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Apple launches Spoken Editions of popular websites

After a quick test last month, Apple has officially launched its new Spoken Editions section under the podcasts heading in iTunes. Users can now get a spoken-word version of news updates from media companies like Time, Reuters, Slate, Wired, Mic, Bustle, Jezebel, and the Huffington Post. Apple’s simple pitch for the section targets people too busy to read their favorite websites each morning, offering narrated versions of the stories for those on the go. Providers are divided into categories that cover breaking news, politics, LGBT and racial issues, pop culture, lifestyle, business, and technology.

Apple to offer ‘Spoken Editions’ of written content from top publishers

Apple will soon offer “Spoken Editions” of written content from some publishers through iTunes, TechCrunch reports. Early versions of podcasts branded Spoken Editions from brands like Time, Wired, and Forbes have begun appearing on iTunes, offering users the ability to get the written news delivered in audio form so they can listen while doing other things.

Podcasters voice serious complaints with Apple

During a meeting with Apple, seven top podcasters voiced serious concerns over the company’s apparent lack of interest in their business, The New York Times reports. Despite essentially creating the format for downloading “digital audio shows” in 2005, Apple’s cumbersome process for promoting shows and lack of solid tools for artists to share and monetize their work drew serious criticism, according to two attendees of the meeting who spoke on condition of anonymity.

More Apple picks for Best of 2015: Apple Watch apps, Books, Podcasts

Apple agreed with iLounge’s pick for the Best Apple Watch App of 2015, naming weather app Dark Sky its choice for Apple Watch App of the Year. Apple Watch Game of the Year went to Rules!, a fast-paced puzzle game which is a smaller version of its iOS edition. Best Classic Podcast went to WTF with Marc Maron, and newcomer Mystery Show was named Best New Podcast of 2015. Apple also released its picks for best books of 2015 in 16 categories, listed below.

Apple pushes podcasters to upgrade video quality

Apple’s iTunes team has sent an email to current video podcasters, recommending that they increase the resolution of their videos. “Apple TV is here, and podcasts are making a big move into the living room,” Apple said in the email. “We want all of them to look as good as possible, so we have three video formatting recommendations for you.” Apple’s tips for enhancing a video podcast are included below.

Recommendations for Formatting Video Podcasts

1. If you’re encoding your video podcast at 320x240, please increase the resolution to either 640x480 or 640x360 (depending on the aspect ratio of your source files). Why? Because video podcasts at this resolution look great on Apple TV and still port to video iPods. Lower resolution podcasts might also work on both platforms, but they don’t look nearly as good on a widescreen TV. As always, make sure to test any encoding changes you make to ensure device compatibility. QuickTime 7.1’s “Export to iPod” function will ensure that a video file is encoded at a width of 640 and is iPod-compatible.

2. It’s best not to create two different podcast feeds for different resolutions. By doing so, you dilute the popularity of your podcast and reduce exposure in our charts. It’s better to have one feed high in the charts than two that are lower.

3. If your source files are 16:9, stick with that aspect ratio. Don’t add letterboxing to make them 4:3. By doing so, you prevent the video from expanding to fill a 16:9 widescreen TV and instead end up with black space on all four sides. Also, your original source files should be at least 640 pixels wide.

Of course these are just recommendations. We understand that there are good reasons for 320x240 (bandwidth bills) and 720p (looks fantastic). Do whatever makes the most sense for your show.  For more information on formatting video, see the recently updated spec.

Washington Post offers HD podcasts for Apple TV

The Washington Post today announced that it is now offering high-definition (HD) podcasts on iTunes. The free video podcasts are designed to be viewed on HD televisions, computers, and the new Apple TV. “In a first for a news organization, the award-winning documentary videos created by the washingtonpost.com multimedia team also conform to the highest specifications for the new Apple TV, making it easier than ever to view extremely quality news content anywhere, any time users want it,” the newspaper said. All washingtonpost.com videos are shot with high-definition cameras, and the series available on iTunes is coded to play in 720p format.

