Podcasting – content or sidebar?

Podcasting has gone, in just over a year, from a tiny medium with a few participants to a 50-foot-tall woman that every big and small player in mass media wants to date, screw, or attack with F-14s, King Kong style.

attack of the 50 foot woman

Frankly, I’m always impressed at the broad range of podcasts out there — everything from specialized rants on the topic of your choice to mainstream news shovel-fodder. Somewhere in between, we find smaller newspapers and broadcast outlets trying to figure out what to do with podcasting.

Here in the Bay Area, the Mercury News and SF Chronicle both have a good handle on things, running podcasts on topics related to certain sections of their paper, or at their best, the actual audio from interviews conducted for a story. This is a great use of the medium — it gives readers a chance to get something they can’t get on paper.

Alternately, there’s a logic to radio and television shows simply dumping their audio into a podcast. This gives listeners a chance to time-shift content, but stay loyal (read as: subscribed) to a product.

[In a strange but appropriate moment, a local TV news station is interviewing a print journalism professor here in the newsroom about nosediving newspaper circulation and the future of the industry. Anyway…]

So where does podcasting factor into a J-school curriculum?

There’s some easy spots here — double your weekly newscast/online stream with a podcast or video blog (video iPod not necessary, folks – watch it on your computer). That’s simple, and it’s good for your product and audience, but it doesn’t really teach your students much. Knowing how to edit the PHP file that runs your RSS feed is great and all, but I just Google this sort of thing as necessary. Same thing goes for figuring out how to get a podcast listed on iTunes. Set it and forget it.

Then again, podcasting as a stand along news source can work for spot news (go out, record report, post it, and there’s your breaking news element), or it can work as a way to get a final product online for radio/audio classes.

Over at the Kansas University eHub newsroom blog, the topic of whether/how they should be using podcasting has come up. Kellee Kirkpatrick writes “Not only can podcasting service current students and alumni, but it can also be a useful tool in attracting new students to the University. What better way to demonstrate that KU is on the frontlines of journalism than actually being on the cutting edge of technology?”

Yes. That. Exactly. Podcasting is something easy that can be incorporated into already existing classes and already existing student publications.

The barrier to entry for podcasting is pretty low — the department could use a couple iRivers and a couple decent microphones, but other than that and some free audio editing software, there’s plenty of ways to get content planted online.

In fact, there’s talk of a Yahoo recording/hosting/feeding service, and where there’s Yahoo, expect Google and Microsoft to be fast on their heels.

So the question isn’t how, or why, but when will podcasting make its way into student media production? I’m betting on next semester, whether it’s in the curriculum or not.

[tags]j-school, podcasting[/tags]