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Tom Krymkowski

Audio Take-OutBy Tom Krymkowski

"Tell me Jack, what's this all about?" Like I mentioned in my last article, I didn't really understand what was going on at the time.

He explained to me in simple terms why he was writing his book. There was a group of people who were producing home-grown "radio" programs and using a new method to distribute them to everyone over the internet. The meat of the book seemed to me to be a handbook of production techniques that could be used by anyone to make a show, and tips on getting that show out there for all to hear.

"OK, so what changed? Why Podcasting?"

A few reasons, it turns out.

We've all been moving mp3 files around for a while. As a final audio format, it's not bad. There are many of us who can hear the difference in a compressed audio file, but for the majority of people who listen to them, I'll agree that it's just fine. In the future the file type will change to better quality and smaller size, but it was the mp3 that really allowed things to move around the internet faster. Even people with dial-up could download a song or two without giving up.

Then along came portable mp3 players. And we mustn't forget the monster of them all, Apple's iPod. I'm holding out for one that plays video, is Wi-Fi capable, and will let me download photos off my digital camera directly when I travel. Everyone else seems to be perfectly happy listening to audio with theirs. You download an mp3 off the internet, sync up your player to your computer, and take your player with you for listening on the go.

Now comes the good stuff.

I won't go into the technical or historical details of this, but things have changed in this process. Before you would go to a website and read or downloaded new content every time it was available - and had to remember to check back regularly. But what if you could subscribe to content, and your computer would check the site, say once a day (or however often you want), and if it found out that new content was available it would pull it down to your computer? Better yet, what if once it was downloaded, it then loaded onto your mp3 player the next time you synced it up? Now you can take it with you and listen to your program when you want to, pretty much where you want to.

With traditional radio, you are limited in time by the schedule of the broadcast. With "Podcasting," a word combining the name of the favorite mp3 player of the day with broadcasting, you "time shift" when you listen to a show.

That's just the basic mechanics of it. Which is pretty cool on its own. Some other time I'll go into what that means for traditional broadcasters.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

So now you can get a good sounding piece of audio, over the internet, and onto your player for listening at your leisure. And once you subscribe, it's fairly automatic. That's the "Pod" in Podcasting.

But what do I listen to? THAT'S the most interesting part of all of this. The "cast" part.

Tom Krymkowski is a freelance Audio Engineer, Multimedia Producer, and Amateur Photographer living in San Francisco. He works as a Technical Advisor for npr's Next Generation Radio. When he's not on the road he farms out his skills to NPR station KQED-FM, The Pixel Corps, PodShow, and other Podcasters in the Bay Area and beyond.

Next Generation Radio:
A series of week-long student training projects, designed to give students who are interested in radio and journalism the skills and opportunity to report and produce their own radio story.
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