
This is podcasting for my Dad, who can work the video just fine, but has no reason to download beta version open source applications and type in URLs, or debug anything – and so to my mind, they’ve got it exactly right.
Just one thing… If your computer was built when Helen Clark was in Opposition, then you’re going to have to do an upgrade. It’s long overdue, and not just because the machine’s not up to using the latest software. Having access to a whole new generation of media’s just a bonus.