Apple authorizes usage of ‘podcast’ term

One podcaster has received a letter from Apple’s trademark department stating that the company does not object to others using the term “podcast” and that it also does not license the term. “Apple does not object to third party usage of the generic term ‘podcast’ to accurately refer to podcasting services,” Apple said in the note. “Apple does not license the term ‘podcast.’” The letter was in response to a $1 “royalty check” Dave Gray, host of the Global Geek podcast, sent to Apple CEO Steve Jobs nearly two months ago. Gray sent the check and a letter to Jobs following threats from Apple to a site named PodcastReady, claiming trademark violations.

Study: Podcast use rising but small for daily usage

According to a recent study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, a growing number of consumers are listening to podcasts, but very few do so every day. The study found that 12% of web users have downloaded a podcast, an increase from 7% earlier in the year. However, only about 1% said they download a podcast on a typical day. “While podcast downloading is still an emerging activity primarily enjoyed by early adopters, the range of content now available speaks to both mainstream and niche audiences,” said Mary Madden, senior research specialist at Pew. “We are at a crossroads of a major transition in the way media content is delivered and consumed.”

NBC News video podcasts coming to iTunes

NBC News has announced that it will offer “NBC Nightly News” and “Meet the Press” as free video podcasts on the iTunes Store. NBC has been streaming its video on MSNBC.com and offering both shows as audio podcasts, but this will be the first time that the shows will be available for video download. “NBC Nightly News” will be available every weeknight at 10 p.m. ET and “Meet the Press” will be available via video podcast at 1 p.m. ET, both after their West Coast airings. It will be the first full evening newscast available in a video podcast, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Podcast Ready releases myPodder with iPod support

Podcast Ready, the company recently hit with a trademark notice from Apple, has released a new version of its podcast management software that adds support for iPods. myPodder 1.6 beta, available as a free download for Windows and Mac OS X, provides “complete podcast portability, unlike other podcast-enabling technologies that are available only on dedicated desktop computers,” according to the developer. “Users can plug a compatible device into any Internet-connected computer and instantly access myPodder to update, subscribe to and manage their favorite audio and video podcasts. Podcast Ready also provides a simple-to-use podcast directory and one-click podcast subscription.”

Apple cracking down on ‘podcast’ use

Apple is reportedly cracking down on the use of the term “podcast.” Wired News reports that Apple has sent Podcast Ready a cease and desist letter, claiming that the terms “Podcast Ready” and “myPodder” infringe on Apple’s trademarks. Apple claims that the two terms could cause confusion among consumers. Meanwhile, ZDNet’s Russell Shaw reports that Apple is seeking a trademark for the term “iPodcast” and that the company “has been experiencing some significant difficulties getting final approval from the USPTO for the iPod trademark.” In the last year, Apple has gone after a number of companies for using the term “pod” in their name or in the name of their products.

Podcasting gains in popularity among U.S. web users

Podcasts are gaining a foothold among U.S. web users, according Nielsen/NetRatings. The market research firm said today that 6.6 percent of the U.S. adult online population, or 9.2 million web users, have recently downloaded an audio podcast. Nielsen said 4.0 percent, or 5.6 million web users, have recently downloaded a video podcast. “These figures put the podcasting population on a par with those who publish blogs, 4.8 percent, and online daters, 3.9 percent,” the firm notes. “However, podcasting is not yet nearly as popular as viewing and paying bills online, 51.6 percent, or online job hunting, 24.6 percent.”

Apple revamps podcast categories on iTunes Music Store

Apple has updated the iTunes Music Store’s podcast directory with a new set of podcast categories. In an email sent to podcasters, Apple said the revamp will affect the way a podcast is listed in the directory, and that podcast feeds should be updated to match the new category structure. “Today we launched a revised set of categories for podcasts listed in the iTunes Music Store,” Apple said. “We’re sending you this email to let you know how to change your podcast feed to accommodate these changes. The revised categories and subcategories are listed at the bottom of this message. Please take the time to change your podcast feed as soon as possible. Please note that we will support the use of the old category names for the next few months, so there is no immediate deadline for making these changes.”

