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Monday, March 7, 2005
Individual audio programming
TRADITIONAL radio stations aren't in trouble just yet, but the advent of personal broadcasting via the Internet is changing the way we listen to content, just as TiVo changed the way we watch television.
It's called podcasting, a term coined by British journalist Ben Hammersley a little more than a year ago.
iPod Night at the WaveIf you're not podcasting yet, you can still reach out and touch people with your iPod and excellent taste in music.
The Wave Waikiki has introduced "iPod Night" on Sundays. Just plug your iPod into the club's system to play any four songs you want. It all starts at 10 p.m.
Anyone with an iPod gets in free and can bring all their friends. Everyone else will pay $5 to get in. Must be 21 or older.
Podcasting pioneer and former MTV veejay Adam Curry is credited with developing the software used to collect RSS "feeds" and import them into a MP3 player. Since his software, called iPodder, was released last summer, a number of other programmers have developed similar applications.
Now anyone with a microphone, audio mixing software and an Internet connection can be heard by audiences worldwide with just a few clicks. In the last six months, thousands of podcasts have sprung up on the Internet, including a handful from Hawaii.
MAUI RESIDENT Sunny Hills is one of the few islanders to have already made the jump into podcasting.
For the past two weeks, he's broadcast "Sunny's Thought of the Day" from his home recording studio in Lahaina. It's an extension of a positive affirmation e-mail he sends to approximately 3,300 subscribers daily.
"What I'm trying to do is make people feel better about themselves," he said. "(Podcasting) turned out to be a very good thing for me."
The major frustration with the e-mail list, according to Hills, is that not everyone who subscribes to it ends up getting what they asked for. "With all the spam filters, sometimes the messages aren't delivered reliably."
But by providing an alternate means to access his content, he's also gained new fans. His Web site now gets between 300 and 400 unique visitors each day.
OTHER notable local podcasts include Geeknewscentral.com's Todd Cochrane, Machelpmaui.com's Scott Waters and the Kailua boyfriend/girlfriend duo of Roxanne Darling (www.inthetransition.com) and Shane Robinson (www.notm.org).
Online community advocate and Mililani resident Ryan Ozawa started podcasting from the Web site Hawaiiup.com last week.
"What really appeals to me, and what I hope to do, is look at people being themselves and expressing themselves," he said during a podcast last Tuesday. "Not to change the world, but to document their world."
Hawaii Public Radio's Beth-Ann Kozlovich is another early adopter of the technology, courtesy of loyal listener Larry Geller. Kozlovich's weekly show, "Town Square," is recorded and uploaded to the Internet, usually within a few hours of its original Thursday afternoon broadcast.
AS WITH anything new, podcasting isn't without its share of problems. While most savvy computer users won't have any trouble setting up the software that automatically downloads podcast feeds into a compatible audio player, it's not simple enough for the masses just yet, according to one former Apple employee.
"When you subscribe to a podcast now, you click on a link ... and you have to copy that into your podcatching software," said Bob Lew, who spent 15 years as an engineer and customer service rep for the company before retiring in 2004. "For a lot of nontechnical people, that's a pretty big barrier -- to copy a URL, go to another application and paste it in.
"It's enough to knock out a big portion of people who love content but don't understand technology whatsoever."
In an effort to help educate the general public, Lew hosted an introductory seminar last week called "Listen Up: Voices Speak to Me from My iPod" at the University of Hawaii's downtown classrooms. He'll present "Podcasting: Talking to the World (Or Anyone Who Will Listen)" from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. April 7 at Pioneer Plaza. Call 956-8244 for more information.
ANOTHER HURDLE is the prohibitive cost involved with purchasing the rights to broadcast music from licensing organizations like the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), BMI and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). In order to legally use copyrighted music in podcasts, licensing fees must be paid.
According to current rate structures, amateur podcasters must pay approximately $300 to both ASCAP and BMI to use artists' music, and another $500 for the statutory license to broadcast it over the Internet. That doesn't include Web site hosting fees, design costs and other miscellaneous expenses.
So podcasters are learning to seek out independent artists who wouldn't mind the extra exposure. Web sites like Magnatune.com serve as a clearinghouse for royalty-free tunes.
But the vast majority of podcasts skirt the issue by not using music at all. Some are Internet versions of talk radio or news broadcasts, while others consist of seemingly endless ranting on a wide range of topics.
"This is just the beginning," Hills said of the increasing number of podcasters appearing online. "The ordinary person can communicate worldwide instantly. ... You don't have to be a professional broadcaster."
Podcasting TipsYou don't need an iPod: The term "podcasting" was coined by combining "iPod" and "broadcasting," but podcasts can be downloaded to any portable music player.
You don't even need a portable music player. The ability to subscribe to and download podcasts onto an MP3 player or other media device is a large part of the appeal, but podcasts are usually basic MP3 files that you can download and listen to at your computer, just like any other audio content on the Web.
Most podcasters are not professional broadcasters. This is a good thing and a bad thing. Good because anyone can use technology to express themselves to a potentially unlimited audience. Bad because, much like "bloggers," there's more quantity than quality.
A podcast can be anything. Some podcasts are like traditional radio shows. Others are merely recordings of lectures or panel discussions. People are sharing music, talking about computers or cooking, rambling, ranting or just recording the sound of traffic on the interstate.
You can be a podcaster. If you've got something to say, it's relatively easy to be heard ... literally.
Other podcasts worth checking outAdam Curry's "Daily Source Code":
"Dawn and Drew Show":
Michael Geoghegan's "Reel Reviews":
Brian Ibbott's "Coverville":
For more informationwww.podcastalley.com