Web 2.0: Podcasting: Are You Listening?

Note: This post was created for a graduate level class at the University of Alberta: EDES 501 Web 2.0 for Libraries.

Disclaimer: Don't bother listening to the embedded podcast. I only attached it to fulfill class requirements, and it's boring as heck. Plus it'll expire in 30 days, so the link may actually be dead when you read this. Actually, skip this post entirely. Podcasting is dead. Go outside and enjoy the fresh air.

Imagine the ability to download desired content and save it for later. No, it's not BitTorrent. It's not a PVR - it's podcasting!

What is Podcasting?
Podcasts are digital audio files that are broadcast online and available for download to portable media devices. Podcasting began around the year 2000, once the software and hardware combination was created to allow for the automatic downloading of audio files (usually in MP3 format).

The advantage to podcasts is that they give listeners control over when they hear a recording. Gordon-Murnane (2005) calls them "time shifting radio." "TiVo for the radio," "media on the go," "targeted radio," and "personalized radio". They are easy to make and require relatively little specialized equipment. Usually podcasts are free to listen to or download, and come in a wide variety of content and formats. Listeners can subscribe to podcasts through podcatchers (ie. iTunes) or often they come in blog format, and can then be followed via RSS capabilities. Podcasts can be downloaded from the web and listened to at the user's convenience either on a computer or a device like an iPod. Basically, they provide portable education and entertainment.

There are disadvantages to podcasts though. They require bandwidth to download, and provide little to no two way interaction between the listen and the podcaster. While they may appeal to audio learners, they are useless for people with hearing impairments. Also evident are difficulties with cataloguing, classifying, indexing and retrieval.

My Experiences With Podcasting
Personally, I do not like listening to podcasts. After over six years of post secondary education, I have developed an aversion to being 'talked-at'. I do not find this form of information presentation to be at all engaging. To acquire information, I would rather watch television or online videos, or better yet, talk to a real person. I find real life interaction and video viewing much more engaging and interesting to take part in. Podcasts require concentrated attention, thus I can not do other things while I listen to them. When I listen to podcasts, I only stare at the blank computer screen, which is boring and too flat. I also do not take advantage of the mobility benefit of podcasts, as I find them too distracting to listen too while I drive. If I am out for a walk then I would rather listen to nature, and if I have a public transportation commute I would rather read or chat to a companion. Maybe I am a product of the MTV generation and have a short attention span?

That being said, I faithfully subscribe and listen to one podcast about a topic I find interesting. The information in this podcast is only available through this medium, as in there is no way to access the same content online or on mainstream television. I enjoy the content of this podcast, and that has kept me loyal. I have never listened to a podcast for professional purposes. Life is busy, and I consistently choose to make time for other forms of professional development such as reading blogs, watching online videos or attending brown bag workshops.

I have created a podcast though, for a MLIS class assignment last fall. It was very easy to record the podcast. I used the free audio program Audacity to record and make edits to my recording. I used numerous Audacity tutorials, and, once I got the hang of the program's interface, the entire process was as simple as clicking a button and saying my content. As I have found with many web 2.0 tools, once you figure out the interface, the rest is smooth sailing!

For this assignment, I wanted to learn how to embed my podcast into my blog. I watched a Slideshare presentation about How To Embed a Podcast in Blogger. This seemed to indicate embedding my podcast would be very easy. I also viewed a YouTube video titled Creating a Podcast with Blogger, and read the Blogger official Help page about embedding podcasts. However, the latter two resources seemed to be meant for regular podcasters because they involved changing the Blogger settings to include 'enclosure links', and as I only intend to embed my podcast this one time, I decided to follow the slideshare presentation. Armed with this new knowledge, I set about completing the described steps.

The slideshare presentation recommended signing up for an account on Internet Archive. I have visited this website before to view concert and other video footage, and also to use the wayback machine to view old blog caches. I was unaware they hosted uploaded photo, audio and video content (although the space provided is limited). After I signed up for my 'library card', I simply had to click the upload button from my homepage. After inputing a title, description, and metadata tags, I was prompted to choose a Creative Commons license. I chose the 'Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 Canada license. This means my content cannot be used for commercial purposes or modified. I have never used a Creative Commons license before, so it was interesting to go through this process. Fortunately, the Internet Archive made this process very easy by providing adequate information in the Creative Commons form I had to fill out. As my podcast was already converted to MP3 format, all I had to do next was upload it. I also chose to upload it as a test item, meaning it will expire in 30 days. I am only embedding this podcast as part of assignment requirements, and do not wish for it to stay on the web after this class is over, as that was not its original intention.

It took a long time to upload, which had me very worried, but it uploaded alright in the end. I visited my podcast's page, which is actually pretty neat. You can listen to the podcast from here, and all my metadata information is also available for viewing. I followed the slideshare's instructions for how to embed my podcast, but it basically is the same as the process on YouTube: I simply copied the embed tag and pasted it into the Edit Html tab of this post. Here it is:

"Review of the University of Lethbridge's Institutional Repository"

Very sleek, eh?! This process was so easy though. I would not hesitate to use the Internet Archive to host other materials I produce. The only draw back is you cannot download this podcast from my blog. However, if you visit my podcast's page, you can download it from there. If I was to make podcasting a regular occurrence on my blog, I would likely set up the enclosure links mention by the other two resources above. For my current purposes though, this process worked very well.

