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Wizards of Technology

In an earlier column for The IT Portal, “The Death of Radio”, I wrote about the impact of Podcasting on modern technology’s oldest communication’s medium, wireless. Since then, I’ve been taking a few tentative steps of my own in adding a Podcasting feature to my Weblog.

Podcasting today is where MP3 was in 2000. I can remember discussing the potential impact of music sharing technologies on Sky News at about that time and it was characterised by Napster and a kind of new musical frontier that was best understood and exploited by those under the age thirty. I still have my original Diamond Rio MP3 Player, which looks a little underpowered, at 64Mb against the 12 GB of my Creative Media Player today.

The arrival of the Apple iPod and its imitators has of course “kicked-off” another technology frenzy and very soon, photography will be added to the mixture and even more opportunities for innovation will start to appear.

Podcasting isn’t quite a seamless experience and I spent an entire day, this week, playing with some of the tools that can be found on the Web. A good start might involve a visit to the BBC to find out more about RSS – Really Simple Syndication – followed by a visit to iPodder the cross-platform broadcast receiver, to download the software for your PC or Macintosh that will allow you to capture broadcasts automatically and feed them to your PC or portable media player.

Capturing broadcasts isn’t difficult with iPodder and I’m listening to the comedy Podcast programme “Wizards of Technology” from Digital Bill in the Binary Bunker in Fort Lauderdale” that is one of many of the iPodder list. With an airline flight to sit through tomorrow, I can now download several hours of programming, including Radio 4, to my own media player to add to my music and while away the hours at the airport.

Broadcasting your own Podcast and embedding it in your own website is a little more difficult and you have two choices. You can read engadget’s guide to Podcasting and try to reverse engineer the HTML/XML tags from the example or you can visit AudioBlog which seems to offer the easiest method of audio and video publishing to your Weblog for a relatively modest hosting charge for the big files you’ll be sending along. If you want to publish to your own Web site, then you’ll have to tackle the esoteric challenge of the XML scripting as well.

To prepare my own Podcasts, I’m using two pieces of software, Audi Record Wizard to capture the voice content to my PC from my integrated microphone and headset and Goldwave, a professional audio programme, for the editing and mixing of any Podcast before saving it as an MP3, to upload to audioblogger. In all, the exercise has cost around £100 in the software and hardware that’s required if you want to do it properly from your PC but there’s plenty of free software to experiment with on the Web and the only item you really need is a PC Microphone and headset.

From a business perspective, Podcasting technology offers a company a new way of reaching customers without huge expense. Any website can embed news, and even video which, in effect turns it into a radio or small TV station. This has huge implications for the future as the internet changes from a mechanism that presents and distributes mostly text content, to one which is far richer and integrates TV and radio at the corporate front door.

It’s early days yet but the technology that is driving Podcasting is going to be very big indeed within three years. It's not just about sound as the same technology can be used to send files, spreadsheets and notes as well, It’s a space that every innovative business needs to watch closely.


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