Tag Archive: media

Managing: time, podcasts, life

Podcasting is not really a profession, as such — and neither is pontificating about podcasting.

That means that it really falls into the hobby category, and that means that other things take priority, sometimes.

Obviously, I’ve had a few priorities to deal with, but I’ve kept this blog set up and paid for the hosting to make sure that I remind myself to come back to it, when I have time.

And then I realized: I will never have time, just free-floating time that is free of all obligations.

I have to do what people have been telling me for years: I’ll have to make time.

For all those years, I’ve bristled at that term, feeling myself surrounded by obligations that don’t have any room to wiggle in. I’ll still do, but I’m starting to realize the real essence behind the phrase. It’s not about “making” time, it’s about deciding not to waste it.

With the multitude of things to distract, amuse and work at, it’s no surprise that time rarely feels wasted, but rather just consumed.

Ah, but what does this have to do with podcasting? If anything?

Actually, I think it has something very fundamental to do with the emergence of the podcasting medium. I think podcasting is one of the ultimate expressions of people wanting to organize their leisure time, to take control over the schedule of entertainment that, for the majority of its modern timeframe, was out of our control.

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How Do Podcasts Propogate?

How do podcasts propagate?

If you listen* to podcasts, think about how you came to listen to them. I suspect that the most popular answers, based on my own experience and discussions with others, are in roughly this order:

  1. I knew someone working on the podcast
  2. Someone I knew recommended the podcast because they listen to it.
  3. I heard a promo played on a podcast I already listen to.
  4. The podcast is attached to some other media product (TV series, movie, book series, video game, music, etc.) that I already consume.
  5. I did a web search for specific keywords.
  6. The podcast was recommended by iTunes.
  7. I looked in a podcast directory at the most popular podcasts (possibly within a specific category).
  8. I searched through a podcast directory.

Any others? (I suspect there are; please leave your additions in the comments.)

Now, look at the list again. The order is admittedly somewhat slanted to make a point, but I think it still accurately reflects the sentiment that I’ve heard from the people I’ve talked to, with a bit of reflection on my part.

Let’s simplify the list a bit, to make my point more clear:

  1. Social networking
  2. Commercial enterprises, advertising and prominent search results
  3. Directories

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I’ve struggled to define podcasting properly before. I’ve seen people (including me) use an enormous number of words, but I seem to have hit upon most of the key elements with this startingly short definition: “automated digital downloaded media”.

Let’s look at that definition in detail — in reverse.

  • “media”: We’ll be throwing this term around quite frequently. The basic meaning is one of conveyance: “media” is the truck on which our information is delivered. We could get that information in other ways (newspaper, TV, web site), but each medium tends to shape its content, sometimes subtly, sometimes explicitly. The question of how podcasting shapes its content will be a separate discussion on its own — perhaps many. Note that “media” doesn’t really imply that much about content. Podcasts are typically used to deliver video or audio content — although some occasionally deliver PDF texts — but might conceivably deliver any kind of media. This, too, will also get (at least) a post of its own.
  • “downloaded”: There are two different facets described by the term “downloaded”: method and asynchronicity. When we use the word “downloaded”, we silently add “from the Internet”. (At one point — and on rare occasions — we also talk about “downloading” from a computer, but most often we really meant “sync”.) We don’t talk of our newspaper being “downloaded” to our doorstep in the morning, or the act of transporting a DVD box-set from the store to our home as “downloading”. There’s also a sense that we initiated the action — we went and got the content, it was not delivered to us. The other facet, asynchronicity, gets implied by the past-tense of the word “downloaded”. It was an act we already did, a precursor to consumption. It implies that the time at which we get a podcast is different from when we consume it. I think this is a pretty important distinction: it pretty quickly separates podcasts from streaming media, where you consume it while it is coming to you, like live TV or uStream or radio.
  • “digital”: As a computer scientist (and what does that term mean, anyway?), I find the widespread use of the word digital to be somewhat amusing. The origins of the word are meaningless here — who really cares that it relates to fingers? — but it has become a catch-all term for anything which is not analog. There’s not much that really is an analog experience — not much besides real life, that is! — so this distinction isn’t quite as big as it once was. Primarily, it ties us back to the computer again, and suggests that it isn’t exactly part of real life, in a way. Digital media live in an imaginary, virtual world that isn’t exactly here or there, but somewhere else. (Or maybe this is really a definition fitting of the content of all media: it doesn’t exist unless it is experienced.)
  • “automated”: Downloading digital files (media) predates podcasting. I remember downloading and listening to episodes of some Internet-only shows long before podcasting, but it was a pain. When a new episode came out, I had to go check myself (or hopefully catch a notice in my churning email, if they sent one out), then find the link, download it, copy it to my portable device, then listen. When it was finished, I had to then take it off the device manually. The automation and streamlining of these tasks was a fundamental and tremendously important step in making podcasting important and widespread. Before, it was akin to having to tune a TV manually to a station, rather than just flipping between known channels and telling the PVR to “get me that program when it comes out”.

Whew! This definition contained a lot more information than I expected. What’s your definition?

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