Ricky Gervais cashes in on comedy podcast hit

Ricky Gervais, the English comedian behind the BBC’s and NBC’s “The Office,” is cashing in on his top-rated comedy podcast by signing a deal to sell future episodes through the iTunes Music Store and Audible.com. Seasons two and three of Gervais’s “The Ricky Gervais Show” will be sold for $1.95 per show or $6.95 for the entire season of at least four weekly episodes, plus a free sneak preview.

“The Ricky Gervais Show revolves around the comic dialogue of Gervais, his long-time creative partner Stephen Merchant and ‘hapless producer’ Karl Pilkington,” reads a description of the show. “First launched in December 2005, the show has quickly become a global phenomenon, having gained unprecedented popularity. The show averaged more than 260,000 weekly downloads in only its first month and was recently awarded the Guinness World Record for creating the world’s most-downloaded podcast, having reached 2.9 million cumulative downloads in just over two months”

iSkin launches ‘Touch’ video podcast

iSkin today announced a new video podcast called “Touch,” which the company says “touches upon various topics in an informal behind the scenes guerilla film style, covering a range of topics including music, film and lifestyles from around the world.” The video podcast is available free from the iTunes Music Store.

“Today we at iSkin will begin expanding our love for the arts by shining the proverbial light on what makes us go to the movies, buy music or hit the club,” says iSkin. “Episode 1 features television and recording star Andrea Lewis of Degrassi fame, Wayne Warner’s All Black Affair, Soulful Serenades of Carl Henry from Universal Music, A Gossip Minute and Club Banger Hit Maker, Massari.”

Apple revises, expands iTunes podcasting specs

Apple sent out an email today to iTunes podcasters announcing revised and expanded podcast specifications. The email also pointed out an Apple-hosted forum exclusively for podcasters.

“Since you’ve got an active podcast listed in iTunes, we would like to let you know about a few valuable new resources,” the email reads. “First, the technical spec has been revised and expanded. Check here for all questions or problems related to your podcast, or if you’re interested in enhancing the appearance of your listing with iTunes-specific tags. There is also an Apple Discussions Forum exclusively for podcast producers. If you have a question or a problem that the technical spec cannot answer, the community of iTunes podcasters there should be able to provide valuable guidance.”

Edmunds offers free automotive videos on iTunes

Edmunds.com today announced that 21 of its automotive videos are now offered as free podcasts on the iTunes Music Store. Sponsored by Nissan, the video podcasts feature road test reports on vehicles such as the Lexus IS350, the Honda Civic Si, the Nissan Titan and the Porsche Boxster S. In addition, vehicle comparisons include the BMW 330i vs. the Audi A4 and the Mazda MX-5 vs. the Pontiac Solstice.

HBO launches podcasts on iTunes

HBO recently added several podcasts to the iTunes Music Store, including special content from Curb Your Enthusiasm, Extras, Rome, Entourage, and Real Time with Bill Maher.

“Download an HBO Podcast to experience outstanding HBO original programming wherever you are! Sample your favorite HBO shows, get great sports commentary, and laugh along with the best stand-up comedy. Listen to interviews and behind-the-scenes features with the stars and creators of award-winning HBO series, moves and more. Plus, download great Spanish-language programming from HBO Latino.”

[via Micro Persuasion]

‘Podcast’ named word of the year

The editors of the New Oxford American Dictionary have selected “podcast” as the Word of the Year for 2005. Podcast will be defined as “a digital recording of a radio broadcast or similar program, made available on the Internet for downloading to a personal audio player.” The word will be added to the next online update of the New Oxford American Dictionary, due in early 2006.

Odeo podcasting service gets major new features

Odeo has launched several new features that enable users to easily record audio, better organize their podcast subscriptions, and share audio with others. Odeo users can now record audio with either a web browser-based tool or over the phone. After you’ve recorded the audio, it’s saved in MP3 format and can be easily shared. The site also gains a new “Audio Inbox” that organizes podcasts that you have subscribed to and audio that has been sent to you by other Odeo users. In addition, the site has been revamped with a simplified homepage and other changes that “make it simpler and move it closer to our vision of Podcasting for Regular People.”

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