Taking the “Pod” out of “Podcasting”

The “Rundown”
Quite recently Apple has forced a third-party ‘podcast’ aggregator to change its name with a Cease and Desist letter. The target of this letter was the cross-platform aggregator known as “iPodder” claiming its name was infringement upon Apple’s trademark on “iPodcast”. iPodder is now going under the name “Juice” — the origins of which lend itself to the lemon logo. Juice, however, is not alone in being recipients of Cease and Desist letters from Apple. Recently, a company known as “Podcast Ready” reportedly filed for a trademark, and Apple replied swiftly with a C&D letter. These circumstances have kicked up a lot of dust on the net, and some are attempting to enact change, others feel that Apple is merely trying to legitimately protect its trademarks.

Podcasts were originally and are technically still “Audio Blogs” — their original name; the idea originally began cropping up late in 2000. The concept was that this form of audio on the internet would be enclosed in an RSS feed. Instead of streaming it or requiring listeners to go out and download each new installment, so-called audioblogs would be self-updating through RSS aggregators. To make a painfully long story shorter, as RSS moved along and became a more integral element of blogging in general and the blogging movement progressed the idea became increasingly popular. Among the first pivotal movements towards the iPod came at the first ever “Bloggercon” in 2003; by this time the iPod was out in the marketplace and flourishing, and some of its early adopters began to script ways to divert these audioblogs into iTunes to be transferred onto an iPod. Adam Curry, one of the early adopters in adding Audioblog capabilities to his RSS aggregators, offered people his so called ‘RSStoiPod’ script; Curry encouraged developers to expand upon this concept, and they did in earnest. One current incarnation of the ‘RSStoiPod’ script is ‘Juice’, mentioned earlier. Audioblogging did not enter under the name ‘podcasting’ until early 2004 when the name was mentioned in an article by Ben Hammersley in The Guardian on February 12, 2004. It was eventually picked up by many, as it fit the description of how the content was ‘automatically’ downloaded and easily transferable to portable media players. It wasn’t until June of 2005 that the function was added into iTunes –five years after audioblogging was originally conceived of, and two years after the concept of putting an audioblog on an iPod became popular.        

What now?
In the podcasting community many have suggested that podcasts have become hindered by the likes of Apple’s iTunes, and indeed the name “podcast” which implies that you need an iPod to appreciate this innovative medium. In addition to promoting the use of third party aggregators like Juice and Podcast Ready, some have suggested that a new logically fitting name be adopted for podcasting. The biggest movement has been set forth by This Week in Tech’s Leo Laporte — “Podcaster of the Year” — suggesting that the name be changed to “Netcast” to benefit the community at large. He has already begun calling the ‘TWiT Network‘s podcasts, ‘Netcasts’. While he is quick to admit that iTunes and Apple was indeed the best thing for emerging Podcast community, he aims to widen the horizon of the community and to reach a broader audience by introducing a more fitting name.

My Take
I have long had a distaste for the word “podcasting” to describe this medium, it’s difficult to explain the concept to someone who may have heard it mentioned in passing and quickly assume one needs an iPod to experience it; I find it much easier just to call it what it is instead of a hokey name cooked up years ago. I think Laporte’s attempts at renaming Podcasting something different — in the end — will be accepted. I am optimistic that, in many ways, the horizon of podcasting is bright under ‘Netcasting’ or any other name that doesn’t imply the use of an iPod — even if a number of podcasters refuse to call their medium a ‘Netcast’.      

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