Library Uses
Podcasts are being used by libraries for many different contexts, including to:
There are of course issues related to library podcasts. Gordon-Murnane (2005) discusses the copyright concerns relating to podcasting, including intellectual property issues. Using music in podcasts is of great concern, and must be done properly by obtaining the appropriate permissions. Kretz (2007) suggests libraries must get signed permission from speakers at events, authors at readings, and for any music used in the podcasts. I found the Creative Commons process easy to go through, and think libraries should consider this process as well in order to protect their content.

Also of concern is the difficulty podcasts present in terms of classification and indexing. Though podcasts are increasingly being catalogued using tags or other metadata, and there are many podcast directories, it is still difficult to find appropriate podcasts. Podcasts are not indexed in academic subscription databases either. Much like the trouble with tagging I discussed in my social bookmarking post, I did find it hard to attach metadata to my podcast without specific vocabulary guidelines. This presents many issues for librarians. As we are charged with helping patrons find appropriate material, how can we effectively direct patrons to useful podcasts? This is an issue I never did find an answer to.

Is Podcasting A Dead Technology?
I personally believe the podcast 'fad' is fading out.

Pew Internet: Podcasting Downloading 2008 reports that 19% of internet users have downloaded a podcast, which is up 7% from 2006. However, "podcasting has yet to become a fixture in the everyday lives of internet uses, as very few internet users download podcasts on a typical day." Pew Internet indicates podcasts are currently popular in niche markets only.

Podcasting was supposed to revolutionize university and college classrooms. One would assume archiving lectures on the library website, and making these available for students to listen to would be a well used service, but that is not the case. Concerns have been raised that making lectures available encourages non-attendance and does not generate quality academic discussion (Deal, 2007). Professors worry podcasts cause students to rely on audio more than textbooks or discussion with fellow classmates (Deal, 2007). The general consensus is that podcasts should only be used to supplement learning in case of an unavoidable absence, or to fill holes in notes and review for exams (Cann, 2007; Deal, 2007; Guertin et al., 2007).

The issue is while students do see the value of making podcasts available, the majority of students do not use them as a resource (Cann, 2007; Guertin et al., 2007). Students feel they do not have enough time to listen or re-listen to lectures, nor do they feel the need to, and also note technical issues as being a hinderance (Cann, 2007; Guertin et al., 2007). Students are more keen and likely to view videos of lectures, as they are more familiar with video technology thanks to YouTube (Cann, 2007). Viewable content also does not take up bandwidth, and as students can now get online access through their laptops and mobile phones, they tend to use iPods of other mobile devices for music and entertainment only (Cann, 2007).

Thus, should a library waste time, effort, and money to produce and archive podcasts if they are not going to be used? It would be interesting to see statistics from the libraries mentioned in the 'Library Uses' section in order to determine if their podcasts are indeed being used. Perhaps I am being cynical, but many of the 'Library Uses' mentioned above could also be accomplished by video or photo sharing, both web 2.0 tools which seem to be more popular and better recognized, as compared to podcasting, and just as easy to do.

Does anyone else agree that podcasting is fading away and being replaced by other mediums of online expression?

Podcasting came out of the whole blogging phenomenon (Kretz, 2007), and in turn spurred the development of video sharing. What could possible come next??

Cann, Alan J. (2007). Podcasting is Dead: Long Live Video!. Bioscience Education Journal v.10 <http://www.bioscience.heacademy.ac.uk/journal/vol10/beej-10-c1.aspx>
Deal, A. (2007) Teaching with Technology White Paper: Podcasting. Educause CONNECT < http://connect.educause.edu/files/CMU_Podcasting_Jun07.pdf>.
Gordon-Murnane, L. (2005, June). Saying I Do to Podcasting. Searcher, 13(6), 44-51.
Guertin, L., Bodek, M.J., Zappe, S.E. and Kim, H. (2007) Questioning the Student Use of and Desire for Lecture Podcasts. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching 3(2): 133–141. <http://jolt.merlot.org/vol3no2/guertin.htm>.
Kretz, Chris. (2007) "Podcasting in Libraries." In Nancy Courtney (Ed.), Library 2.0 and Beyond: Innovative Technologies and Tomorrow's User, (pp.35-48). Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.
Useful Links:


  1. This is a very comprehensive and current read on podcasting which is nice to have since these types of posts have a tendency of becoming obsolete after a short time.

    Two things I want to comment on.

    First, you say that you don't like being "talked at". While many podcasters really do treat their audience as a product or target, there is an increasing number of podcasters who are great at engaging their listener as a part of the podcast. Of course, the danger is that with so many podcasts available now, it's easy to find the ones that make you feel subordinate. It's an evolution from the earlier problem when podcasts first hit the Internet and hosts would carry on forever about what they could do in their podcast including swearing and after 30 minutes still hadn't said anything (nor had they done any swearing).

    The second point I want to raise is that, since you're Canadian, the Canadian Podcast Legal guide was published in 2007 and it addresses Canadian-specific issues with respect to copyright, interviews, etc... You can find it at http://creativecommons.ca/blog/?p=225.

    Thanks for a great post and for a comprehensive list of links.


  2. Thanks for the link to the copyright info!


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