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Foreword

Foreword

Podcasting rules.

Well, no. It actually doesn't rule. In the world of online media, hyperbole often seems to be the principal coin of our realm.

But podcasting is one of the most important developments to hit the scene in a long, long time. It is the marriage of several genres, including weblogs, audio, radio, and TiVo-ish devices. It is made possible by the ever-powerful forces of technological progress, competitive instincts, and—this is key—our perfectly human wish to express ourselves.

Podcasting, simply put, is the idea of downloading an MP3 audio file to a digital device and listening to the program—a song, a lecture, a rant, whatever—at a time and in a place of your own choosing. Although the favorite audio device of our times is Apple's iPod, the word "podcasting" is actually miscast because we don't need an iPod to listen. For example, I listen to podcasts on my mobile phone, the device on which I now also listen to music.

Like almost everyone else reading these words, I've been a radio listener since my early days. In my car, the radio is one of the most indispensable devices. But the radio has always been a purely linear medium: to hear an entire show or song or segment, you listened to its beginning, its middle, and its end.

Audio remains a mostly linear form in any medium, whether broadcast or on the Net or, now, on podcasts. But digital audio is freeing us from the tyranny of live—the days when we had to listen to the programming as it was being broadcast if we wanted to hear it.

Podcasting's other great feature is its availability to more average folks in a way that is transforming all media these days. It's open to everyone who wants to be a creator, not just a consumer, in the new sphere that some call the read-write Web, a place where we can write content (almost) as easily as we can read it. Weblogs have captured most of the attention in this new world. As we move beyond text and pictures, we get things like podcasting. We can do it because the cost of the gear that we need to make high-quality content is dropping fast, while the power and ease of use grows.

I have a small caution to offer, however. Just because it has become easy to make an audio file doesn't mean everyone should do so. I've been assuming that it's an order of magnitude more difficult to create an audio program that large numbers of people might want to hear than to write a comparably high-quality weblog posting. Lately, I'm not so sure; as this book shows, audio production is getting much easier, and a new generation of multimedia-savvy people is coming along fast.

We definitely don't want to leave the podcasting to the experts. And even if your podcast is not very professional sounding, the important thing is this: if you're only doing a podcast for your family and close friends, they are going to find higher value in it than the listeners of popular podcasts will find in those programs—because they care so much about you and your life.

Let's remember, most of all, the basis for all this. Media are becoming a conversation, not a lecture.

Weblogs were the first major example of a read-write Web that podcasting is joining. Grassroots media now takes many forms, including journalism, with a host of sites being formed for the purposes of filling in the gaps the major media are leaving. But nonprofessionals have lots to offer in this sphere and others. When we have better tools to make sense of the conversations, we will be vastly better informed.

In a world of citizens' media, your voice matters as much as anyone else's. Media are plural, all of us.

So read this book. Learn some techniques. Absorb some tips. Then let's join this expanding global conversation together.

Dan Gillmor

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