Video podcast (sometimes shortened to vodcast) is a term used for the online delivery of video on demand video clip content via Atom or RSS enclosures. The term is used to distinguish between podcasts which most commonly contain audio files and those referring to the distribution of video where the RSS feed is used as a non-linear TV channel to which consumers can subscribe using a PC, TV, set-top box, media center or mobile multimedia device. Web television series are often distributed as video podcasts.
However, the term podcast has from its inception described the distribution of digital media files, including video and audio via RSS enclosures and hence the terms video podcast, vodcast, and less commonly vidcast, are redundant.
Before the advent of the World Wide Web, in the 1980s, RCS (Radio Computing Services), provided music and talk-related software to radio stations in a digital format. Before online music digital distribution, the midi format as well as the Mbone, Multicast Network was used to distribute audio and video files. The MBone was a multicast network over the Internet used primarily by educational and research institutes, but there were audio talk programs.
Many other jukeboxes and websites in the mid 1990s provided a system for sorting and selecting music or audio files, talk, segue announcements of different digital formats. There were a few websites that provided audio subscription services. In 1993, the early days of Internet radio, Carl Malamud launched Internet Talk Radio which was the “first computer-radio talk show, each week interviewing a computer expert.” It was distributed “as audio files that computer users fetch one by one.”
The development of downloaded music did not reach a critical mass until the launch of Napster, another system of aggregating music, but without the subscription services provided by podcasting or video blogging aggregation client or system software. Independent of the development of podcasting via RSS, a portable player and music download system had been developed at Compaq Research as early as 1999 or 2000. Called PocketDJ, it would have been launched as a service for the Personal Jukebox or a successor, the first hard-disk based MP3-player.
In 2001, Applian Technologies of San Francisco, California introduced Replay Radio (later renamed into Replay AV), a TiVo-like recorder for Internet Radio Shows. Besides scheduling and recording audio, one of the features was a Direct Download link, which would scan a radio publishers site for new files and copy them directly to a PC’s hard disk. The first radio show to publish in this format was WebTalkGuys World Radio Show (WebTalk Radio), produced by Rob and Dana Greenlee.
In, 1984, the emergence of the Internet Transmission Control Protocol as an officially adopted standard, allowed audio to be digitally transmitted over the internet in an easier fashion. Then, by 1999, the emergence of serial port microphones, the proper software, and faster internet connection speeds, allowed audio uploading and downloading to take place, with more ease. In September 2000, the first system that enabled the selection, automatic downloading and storage of serial episodic audio content on PCs and portable devices was launched by September 2000 from another early MP3 player manufacturer, i2Go. To supply content for its portable MP3 players, i2Go, makers of the eGo player, introduced a digital audio news and entertainment service called MyAudio2Go.com that enabled users to download episodic news, sports, entertainment, weather, and music in audio format for listening on a PC, the eGo portable audio player, or other MP3 players. The i2GoMediaManager and the eGo file transfer application could be programmed to automatically download the latest episodic content available from user selected content types to a PC or portable device as desired. The service lasted over a year, but succumbed when the i2Go company ran out of capital during the dotcom crash and folded.
In October 2000, the concept of using enclosures in RSS Feeds was proposed in October 2000 in a draft by Tristan Louis, The idea was implemented (in a somewhat different form) by Dave Winer, a software developer and an author of the RSS format. Winer had received other customer requests for audioblogging features and had discussed the enclosure concept (also in October 2000), with Adam Curry, a user of Userland’s Manila and Radio blogging and RSS aggregator software. Winer included the new functionality in RSS 0.92 by defining a new element called “enclosure”, which would simply pass the address to a media aggregator.
On January 11, 2001, Winer demonstrated the RSS enclosure feature by enclosing a Grateful Dead song in his Scripting News weblog. For its first two years, the enclosure element had relatively few users and many developers simply avoided using it. Winer’s company incorporated both RSS-enclosure and feed-aggregator features in its weblogging product, Radio Userland, the program favored by Curry, audioblogger Harold Gilchrist and others. Since Radio Userland had a built-in aggregator, it provided both the “send” and “receive” components of what was then called audioblogging. All that was needed for “podcasting” was a way to automatically move audio files from Radio Userland’s download folder to an audio player (either software or hardware) — along with enough compelling audio to make such automation worth the trouble.
