When the first podcasts started, I was on sabbatical on Nantucket and not paying much attention to what was happening online. Towards the end of last year, when I began to re-engage with the web, I tried to grok the whole podcast thing but just couldn't. As much as I love to express myself on this site, I couldn't picture myself making audio posts available for download. And as much as I enjoy reading many other sites, I couldn't imagine listening to people talk about breakfast or parking their cars. I've never been able to test my podcast assumptions because I've been using a dial-up internet connection for a large chunk of this year, but now I think I finally get it.
Podcasting isn't (just) about listening to your friends talk about their day on your iPod. It's about time-shifting: being able to download and listen to programs when you want, e.g. four episodes of Fresh Air while you're cleaning your house. And also time-travel: imagine when the BBC or PBS release their archives and you can listen to a BBC interview with the Beatles from 1965, or something to that effect. It's about mobility: loading those episodes on your iPod (or player of choice) and listening while you're driving or out jogging. It's about ease of production: you can produce a podcast now with existing publishing tools, and it's going to get a whole lot easier as more tool makers add this functionality, and new tools like Odeo are released. And finally, it's about that old chestnut: the democratization of media. The old barriers to entry are being demolished, and it's easy to produce and distribute not only text but audio and video as well. And as we've seen with blogging, that can lead to some pretty exciting new content.
It's taken me a while to get my head around this podcasting (perhaps because I needed to take it out of the sand first) but I'm pretty excited about it now that I'm finally paying attention.