08 April 2006

Death to the Podcast

"Podcast" is such a cool word. It manages to be familiar, made up as it is of the odd little "pod" and suffix "-cast", as in "broadcast", and yet cheekily new. Pity, then, that it's completely the wrong term for what it describes.

These are simply downloadable mp3 files. The "pod" bit is a misnomer, because the iPod is but one way to listen to them: any mp3 player will do. And the "-cast" is wrong, too, because they are not broadcast in any sense - you just download them. And if they were broadcast across the Internet, then you'd call them streams - as in "podstream", rather than "podcast".

Given my long-standing dislike of this term - and its unthinking adoption by a mainstream press terrified of looking uncool - I was pleased to come across Jack Schofield's opinion on the subject, where he writes:

[P]odcasting's main appeal at the moment is time-shifting professionally-produced programmes. It's a variant of tape recording, and should probably be called AOD (audio on demand).

AOD: that sounds good to me, Jack.

His wise suggestion comes in piece commenting on the release of a typically-expensive ($249 for six pages) piece of market research on this sector from Forrester Research.

Many people have taken its results - the fact that only 1% of online households in the US regularly download and listen to AOD - to indicate the death of the medium. I don't agree: I think people will continue to enjoy audio on demand in many situations. For example, I regularly return to the excellent Chinesepod site, a shining example of how to use AOD well.

But even if the downloads live on, I do hope that we might see the death of the term "podcast".

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