In June, 2003, Stephen Downes demonstrated aggregation and syndication of audio files in his Ed Radio application. Ed Radio scanned RSS feeds for MP3 files, collected them into a single feed, and made the result available as SMIL or Webjay audio feeds.
In September, 2003, Winer created a special RSS-with-enclosures feed for his Harvard Berkman Center colleague Christopher Lydon’s weblog, which previously had a text-only RSS feed. Lydon, a former New York Times reporter, Boston TV news anchor and NPR talkshow host, had developed a portable recording studio with Bob Doyle of Skybuilders.com, conducted in-depth interviews with bloggers, futurists and political figures, and posted MP3 files as part of his Harvard blog. When Lydon had accumulated about 25 audio interviews, Winer gradually released them as a new RSS feed. Announcing the feed in his weblog, Winer challenged other aggregator developers to support this new form of content and provide enclosure support.
Not long after, Pete Prodoehl released a skin for the Amphetadesk aggregator that displayed enclosure links. Doug Kaye, who had been publishing MP3 recordings of his interviews at IT Conversations since June, created an RSS feed with enclosures. IT Conversations, now part of the nonprofit Conversations Network, remains the oldest still-running podcast, while Lydon’s blog eventually became Radio Open Source and moved to Brown University.
October 2003, Winer and friends organized the first Bloggercon weblogger conference at Berkman Center. CDs of Lydon’s interviews were distributed as an example of the high-quality MP3 content enclosures could deliver; Bob Doyle demonstrated the portable studio he helped Lydon develop; Harold Gilchrist presented a history of audioblogging, including Curry’s early role, and Kevin Marks demonstrated a script to download RSS enclosures and pass them to iTunes for transfer to an iPod. Curry and Marks discussed collaborating. After the conference, Curry offered his blog readers an RSS-to-iPod script (iPodder) that moved MP3 files from Userland Radio to iTunes, and encouraged other developers to build on the idea. In November 2003, The company AudioFeast (later renamed PodBridge, later renamed VoloMedia) files patent application for “Method for Providing Episodic Media” with the USPTO based on its work in developing the AudioFeast service launched in September, 2004. Although AudioFeast did not refer to itself as a podcasting service and was not built on RSS, it provided a way of downloading episodic audio content through desktop software and portable devices, with a system simililar to the MyAudio2Go.com service four years before it. (AudioFeast shut down its service in July 2005 due to the unwillingness of its free customers to pay for its $49.95 paid annual subscription service, and a lack of a strong competitive differentiation in the market with the emergence of free RSS podcatchers.) On February 12, 2004, The term “podcasting” was one of several terms for portable listening to audioblogs suggested by Ben Hammersley in The Guardian, referring to Lydon’s interview programs.
In September, 2004, the media-in-newsfeed idea was picked up by multiple developer groups. While many of the early efforts remained command-line based, the very first podcasting client with a user interface was iPodderX (later called Transistr after a trademark issue with Apple), developed by August Trometer and Ray Slakinski. It was released first for the Mac, then for the PC. Shortly thereafter, another group (iSpider) rebranded their software as iPodder and released it under that name as Free Software (under GPL). The project was terminated after a cease and desist letter from Apple (over iPodder trademark issues). It was reincarnated as Juice and CastPodder. The PodNova desktop client is also a derivative of iSpider. At the same time, Dannie Gregoire used the term podcasting to describe the automatic download and synchronization of audio content; he also registered several ‘podcast’ related domains (e.g. podcast.net). The use of ‘podcast’ by Gregoire was picked up by podcasting evangelists such as Dave Slusher, Winer and Curry, and entered common usage. Also in September, Adam Curry launched a mailing list, then Slashdot had a 100+ message discussion, bringing even more attention to the podcasting developer projects in progress.
On September 28, 2004, Blogger and technology columnist Doc Searls began keeping track of how many “hits” Google found for the word “podcasts”. His first query reportedly returned 24 results. On September 28, 2004, there were 526 hits on Google’s search engine for the word “podcasts”. Google Trends marks the beginning of searches for ‘podcast’ at the end of September. On October 1, 2004, there were 2,750 hits on Google’s search engine for the word “podcasts”. This number continued to double every few days.
