Sunday, April 10, 2005

Reuters: PODCASTS Explore Universe of topics - more than just political -

[ hmmmmm....Time to alert my clients and future clients to this! see: ]

Technology - Internet Report

Homespun 'Podcasts' Explore Universe of Topics
Sat Apr 9, 4:00 PM ET

Technology - Internet Report
By Andy Sullivan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - As millions of pilgrims streamed into Rome this past week, Internet listeners accompanied a Dutch priest on an intimate audio tour to pay one last visit to Pope John Paul II before he was laid to rest.

Father Roderick Vonhogen brought the Catholic Church's ancient rites to life through a cutting-edge format: the podcast, a radio-style show that is distributed over the Internet.
Podcasts have caught on like wildfire since they first emerged nine months ago. Listeners can pick from roughly 10,000 shows on topics ranging from religion to wine to technology, and media companies and advertisers are taking note.

But for now, it's a cottage industry dominated by the likes of Father Roderick, a parish priest from the Netherlands whose low-key charm and you-are-there narratives bring the Church's pomp and circumstance down to a human scale.

On "Catholic Insider," listeners hear Father Roderick bicycle through Rome's predawn streets, banter with students camped out in St. Peter's Square and describe the pope lying in state in the basilica.

"It's beautiful, it really looks like he's sleeping," he whispers as a choir sings in the background.

Catholic Insider and thousands of other podcasts can be found through directories like Podcast Alley ( ), while free software like iPodder( automatically downloads new shows as they become available. Listeners can transfer their podcasts to an Apple iPod or other portable MP3 player, and listen to them when and where they wish.

A recent survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that one in three U.S. adults who own an MP3 player have listened to a podcast, though the survey's small sample size means that figure could be substantially lower.

Even so, the potential audience is huge, encompassing anyone with a computer and a broadband connection.

Podcasting could challenge the broadcast industry by giving consumers more listening options and more control over where and when they hear them, analysts say.

"To radio it's a big threat, because people are fed up with radio," said digital-media analyst Phil Leigh.


Like the World Wide Web ten years ago, many podcasts rely on homespun charm rather than slick presentation. Anybody with a computer and a microphone can set up their own show. "The Daily Download" ( ) is little more than a man describing his bowel movements as they happen. One of the most popular podcasts, "The Dawn and Drew Show," ( ) features the ramblings of a married couple on a Wisconsin farm.

"Do we have anything to talk about? No? I guess that's the appeal, right?" Dawn said on a recent show.

Several radio stations have developed podcasts of their own, typically condensed versions of their morning shows. Businesses from Newsweek to General Motors have set up podcasts, as has Democratic politician John Edwards, who ran unsuccessfully for U.S. vice president last year.

Some amateur podcasters hope to quit their day jobs. Todd Cochrane hopes to attract more advertising dollars for his twice-weekly technology show "Geek News Central" ( ) by setting up a network of podcasts that meet professional standards for sound quality and family-friendly language.

"We're trying to build a brand out of many individual brands," Cochrane said of his fledgling network ( ). Music remains a hurdle for podcasters. Because no licensing rules exist, podcasters must secure permission from individual artists and songwriters before playing their songs. One popular show,"Coverville" ( ), finesses this issue by only playing cover versions of well-known songs by obscure artists, though the show does pay a royalty to songwriters' groups. Other podcasts stick to independent music.
The Recording Industry Association of America, which represents the largest record labels, declined to comment.

For now, the greatest opportunity lies in spoken-word podcasts which can develop faithful if narrow audiences interested in a particular subject, said analyst Leigh, who podcasts his interviews with industry figures at ( ).

As big companies have jumped into podcasting, some pioneers have worried that they could be crowded out. But that hasn't proven to be the case as blogs have entered the mainstream, said Ryan Ozawa, whose HawaiiUP podcast ( ) explores daily life on the Hawaiian Islands.

"Successful, commercial blogs like Engagdet and Defamer haven't destroyed the New York Times, but neither have they stopped the millions of other voices out there," he wrote in an e-mail interview. "The easier it is to put yourself out there, and the more people that do it, the more likely we are to find the next Ed Murrow ... or the next Howard Stern."

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