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The Inside Guy

Tom Krymkowski

Cast a Wider NetBy Tom Krymkowski

Now, to my favorite part of Podcasting – the “-casting” part.

For a while now people have been producing their own content for distribution over the internet. No news there. When web browsers came into fashion, it became easier for people to find and access whatever was made available. The personal web page blossomed. It became a new medium for free expression on a global scale, minus service provider fees of course. Everybody and their brother had a website, or so it seemed. Despite the fact that professionals have jumped into the mix, I still think it’s cool that somebody’s personal page is just a few keystrokes away from anyone else’s. You may not really want to go to your old college roommate’s homepage. You know - the one with all of those baby pictures? But you could if you wanted to.

They do grow up fast, don’t they?

The real power in all of this is the de-centralization of distribution. It’s just as easy for someone halfway around the globe to see a site as it is for your next door neighbor. In a terrestrial broadcast scheme, you need a LOT of power to reach a wide audience. You also need the rights to use a frequency legally. It’s ridiculously inefficient from a producer to consumer point of view. It’s like sticking your head out of a window and yelling across the street to your friend in order to have a conversation. Yes, you might successfully get your message to them, but a lot of other people are in on it too. The neighbors could just shut their windows, but that still leaves you with a sore throat.

Now most of us out there lack the money or power to control a coveted radio frequency. Our message may also be for a smaller audience than that reached via radio broadcasting. So, if we want our voice heard we either push for input on the programming side that does make it on the air, or we find other means of being heard. This is yet another place where the internet has leveled the playing field a little.

Let’s say you want to rant on about Hong Kong action cinema from the golden age before Hollywood “discovered” the big name stars. It’s now pretty easy to do so, and produce a program that at least a few people might be interested in. Your show might not be able to survive in morning drive time. However, I’m willing to bet that there’s probably a dedicated crowd made up of people all over the world, who would at least love to argue points with you. Or maybe they want to hear the Chow Yun Fat recording you made a few years ago.

Computers and the software they run continue to become more and more powerful. The tools I now use at home are better than those I used in the studio as recently as five years ago. The ones I now use in the studio are amazing. It’s possible for someone on a limited budget to record their voice directly to their computer, edit it and mix in other sounds with free software, and finally save it as a complete program for distribution.

Now, enter the RSS feed called “Really Simple Syndication. “

You make your show and put it on a web server that can handle lots of people downloading your file. Then on your website you put a little link that lets people subscribe to your show. They paste the “subscription notice” into their iPodder, iTunes or similar software. From then on, the software checks regularly to see if any new content is available. When it is, it pulls it down for them to listen, or read, or watch, or whatever.

There’s a bit of technical stuff that needs to be considered, but there are people working to make it easier for us all every day. A few “one-stop shopping” places are already in the works. You also need to make sure you have the rights to all of the content in your show. “Podsafe” is a term that refers to things that you can get the rights for unlimited use in your show. The talk radio format is popular in Podcasting because of current rights limitations.

Those are the broad strokes of the Podcasting picture. Now you can become the radio personality (or lack thereof) that you always wanted to be. Kinda scary, isn’t it?

Thoughts? Write Us.

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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