IN THIS CHAPTER
Podcasts, or audioblogs as they were first called, started as a collaborative effort between Dave Winer and Adam Curry. Back in 2001 the two talked about a better way to deliver audio and video via the Internet and felt that a new XML format called Really Simple Syndication (RSS) was the key. Dave Winer introduced the RSS enclosure tag into the RSS 2.0 specification. But it was not until mid-September 2004 when Adam Curry made public his iPodder software to automatically download and transfer MP3 files to an iPod that podcasting really took off. We won't bore you with all the details on the history of podcasting, and we cannot begin to mention all the different people in addition to Adam and Dave who contributed to the podcasting phenomenon.
Three key factors came together in the Fall of 2004 that helped podcasting take off. First, quite a bit of media attention was cast toward blogs and their effect on the presidential election in the United States. Popular bloggers Dave Winer (Scripting News at www.scripting.com) and Doc Searls (Doc Searls Weblog at http://doc.weblogs.com/) in particular helped bring media attention to podcasts by constantly mentioning them on their respective blogs. Second, Adam Curry and his celebrity status helped raise the interest of the media. Call it morbid curiosity, but many in the media just could not believe that this VJ from MTV with the "great hair" could actually be a really talented techno-geek, and they had to find out more. Third, Apple's iPod was making big news, and anything that was even remotely related to the iPod was grabbing the media's attention. This made the term podcasting automatically memorable (some people do not like it, but never underestimate the power of a good brand name). With all of these factors coming together in the Fall of 2004, the media had something they wanted to report on.
This section represents only a brief glimpse at the history of podcasting. If you're interested in exploring every nook and cranny of how podcasting has evolved, check out the Wikipedia entry for Podcasting at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Podcast.
For more on RSS and syndication, check out the Wikipedia entry at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RSS_%28protocol%29
One of the first "big media" mentions of podcasting was in Business Week by Heather Green on October 25, 2004: "Get ready for the next WavePodcasting." A year later Heather, when asked what about podcasting amazed her the most, said:
What was just a few handfuls of "audiobloggers" on Labor Day of 2004 turned into a group of a few hundred "podcasters" by New Year's Eve of 2004. In the beginning, a Google search for the term "podcast" would have given you less than 30 results. Early in 2005, multiple waves of press articles were written about podcasting and podcasters. At the same time these articles appeared, a premier online directory of podcasts, called Podcast Alley, emerged with a voting system and top-10 list that soon became the de facto standard to find new podcasts. By the end of May 2005, a search in Google for "podcast" yielded over 10 million results. Additionally, the number of people podcasting had grown from hundreds to multiple thousands, with a listener base estimated to be in the 150,000 to 200,000 range. In less than nine months, podcasting had grown from a distribution method into a full-fledged community movement.
In Late May 2004, Adam Curry was asked how would he define what a podcast was.
On May 22, 2005, Steve Jobs announced at the Wall Street Journal's "D: All Things Digital" conference that Apple would start to support podcasts within iTunes sometime in the next 60 days. Less than 40 days later, iTunes v4.9 was released, not only with built-in support for subscribing to podcasts, but also with a top-100 list. This release has been both a blessing and a curse for independent podcasters, and we will talk about that more later in this chapter.
When Yahoo! launched podcasts.yahoo.com in early October 2005, there were an estimated 15,000 podcasters, and a search in Google for "podcast" yielded over 58 million results. That's 3,866 results for each podcaster. To get an idea of the significance of that number, compare it to blogs, of which there were over 70 million at that time, and a Google search on the term generated 403 million results. That's less than six results per each blogger. Why mention these stats? It shows that although there has been a tremendous amount of hype surrounding podcasting, by comparing it to blogging, we see there are far fewer people who are actually doing podcasts than would be expected. That's important because there's an opportunity for new podcasters to build their audience, and this book is built to help you do just that.