Friday, July 01, 2005

Nuevo Radio?

Within the last several days, Apple released a point update to its iTunes music jukebox software. Why then would it possibly be the beginning of the end of radio as we know it? Podcasts.

Before I begin, let me reiterate why I think Apple is possibly on of the greatest innovating entities of the modern era. They make complex technology easy before anyone else even attempts it. On to podcasting.

Podcasting, whose name is derived from iPod and broadcasting, has been around for some time now. Think of it as Tivo for radio. A show is produced (the term show is used very loosely, as technically any audio file could be a podcast) and converted to an MP3 or similar compressed audio file. Then, the file is uploaded to a server. That server then uses RSS (RSS is another discussion for another time if you don't know what it is) to "broadcast" the existence of the file over the internet. Once a listeners' RSS reader picks up the RSS feed it can download the file and the user can listen to it at his/her leisure. Seems simple enough from the end user's perspective. Why does it matter that Apple put support for podcasts in iTunes?

Up until this point, the process of getting a podcast from a 3rd party RSS aggregator to iTunes to the iPod has been cludgy at best. Finding podcasts were fairly simple, but most people didn't even know what podcasts were. Enter iTunes. To say that the iPod is the best and most popular portable music players in the market today would be an understatement. Naturally, most people who have iPods use iTunes to manage their music and sync it with their iPods. The iTunes Music Store is also the largest and most popular legal music download service in the market. People have become accustomed to purchasing and managing music with iTunes on Macs or Windows machines. Podcasts are now part of the iTunes Music Store and are very, very easy to subscribe to. One click and you're done. It's so easy it's literally fool proof.

So how is this the end of radio? First, podcats aren't subject to FCC rules and regulations. That alone has serious implications. Second, anyone with a computer and a microphone can have a podcast. Literally anyone can have a podcast about literally anything. With iTunes now providing a directory for podcasts in which normal people like you and I can submist our podcasts, literally millions of people can potentially subscribe to your podcast. Stop and think about that for a minute and you'll realize why the big corporations that run traditional radio are scared. Their cash cow is about to get slaughtered by the new "rebel radio" and there's nothing they, or anyone else, can do about it.

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