have to be a techie to podcast. You may not even have to be literate.
and you definitely stand a chance of finding someone out there who sounds
the way you do. Nisha Susan on the return of the art
Until the arrival
of podcasting, the Internet’s embarrassment of riches was mostly
visual, except for its vast lodes of music. Like Internet radio, podcasts
are usually listened to in the background, without the focused attention
conventional radio commanded in pre-television days. Unlike Internet
radio, however, listening to podcasts is done when disconnected from
the Net. Currently, podcasting’s audience is overwhelmingly concentrated
in the West. That may be changing, claims technology junkie Kiran Jonnalagadda
who thinks podcasting is going to be “fantastic” in India.
He predicts that increased broadband penetration and modern mobile phones
will provide massive audiences in a few years.
Rumour has it that employees at microsoft’s head office
in Redmond in the US are forbidden to use the word 'podcast'.
Instead, they must use the term 'blogcast', which does not evoke
their competitor, Apple's product, the iPod
It has been less
than a decade since podcasting was invented, and while the term might
evoke alien abduction or bad X-Files episodes, in reality it is a simple
technological development that may extend the Internet to us even while
we’re away from our computers. A podcast is an audio recording
made available online that anyone can download onto their pcs, iPods
or other mp3 players. Say you come across podioindia.com and hear an
episode of its weekly update on Hindi music. You like the show and want
to hear it every week. When you subscribe to a podcast, with no effort
or expenditure on your part, your computer will automatically download
the latest episodes of the show as and when they are available. You
don’t have to remember to check for updates and don’t even
have to wait to download the latest episode.
As is often the
case with the Internet, the most exciting technologies are the ones
that allow non-techies to publish content. It certainly was true in
2005, when Fr Roderick Vonhögen, a Dutch priest, became the celebrity
author of a hugely popular podcast series, which he created while attending
the funeral of Pope John Paul II. Vonhögen is one among thousands
of unlikely podcasters who share their unique experiences and critical
(or trivial) insights with people worldwide. Rajesh Barnwal, editor
of alootechie.com points to the ability of podcasts to bring intimacy
to news in a way that text cannot. “Imagine if someone who managed
to get into the Bachchan wedding podcast a detailed account of the event!
No article would be half as interesting as the voice of an excited eyewitness.”
Upending the conventional
‘dumbed down’ audiences, over
1,40,000 people worldwide have listened to podcasts on Byzantine
Barnwal is cheerfully
pessimistic about podcasting catching on in India due, he says, to its
non-visual nature. Barnwal says, however, “I don’t see people
with our limited access to the Internet giving 100 percent attention
to something they listen to. The only thing people listen to is music.
Do you really think people will want to listen to long, serious interviews?”
have happened on the Internet, however. Upending the conventional idea
of ‘dumbed down’ audiences with poor attention spans, over
1,40,000 people around the world have listened to a US schoolteacher’s
podcasts on Byzantine history.
Even among the
handful of regular podcasters in India, the great potential for individuality
is evident. Kiruba Shankar (kiruba.com) is a techie whose podcasts for
Podtech India mainly consist of interviews with people in it. Kamla
Bhatt (kamlabhattshow.com) has an audience that shares her interest
in India and the Indian diaspora. Aditya Mhatre and Abhishek Kumar (theindicast.com.)
are very clear that their highly idiosyncratic news capsules are aimed
at a young nri audience who miss the irreverent gupshup of college canteens.
Jo (mpod.in) runs a Malayalam podcast show about politics and culture
in Kerala. Needless to say, his profile features an image of Che Guevara.
None of these shows
sound like professional radio. And this is where podcasting may be able
to go places untouched by other broadcasting technology. Soon, among
the millions of podcasts on the Internet, you will be able to find podcasters
who match your interests and sound like you.
Young urban India
has embraced blogs to write (and read) in the language they are most
comfortable in. Podcasts may travel further. Podcasts require little
technical expertise, cause no messy font problems and don’t even
require literacy, just the desire to share thoughts. Podcasting seems
poised to spawn a school of babelfish and to return the act of listening
to the realms of intellect and pleasure.