Introduction and Overview

Podcasting is just the latest example of the rapid developments that characterise an ever-changing ICT landscape. As soon as you get to grips with one development there is always another "waiting in the wings". When developments in different technologies combine, then the results can be quite extraordinary - hence podcasting. So, what is this phenomenon?

Many people are aware that you can listen to radio broadcasts, live or prerecorded, on-line via the Internet. The BBC, for example, provides on-line radio via their website to complement the more traditional form of analogue and digital broadcasts. This takes advantage of increased broadband connectivity and makes such broadcasts widely available. Nevertheless, this form of broadcasting follows a traditional model - the consumer is still "locked in" to broadcasting schedules and the computer connected to the Internet. Even the advent of Wi-Fi technology will not, in itself, provide the degree of flexibility that other technologies currently offer the "savvy" consumer.

iPodIn recent years, we have all witnessed the impact of ICT on the interface between the music industry and consumer. The huge popularity of downloading music for later use in the form of MP3 files, has revolutionised the way in which consumers can create their own, personalised music catalogue. Listening to pre-selected music "on-demand" has proved extremely popular with young people using, for example, the ubiquitous iPod®.

So why not apply this approach to on-line digital radio broadcasts? Thus, the era of podcasting begins - pre-selected, "on demand" or time-shifted digital radio. Indeed, Apple have released the next version of iTunes® (currently version 6.0) which integrates podcasts alongside their existing provision for Internet radio and audio downloads.

Podcasting was the term first used by Adam Curry (former MTV host and video jockey) to describe the process of creating and publishing a digital radio broadcast on the Internet. Basically. a podcast is an internet-based radio show. To create a podcast, all you need is a microphone, a PC, and audio editing software. The resulting MP3 audio file is uploaded to a website from where it can be downloaded and then listened to "on demand" via a portable MP3 player. Podcasting provides for a range of different activities as shown in Table 1.


Table 1: Focus of podcasting activities

1 Talk and music shows

2 Interviews

3 Story telling and audio books

4 Tutorials and instructions

5 Giving directions and sharing information

6 Providing commentaries on events

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An overview of podcasting