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Charles on… anything that comes along

Tuesday 11 April 2006

Filed under: — Charles @ 2:33 pm

Thoughts on podcasting: harder than it sounds

Yesterday (which is a word that one mostly can’t use in podcasting, as I’ll explain) I sat in on - and added a couple of grunty questions to - this week’s Guardian’s Science podcast. (Generically, the Guardian has loads of podcasts.)

It was interesting to see how it all works, and to get a reminder that making even short bits of “radio” takes a long time. The whole thing is only about ten minutes long, but it took three takes on the intro, a couple of takes on the outtro, some re-takes on questions, a bit of waiting around while our interviewee came back from the shops and some more waiting while Ian Sample came up to talk about avian flu (I asked why we’re so worked up about avian flu, when SARS had a much higher caseload and plenty of deaths - though OK, a rather lower mortality rate of about 9% compared to 50% for humans infected with a.f.)

I always think, when I hear it, that I’ve got a voice for print. And of course when I see myself on those rare occasions on TV, that I’ve got a face for radio. Somewhere there must be a happy medium. Might this be it?

The Guardian operation is very professional, with skilled people tweaking the flange etc and doing the stings [or is it stingers? I can’t find a useful definition apart from that one] ..using iTunes.

Time taken: about an hour, and that’s before you get into the editing. (They use Audacity, though they’d like something slightly better. But the price is right..)

And the podcasting thoughts?

  1. you can’t use time-dependent words like “today” or “yesterday” or “tomorrow” because unlike radio (which I’ve done a tiny bit of from time to time) you can’t be sure of when it’s being listened to, or that there’s any particular “broadcast” time.

  • it’s hard to judge how to address the listener. There’s no essential sense of an “audience” for a podcast, because there isn’t the assumption of shared listening; so I think you have to presume that you’re talking to a single person, and try to include them in that way. I dunno, have many people listened to other non-radio podcasts? What’s the style that works best for you? I know that I hate the iTunes Music Store one - “Hi, I’m Roxy! And I’m bringing you the best of the iTunes Music Store, oh my, it’s just such an unbelievable week!” Roxy, on that basis, is my least favourite person ever, solely on her overweening breathless misplaced eagerness at a time when I’m doing something tediously domestic outside.
    I’ve not heard a podcast yet that I thought quite got the sense of place, of talker and listener, right. But then, I’ve not tried many podcasts. I think though that the best DJs don’t “broadcast” to an “audience”; they talk to you in person.
  • phrases like “send us in all your thoughts and MP3s and …” seem to me slightly off-beam, unless you can be sure that there is a consistent audience. Maybe with feedback from listeners one can start to grow a style organically that reacts to those who are listening and responding.
  • You can guess why I’m thinking these things, but there’s no clear timeline. Quite apart from anything, we have to work out which would be the best day of the week for a Technology podcast. And technology is also one of the most oversupplied areas for podcasting. Perhaps let them all the rubbish ones decide they’ve had enough of doing it for free first…

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