October 11, 2004 Capturing the early distribution and variety of podcasts was more difficult than counting Google hits, but before the end of October, The New York Times had reported podcasts across the United States and in Canada, Australia and Sweden, mentioning podcast topics from technology to veganism to movie reviews.
USA Today told its readers about the “free amateur chatfests” the following February, profiling several podcasters, giving instructions for sending and receiving podcasts, and including a “Top Ten” list from one of the many podcast directories that had sprung up. Those Top Ten programs gave further indication of podcast topics: four were about technology (including Curry’s Daily Source Code, which also included music and personal chat), three were about music, one about movies, one about politics, and—at the time number 1 on the list—The Dawn and Drew Show, described as “married-couple banter,” a program format that (as USA Today noted) was popular on American broadcast radio in the 1940s (e.g. Breakfast with Dorothy and Dick). After Dawn and Drew, such “couplecasts” became quite popular among independent podcasts, the most notable being the London couple Sowerby and Luff, whose talk show The Big Squeeze quickly achieved a global audience via the podcast Comedy 365. On October 18, 2004, the number of hits on Google’s search engine for the word “podcasts” surpassed 100,000. See September 28, 2005. In October, 2004, Detailed how-to podcast articles had begun to appear online, and a month later, Liberated Syndication (LibSyn) launched what was apparently the first Podcast Service Provider, offering storage, bandwidth, and RSS creation tools. “Podcasting” was first defined in Wikipedia.
In November, 2004, podcasting networks started to appear on the scene with podcasters affiliating with one another. The first was the GodCast Network, followed by The Podcast Network, the Tech Podcasts Network which was later acquired by RawVoice, PodTech.net, the Association of Music Podcasting and others. In February, 2005, PRI’s The World became the first daily public radio news program to podcast on February 11, 2005, through its Technology podcast hosted by Clark Boyd. June, 2005, Apple staked its claim on the medium by adding podcasting to its iTunes 4.9 music software and building a directory of podcasts at its iTunes Music Store. The new iTunes could subscribe to, download and organize podcasts, which made a separate aggregator application unnecessary for many users. Apple also promoted creation of podcasts using its GarageBand and QuickTime Pro software and the MPEG 4, m4a audio format instead of MP3. In July, 2005, U.S. President George W. Bush became a podcaster of sorts, when the White House website added an RSS 2.0 feed to the previously downloadable files of the president’s weekly radio addresses. Also in July, the first People’s Choice Podcast Awards were held during Podcast Expo. Awards were given in 20 categories. On September 28, 2005, exactly a year after first tracking hits for the word “podcasts” on Google’s search engine, Google found more than 100,000,000 hits on the word “podcasts.” In November, 2005, the first Portable Media Expo and Podcasting Conference was held at the Ontario Convention Center in Ontario, California. The annual conference is now called the Podcast and New Media Expo. On December 3, 2005, “Podcast” was named the word of the year in 2005 by the New Oxford American Dictionary and would be in the dictionary in 2006.
In February, 2006, following London radio station LBC’s successful launch of the first premium-podcasting platform LBC Plus, there was widespread acceptance that podcasting had considerable commercial potential. UK comedian Ricky Gervais launched a new series of his popular podcast The Ricky Gervais Show. The second series of the podcast was distributed through audible.co.uk and was the first major podcast to charge consumers to download the show at 95 pence per half-hour episode. The first series of The Ricky Gervais Show podcast had been freely distributed by Positive Internet and marketed through The Guardian newspaper’s website, and had become the world’s most successful podcast to date with an average of 295,000 downloads per episode according to The Guinness Book of World Records. Even in its new subscription format, The Ricky Gervais Show is regularly the most-downloaded podcast on iTunes.
