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Wednesday, December 8, 2004

Another iPod-inspired techno-trend

There's a new form of audio distribution bubbling up around the Internet, in the form of 'Podcasting,' a combination of Internet news feeds, downloaded audio files, and personal audio players like the Apple iPod.

Here's the gist of it:
There are a wealth of new ways to automatically grab text-based news and information to your computer, to your PDA, and across websites (all ArtsJournal weblogs have what's called an RSS Feed, designed to do just this). These files are in a simple, common format, that make their maintenance automatic (when I add this post, for example, my news feed is automatically updated, and anyone subscribed to it will get the update, as well).

Kinda geeky, but ultimately an interesting and useful advancement of content sharing.

On the other side of the system, there's this rapidly growing base of digital audio players, like the iPod, that are designed to synchronize audio files with your computer, so you can carry them around with you, allowing you to ignore other people on the subway more than usual.

Podcasting combines these two things: an automated way of updating content, and a large installed base of audio players. What you get is an automatically updated list of audio files that your computer grabs from the Internet, and your digital audio player grabs from your computer. So, instead of just their existing library of songs and audio books, users get constantly refreshed additional content to discover at their leisure. There are already quite a few Podcast feeds available, in all categories of content. More are coming quickly.

'Well, gee, Mr. Wizard,' you might say, if you were a tweener from the 1950s. 'Why are you dragging us through this techno-tutorial?' Here's why:

So much of cultural management is delivering rich content to an audience, one way or another. This content includes audio like music, or spoken word performances. But it also includes ideas and conversation surrounding a performance...artist interviews, conductor reflections on a certain performance, panel discussions, and such.

Podcasting is one of many new ways to come for cheaply distributing such content to your audience. Imagine a community-wide Podcasting site, where arts organizations could post audio interviews and discussions relating to their coming performances. Imagine a whole new branch of public-broadcasting-like content, that doesn't rely on the narrow and jam-packed broadcast frequencies (one site is already promoting the trend as a good prospect for advocacy efforts).

Podcasting may turn out to be another interesting idea that doesn't catch on. But technologies like it, that combine several existing trends in content distribution and consumer connection, are bound to be of use to the innovative arts organization that dares to use them.

posted on Wednesday, December 8, 2004 | permalink