Podcasting -- resistance is futile
DIGITAL SLOBS don't spend a lot of leisure time looking at dictionaries. This is why we don't usually win jackpots on "Wheel of Fortune" or "Jeopardy!"
"Hollywood Squares" is more our speed, where the only two possible answers are "I agree," and "I disagree," and even Koko the Gorilla would have a fair shot at finding the Secret Square and winning the trip to Acapulco (assuming she wasn't asked to join the panel as an emergency fill-in for a sick Bruce Vilanch).
So, when the illustrious Oxford Dictionary declared "podcasting" the 2005 Word of the Year, we thought it must be a big deal. After all, it's pretty hard to gain entry into anything with "Oxford" above the door -- most Slobs need a letter of recommendation from a congressman just to get into the university gift shop.
And according to AskOxford.com, "podcast" joins a long line of buzz-worthy terms -- not as white hot as "zoot suit" in 1942 or "The Pill" in 1957, but let's just say if you've got all three in 2006, you're probably the life of the party.
But if podcasts are the bright headlights illuminating the road to entertainment's future, then most potential listeners are still the deer staring blankly into them.
Just ask a stranger if he's ever heard of "podcasting," and watch him back away like you're recruiting for a cult (next time, don't run up so fast with that over-caffeinated look in your eye and stick your iPod in his face like that).
Though often compared to radio shows, podcasts are really easier to make, more like extended outgoing answering machine messages that any computer can dial up and play automatically.
Remember having to listen to "Leave a message, leave a message!" to the tune of "Ride of the Valkyries" a zillion times a day? Now, as we all know, this got old fast, and after rumors of several serious beatings, quickly faded away.
Yet, the "Ego-la virus" that spawned that outbreak lay dormant, and the compulsion remained.
Fueled by the Digital Age, an estimated 20,000 podcasters now upload their audio art therapy onto the Web for all to see (think of the Internet as a giant, collective refrigerator door), and special software, like iTunes, acts as the magnet holding them in place on your computer or MP3 player.
It sounds like child's play, but big names are getting into the act. "Nightline," "Meet the Press," ESPN and BusinessWeek are now stealing the limelight with their "Oh, yeah, I've heard of them" appeal. Other podcasts, from shows like "Lost" and "Battlestar Galactica," offer behind-the-scenes content for their voracious fan bases.
But at least a few indies still cling to the top, and even have sponsors. Some podcasters are even approaching celebrity status, meaning it may only be a matter of time before Angelina Jolie breaks up Dawn and Drew.
Still, chances are you didn't get that joke, and that's probably because you don't know who Dawn and Drew are. If so, this means podcasting has a long way to go -- because I know People Magazine and US Weekly are holding up the Angelina side of that equation.
Next week, we'll address how to find shows that might make you want to join the rest of us in the podcasting "cult."
Don't worry, the doors lock from the outside for your own protection.
Reach Star-Bulletin columnist Curt Brandao, and subscribe to the "digitalslobpod" podcast, at www.digitalslob.com