When I was a little boy, my cousin and I would play “Radio DJ”.
We would take cardboard boxes and draw pretend radio station props, and put them up in my room. We would then make believe we were real on-the-air disc jockeys. We would put records on the turntable, and act like we had an audience. I believe many DJs actually got their start this way.
This was the 1960s. Skip ahead to the 1990s, and the advent of the iPod and iTunes. Apple made it possible to actually record a “radio style” show, and post it on iTunes. All of a sudden, these people who played make believe DJ actually had an outlet for their content. Since there was no real production costs, and the hardware investment was minimal, it was an easy medium to enter. Within a short amount of time, this sort of content and application was named a Podcast, essentially taking its name from the device it was being listened to on.
Today, Podcasting is an accepted term for all types of Internet based radio style shows, even if the devices we use to listen to them on have moved on from iPods to every sort of device. Ironically, the term iPod is now an official and accepted word, while the actual device is now obsolete.
The iPod revolution is in the process of going through a major change. As streaming is becoming more mainstream, and outlets like YouTube Live and Periscope are popping up all over, there is a huge demand to add video to Podcasts. Traditionally, Podcast was audio only. So now if we add video, is it still a Podcast? And if it’s not distributed via iTunes, what then is it?
I guess what we call it is not important. It’s only a word. The important point here is that audio only shows are quickly being replaced by shows with video. But, at the same time, there are people who like audio-only shows. Can you add video, without changing the content so drastically that it no longer works as an audio-only show? And if you do, what is the point of adding video, if all you add is talking heads?
There are a lot of questions without answers. Podcasting, or whatever you want to now call it, is going through a major evolutionary change. And every content creator (formerly known as a Producer) will have their own interpretation and treatment of their show.
I have a friend who started an Internet “radio station”. I put the term “radio station” in parenthesis because that term in and of itself is going through an evolutionary change. Radio has traditionally been a wireless, off-air signal. Once the sender uses the Internet to transmit it, is it still radio? His “station” is called ocbusinessradio.com. It’s a Podcast studio, leasing out time to people who have their own business related Podcast talk shows. He records the shows, and plays them back on his web site. Many of his clients are companies that want to use the content for their web sites, since they are in constant need of content (refer to my article on “Feeding The Content Monster”). But an audio-only show on a web site is not as interesting as one with video. So, he is adding video capability to his studio. With that, he has to decide how many cameras, what kind of cameras (DO NOT USE CONSUMER CAMERAS!), lighting, and all of the other various challenges video brings to the table.
At this point in the article, you are probably asking yourself where I am going with this? What is my point? I did ask a lot of questions with no real or definitive answer. I would say that these are all good discussion points for a classroom discussion. They are designed to get our media students thinking about production quality in a real world market. Remember that very soon, they will leave school and enter the working world. The skills you teach them will have to be translated into income generating skills. The business of video/audio production for Podcasting is exploding. If they are aware of the trends, they stand a good chance of finding employment, or even starting their own “Internet Radio Station”.
Someone told me once that I have a great face for radio. It took me a few minutes to realize I had just been insulted, and by the oldest joke in the book. This joke is quickly becoming obsolete, as we add video to everything.
Perry Goldstein is a veteran of the electronics industry, with both consumer and Pro A/V electronics experience. He is also a professional speaker, and writer for the electronics industry. He has won numerous awards for product design. Perry is currently the Director of New Digital Technologies for Marshall Electronics and MXL pro audio division, as well as an instructor of digital marketing at the higher education level.