I was asked to write about podcasts earlier in the year by the folks over at Sidepodcast, but at the time I couldn’t find the half hour to put any cohesive thoughts down. And so this post ended up waiting six months before coming to fruition – better late than never though, or something…
…Formula One podcasts: Do you listen to them? I ask because the internet is a funny medium, and often what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another. Here at BlogF1, I write. I write because I find it to be the best way for me to get my thoughts down and I can edit my work very easily on the fly. However, that viewpoint is purely from a publishers side. When you’re on the readers/listeners side, it can be very different.
What Is A Podcast?
Essentially, it is an audio recording of one or more people discussing a topic that hopefully they enjoy talking about. They tend to stick to one topic and can vary greatly in length. Some podcasts may only be a minute long, others might take up an hour. Podcasts are published to the internet and can be listened to either from the publishers website or via other programs like iTunes.
Do I Listen To Podcasts?
Personally, I’ve grown accustomed to listening to podcasts on Sunday mornings. I have found that as podcasting becomes more popular and there are more out there, each on a variety of topics, they have slowly but surely replaced my Sunday paper. I don’t think I ever read the newspaper for the news; the beauty of the internet is reading what you like when you like and thus the Sunday paper became more of a time-out thing for me. However, I have found that listening to someone discuss something while I am able to do other things is equally as pleasant. I am still able to either zone out or meander around the internet doing other things. Because I’m not stuck in one place glued to the screen, I am able to post to BlogF1, check my email or even read the news.
Are They Popular?
Finding podcasts can be tricky though. Sure, all the big news agencies and papers now have a ‘cast of some sort attached to their website, but for a real-life/fans perspective, they can be harder to dig out. In the Formula One world, I can only think of a handful; BBC 5 Live, Sidepodcast/F1 Minute, Grace & Negative Camber’s F1 Podcast, FormulaPod, Renault…
…Clearly there is a market here for podcasting, but I have found that quality is ever more critical when actually voicing your opinion, and thus it is very hard to produce something that is not only enjoyable to listen to, but also understandable and coherent. I have, in the past, listened to some quite terrible attempts at podcasting, and instead of engaging me, they simply made me struggle to follow and ultimately turn off. Therefore, I imagine podcasting (I have never done it myself) is difficult to get right. From the listeners standpoint though, as I mentioned earlier, they can be great.
I don’t think podcasts are particularly popular just yet, not in the same way that blogs were a few years ago. In their written form, blogs took off massively over a short period of time after about (and this is my opinion) ~3 years in incubation. Podcasts must be getting close to the end of their incubation phase if they are to follow blogs, but currently the medium appears to be a little slow on the uptake.
Despite podcasting still being in its infancy (in comparison to written blogs), the medium is actually very enjoyable. Listening to a different voice makes a change for the better when you’re hunched over the keyboard. And when more than one person is discussing something, views, opinions and thoughts flow better. The conversation comes over much better, tone is evident when compared to the written word and actually listening to a debate is far superior over reading one, particularly with the relaxed manner most blog entries are styled.
The one thing that is very hard to do (kind of impossible, actually) with podcasts is to be able to make the content of the ‘cast searchable. By that, I mean during a podcast the conversation may start with one topic, but then move onto something else before ending up on a third segment. I wouldn’t necessarily know that from the offset, and searching Google for such a point within a ‘cast is impossible. The only way around that at the moment, as far as I can see, is posting a transcript of the podcast. Although that does kind of defeat the purpose, to a degree, of the podcast. What would be awesome – if possible – is if you could split a podcast up into chapters, much like on a DVD, and the chapter list with short description be included in a universal format somewhere within the audio file that makes up a podcast. Search engines would be able to read this and display results as necessary, skipping to that particular part of the ‘cast when clicked.
Generating conversation between podcaster and listener is nigh-on impossible as well. Most podcasts that I have come across are affiliated to a blog, and the chatter happens there in the posts. One thing that did impress me during the course of 2007 was Sidepodcast’s introduction of a phone-line-message-thingy. The guys over yonder encourage listeners to call their number and leave messages or opinions which could be integrated into their podcast. As far as I’m aware though, calling the number isn’t free, where as a typed comment is. So again, we come back to the humble blog.
So, to bring this back to some kind of resemblance of Formula One, do you listen to F1 podcasts? Which ones do you listen to? Have I missed any great ‘casts? Would you listen to podcasts if you knew about them/more about them?
Like some of your points here, Ollie, but I’d just like to clear up a few things.
A podcast doesn’t have to be an audio recording, we have a video podcast, and we also have a transcript feed with the pdfs on. Anything released on a regular basis with a feed attached is generally considered a podcast.
Finding podcasts isn’t always easy if you’re looking for a particular topic, such as F1, but there are heaps of podcast directories out there, and any astute podcast producer will be submitting their ‘cast to as many of them as possible. It’s worth checking out some of them, even if you’re avoiding the big one – iTunes.
The phone-line-message-thingy IS free if you call it from Skype, either via your computer or a Skype phone.
Lastly, chapters are absolutely possible in a podcast and we’ve been putting them in ours pretty much forever. We have two different versions of the show – mp3 and aac – with the AAC feed being the enhanced one, pictures and chapters included. Unfortunately, at the moment, iTunes and iPods are the only ways to see the chapters but the technology is out there, so it shouldn’t be long before everyone else catches up.
Thanks for dropping by Christine. Good to hear that the phone-line-message-thingy is free from a computer. And I didn’t realise podcasts utilised chapters; listening to your podcast on the site I never got to see that functionality.
I’ve grown to quite enjoy podcasts, but knowledge of them is, perhaps, not as readily available as it is for blogs and websites. I feel that if people knew more about them then the internet would be forever the richer. So thank you for amending my preconceived thoughts and false truths.
Care to drop in a few links to these directories you speak of?
Two of my favourites are Podcasting News which doesn’t look that pretty but has some interesting podcasts in there, and also PodcastBlaster which is much better looking with plenty to choose from.
But type “podcast directory” into Google and there are loads to have a browse through.
The word-by-word search method for podcasts, while still not usable, is being researched. The main problem is teaching the software enough vocabulary for it to be practical, and getting to recognise the same word in different circumstances (particularly when the podcast itself is of bad quality).
I don’t listen to podcasts often, because I find it much easier to read than to listen to information. If I’m listening to a conversation, I have to make sure I’m not doing anything with words (including reading books, which I do a lot!) if I want to absorb what is being said. That said, people who are less strongly orientated towards reading would enjoy podcasts a lot – there are some very good ones out there.
I listen to some of Sidepodcast’s posts, but other than the only other one I listen to is F1 Reject’s podcast. They do have some strong opinions, but they are very funny.
I listen to the excellent Sidepodcast while I do the washing up…
I did listen to the Guardian’s but wasn’t very keen, and I listen to Radio 5’s and Autosport, the latter being excellent but infrequent.
Thanks for the additions guys. Links added below.
Rarely miss an episode of Sidepodcast, often listen to F1Minute, sometimes listen to NC & Grace and mean to listen to the 5Live one more than I actually do.
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