Friday, July 01, 2005
Apple brought podcasting into the mainstream this week, and some podcasters can't come to grips with the good fortune this has delivered to them.
On sites where podcasters talk amongst themselves (I'll pick a topic), there's some moaning and groaning about the new iTunes version 4.9 software that directly incorporates podcasting. In fairness, many podcasters are expressing appreciation that iTunes has already brought them bigger audiences in just a few days (I'd link to posts on Podcast Alley, but the site keeps going down for maintenance—must be swamped this week), but it's hard to believe that anyone could complain about the obvious benefits Apple is bestowing upon those of us who fancy ourselves MP3 radio stars.
iTunes' embrace of podcasting is the single greatest thing to happen to the medium in its short history. Who cares if it "dumbs down" the experience a little. The availability of podcasts like mine for free download from the iTunes store is exactly what podcasting has needed since it launched about a year ago: a more user-friendly interface. I cannot tell you how many people have expressed genuine interest in listening to my show, but found the technical aspects of it confusing. It's all pretty simple, really, as many of you did figure out. But I understand that people are busy. They have lives. While they might want to hear my show, they don't have time to spend figuring out how to download or subscribe to it.
Outside a small cadre of tech-minded geeks (like many podcasters) and those who aspire to be tech-minded geeks (like myself), most people still don't know what a podcast is, how to download one, and how to listen to one. As explained here and elsewhere, a podcast is just an MP3 file, albeit a large one. My show typically contains 12 to 14 songs, with my exciting and witty banter linking it all together. But it's not 12 to 14 files to download; all the songs and chatter are contained in one convenient file. It's portable, TiVo-esque radio in a convenient package.
iTunes 4.9, just released Tuesday, makes it all about as simple as can be. Podcast subscriptions through iTunes passed the million mark in just two days. If you're an iTunes user and you haven't downloaded version 4.9, download it this second. Be Jack Bauer about it: DO IT NOW!
There's a whole section of the iTunes Music Store dedicated to podcasts. You can get to it by clicking "Podcasts" in the Source column on the left side of your iTunes application, or you can reach it through the iTunes store.
If you go in through the Source column, click "Podcast Directory" and you'll get the iTunes Podcast home page; if you go through the graphic on the home page of the Music Store, it'll take you directly to that same Podcast home page. On that page you'll see listings for the Top 20 Podcasts and categories like "New & Notable," "Public Radio," "Indie Podcasts," etc. A lot of shows are filed in the wrong categories—they put mine under "Audio Blogs" instead of "Music," for some reason. Do a search for "Hoboken Rock City" and up will pop my show. Download all 9 episodes directly from the store. It's easy like Sunday morning. See?
Another development is that, with iTunes seemingly already taking over as the biggest source of podcasting downloads by far, it will be much easier to gauge which podcasts are the most popular. iTunes lists the 100 most popular, with the pecking order obviously determined by the number of downloads. Previously, popularity in the podcast community was measured by who had the most "votes" as cast on Podcast Alley. This was a really, really lame system, and I couldn't be more thrilled that it has been instantly rendered obsolete. Sure, downloads from Air America, KCRW, WNYC, and other established media outlets may dominate iTunes' chart right now, but indie podcast staples Coverville and Dawn And Drew are on the chart too. On Tuesday, the first day 4.9 was available, my most recent show was downloaded about ten times more than it had been any day in the last few weeks. And that's a two-month-old show.
My show's been on hiatus since late April, but that break ends this Wednesday, July 6. Hoboken Rock City Show #10 will finally be released that day, the debut of the program in its new monthly format. The plan is to release a new show on the first Wednesday of every month.
With the new iTunes software, you can download episodes of the show individually. Or, subscribe with the click of a button, and iTunes will automatically download my show for you each time a new one is released. Tell two friends who have iTunes to subscribe, and they'll tell two more, and you know how it goes.
Go on, spend the holiday weekend practicing. On Wednesday, July 6, I'll have an all-new show packed with cool indie music and Jersey rockers. You don't want to be the last one on Washington Street to hear it.