National Public Radio
Next Generation Radio

The Inside Guy

Tom Krymkowski

Evolution or Revolution?By Tom Krymkowski

So why should we care about all of this anyway?

There are those out there who think all of this podcasting stuff is just a fad. Technology changes so fast, and soon we’ll all be touting the wonders of the next big thing. There’s a little truth to that. I have no doubt five years from now the technology will fade into the background, and on-demand content will be integrated into most of the media devices we use. This year’s plug-in becomes tomorrow’s built-in feature. So I recognize that technologies are born and grow up. If they’re lucky they get used or used up before another competitor comes along. Sometimes they even go extinct.

Podcasting will evolve with the other technologies in which it interacts. How audio is produced, distributed, and finally listened to will change over time. You used to just download an mp3. Then the RSS feed let you automate the process on the listening side. Soon your digital media player will be wireless (if it isn’t already). Download speeds will improve. Your podcasts will find you. Distribution of “live” content will be just as easy to pull off, and approximate today’s broadcasts. All of this will take advantage of the internet to distribute content.

Each change will affect how we all choose to listen.

So again, why should we care?

Options and opportunity.

With the change in distribution of content that RSS feeds brought, the doors opened to everyone. This is actually quite huge. While there aren’t as many podcasts out there as there could, or even should be, there is really no limit. At least there’s no limit for original content. I might have something to say, or perform, or create, that I would like to share with the world. Now if people want it, they can get it – easily.

Niche markets have opened up. An audience of one, 1000, or 100,000 that couldn’t (or wouldn’t) be served by traditional broadcasting, now has a place to go. A producer now has a place to distribute. And if they wanted to, an advertiser has a very concentrated group of potential customers. But it doesn’t stop there.

The nature of the game has changed, too. Podcasting allows opportunities for everyone. New talent now has a place to develop their skills, and find an audience. Have an idea for a great show? Want to report on a story that isn’t being covered? Feel your opinions aren’t being heard? Podcast them.

Professionals, who have spent years honing their craft, can now distribute programming that wouldn’t have been possible in the context of their stations. How many shows have been pitched that couldn’t be done solely on the basis of limited programming schedules? You only have so many hours in the day. Not any more.

Even traditional broadcasters can benefit, although they have the most invested in the old way of doing things. It all comes back to the producer/consumer relationship. Most broadcasters only produce a fraction of what they put on the air. The rest comes from other producers, and the broadcaster acts as the middle man. The new paradigm now gets rid of the middle man, but it also opens up the playing field for the content that is produced. A great local show doesn’t have to be local anymore. A national show doesn’t need re-broadcasters spread about the country. Shows that only have life on the air, now have a life on the planet. In simple terms, the broadcasters that produce will thrive and those that don’t will go extinct.


And right now a few companies control your access to traditional media, a sad and very scary fact in this country. If a message isn’t “safe” it doesn’t make it to you, and unless you go out of your way, you wouldn’t know that message had ever existed. But look what happens when you can listen to whatever you want to, from an ever growing list of alternative sources. Now you can compare and contrast. Maybe even come up with your own conclusions. Your own tastes, interests, opinions.

The big guys are afraid. They’re very afraid.


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.
Read an article about Next Generation Radio
Watch a video about Next Generation Radio