In February 2006, podcaster Lance Anderson became the first to take a podcast and create a live venue tour. The Lance Anderson Podcast Experiment included a sold out night in The Pilgrim, (23rd Feb 2006) a central Liverpool (UK) venue followed by a theatrical event at The Rose Theatre, Edge Hill University (24th Feb 2006) which included appearances by Mark Hunter from The Tartan Podcast, Jon and Rob from Top of the Pods, Dan Klass from The Bitterest Pill via video link from Los Angeles and live music from The Hotrod Cadets. In addition, Lance was also invited to take part in the first ever Podcast Forum at CARET, the Centre for Applied Research in Educational Technologies at the University of Cambridge (21st Feb 2006). Lance was joined at this event by Dr. Chris Smith from Naked Scientists Podcast, Debbie McGowan, an Open University lecturer and advocate for podcasting in education and Nigel Paice, a professional music producer and podcasting tutor. In March, 2006, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper became the first head of government to issue a podcast, the “Prime Minister of Canada’s Podcast”. In July, 2009, the company VoloMedia is awarded the “Podcast patent” by the USPTO in patent number 7,568,213. Dave Winer, the co-inventor of podcasting (with Adam Curry), points out that his invention predated this patent by two years.
As is often the case with new technologies, pornography has become a part of the scene, producing what is sometimes called podnography. Other approaches include enlisting a class full of MBA students to research podcasting and compare possible business models, and venture capital flowing to influential content providers.
The growing popularity of podcasting introduced a demand for music available for use on the shows without significant cost or licensing difficulty. Out of this demand, a growing number of tracks, by independent as well as signed acts, are now being designated “podsafe”. (See also Podcasting and Music Royalties.)
Podcasting has been given a major push by conventional media and can be read about further in podcasting by traditional broadcasters.
Podcasting has also been picked up by some print media, e.g. newspapers, who supply their readers with spoken versions of their content.
Podcasting has presented both opportunities and challenges for mainstream radio outlets who on the one hand see it as an alternative medium for their programs while on the other hand struggle to identify its unique affordances and subtle differences. In a famous example of the way online statistics can be misused by those unused to the nuances of the online world, marketing executives from the ABC in Australia were unsure of how to make sense of why Digital Living, at that stage a little known podcast from one of their local stations, outrated all of their expensively produced shows. It turned out that a single segment on Blu Ray had been downloaded a massive 150,000 times in one day from a single location in China.
One of the first examples of a print publication to produce an audio podcast to supplement their printed content was the international scientific journal Nature. The Nature Podcast was set up in October 2005 by Cambridge University’s award-winning “Naked Scientist”, Chris Smith, who produces and presents the weekly show.
Although firm business models have yet to be established, podcasting represents a chance to bring additional revenue to a newspaper through advertising, subscription fees and licensing.
Coping with growth
While podcasting’s innovators took advantage of the sound-file synchronization feature of Apple Inc.’s iPod and iTunes software—and included “pod” in the name—the technology was always compatible with other players and programs. Apple was not actively involved until mid-2005, when it joined the market on three fronts: as a source of “podcatcher” software, as publisher of a podcast directory, and as provider of tutorials on how to create podcasts with Apple products GarageBand and QuickTime Pro. Apple CEO Steve Jobs demonstrated creating a podcast during his January 10, 2006 keynote address to the Macworld Conference & Expo using new “podcast studio” features in GarageBand 3.
When it added a podcast-subscription feature to its June 28, 2005, release of iTunes 4.9, Apple also launched a directory of podcasts at the iTunes Music Store, starting with 3,000 entries. Apple’s software enabled AAC encoded podcasts to use chapters, bookmarks, external links, and synchronized images displayed on iPod screens or in the iTunes artwork viewer. Two days after release of the program, Apple reported one million podcast subscriptions.
Some podcasters found that exposure to iTunes’ huge number of downloaders threatened to make great demands on their bandwidth and related expenses. Possible solutions were proposed, including the addition of a content delivery system, such as Liberated Syndication; Podcast Servers; Akamai; a peer-to-peer solution, BitTorrent; or use of free hosting services, such as those offered by Ourmedia, BlipMedia and the Internet Archive.
Since September 2005, a number of services began featuring video-based podcasting including Apple, via its iTunes Music Store, Participatory Culture Foundation and Loomia. Known by some as a vodcast, or vidcast, the services handle both audio and video feeds.