It’s here - the second iLounge Week in Review podcast. We were all set to unveil the new and much-improved Week in Review format today, but we weren’t satisfied with the audio quality of the three-person audio chat we recorded. So this week, iLounge Editor-in-Chief Jeremy Horwitz fills in for the (soon to be regular) three-person panel, with commentary on the top news headlines of the week.
Following an iLounge editorial on the same topic last month, The Wall Street Journal’s Vauhini Vara has written an article [paid sub. req.] on the adult-oriented podcasts that can found in Apple’s iTunes directory. The podcasts, which some call “porncasts,” are packed with “raunchy sex banter, erotic storytelling sessions and reviews of pornographic websites,” Vara notes. Some industry experts say Apple is taking a big risk in accepting such content from amateurs. “Apple needs to be careful to protect its brand here,” says Ted Schadler, an analyst at Forrester Research. “The editorial function is just getting more and more important.”
“As podcasting reaches a more mainstream audience, the more risque audio shows—and Apple’s role in distributing them—could come under greater scrutiny,” reports Vara. “Apple declined to say whether any of its users have complained about the adult podcasts, which can be downloaded by anyone regardless of age. The company said it could potentially pull programs that it deems too explicit, but declined to say whether it has done so yet.”
Podcasters who submit their shows to iTunes are asked to mark their podcasts “explicit” during the submission process if they discuss adult material. However, Apple spokeswoman Natalie Kerris said the company has no official guidelines for adult content and does not review every podcast submission. “She said Apple tries to review as many submissions as it can for ‘really obvious’ adult content,” Vara reports. “Listeners can click on a button marked ‘Report a Concern’ if they feel that a podcast isn’t marked as explicit and should be. ‘If for some reason we miss it, customers usually catch it,’ Ms. Kerris said.”
Live from Cambridge in the United Kingdom, it’s the iLounge Week in Review, with your new host Bob Levens!
iLounge’s first podcasts launched as experiments last year, and we’ve been playing with a number of ideas since then to bring you a regular weekly offering of some sort. Because of the rapid pace of iPod news and updates to our site, we’ve decided to try this new Week in Review format - a single podcast to launch each Friday, helping you get caught up on what’s happened in the iPod, iTunes, and iLounge universes.
This edition is a test of the new format and will go through additional evolutions in the immediate future, with capsule summaries of reviews, tutorials and more to follow. As we continue to tinker with the podcast, your comments and suggestions are welcomed and appreciated.
Odeo, the new online podcasting service co-founded by Blogger creator Evan Williams, has opened its doors to the public. While “still very much in beta,” the site enables users to easily find and subscribe to the popular web-based audio programs and then sync them to their computer and iPod.
The podcasts can be downloaded to your hard drive with a free Windows or Mac OS X program called Odeo Syncr, which lets you listen to the shows in any audio player application (including iTunes) or on any portable device. Odeo also smartly provides the option to sync your podcasts to iTunes via a special RSS feed. Once in iTunes, you can then move the shows onto an iPod.
Odeo will eventually be more than just a place to find and listen to podcasts. The start-up plans to shortly introduce features that will enable anyone with a web browser and microphone to create their own podcasts online. The site will offer the Odeo Studio to record and publish audio, and Phone Posting, which will let you leave a voicemail to record a podcast. Odeo will also provide feed creation and hosting services.
The initial lack of the podcast creation features could be seen as a result of last month’s release of iTunes 4.9. It would appear that Odeo wanted to get its site open as soon as possible after the somewhat surprising release of the new version of iTunes and its podcasting support—even if it meant not having all of its promised features completely ready for launch.
iLounge spoke with Odeo’s Williams shortly after the release of iTunes 4.9. His reaction echoed that of other prominent members of the podcast world. “At the highest level, I think this is good for podcasting,” Williams said. “I think Apple will introduce a lot more people to podcasting a lot faster than would have happened otherwise.”
Williams said there are some similarities between his service and iTunes. “There is some overlap with Odeo as it stands today, but there’s so much to do in this space that I’m not concerned at all that there won’t be enough places for us to add value,” Williams told iLounge. “If it means we don’t need a client app for the millions of folks who use iTunes, then that might be a better user experience and a lower barrier to getting started,” Williams said. “It will also mean that many more people will want to create podcasts, which we will help with as well.”
Apple announced on Thursday that iTunes users have subscribed to more than one million Podcasts in just the two days since it launched the new iTunes Podcast Directory.
“With the release of iTunes 4.9, listeners are voting with their ears,” said Adam Curry, co-founder of the PodShow Podcast Network. “Subscriptions have dramatically increased across our entire PodShow Podcast Network, and I predict over the coming months that iTunes will introduce tens of millions of new listeners to the world of Podcasting.”
“Podcasting is like cappuccino,” said August Trometer, developer of iPodderX. “Gourmet coffee was around for a long time, but it took Starbucks to put it on the map. Apple is like the Starbucks of Podcasting and advertisers will take us more seriously now.”
“iTunes has done what possibly no one else could have accomplished, propelled Podcasting into the mainstream,” said Will Lewis, management consultant for KCRW. “Our servers have been swamped with a stratospheric increase in traffic. In fact, downloads have increased tenfold as a result of the iTunes 4.9 launch.”
When asked if podcasts will remain free, Jobs said: “Well, you know, podcasting has been free since the beginning. It’s been an emerging phenomenon that has been growing very rapidly. But we’re hoping to take it mainstream with the latest version of iTunes, which has everything you need to podcast built right in it. So podcasts, I think they’re gonna remain free. Although I do think we may start to see some advertising tagged onto them in the coming months.”
Jobs went on to discuss why podcasting is so convenient: “I think one of the most precious resources we all have these days is free time. And that’s one of the great things about an iPod is you can use it while you’re doing other stuff. So you can use it while you’re exercising. You can use it while you’re taking the subway to work, driving to work, et cetera.”
“What podcasting does is it lets me pick out those precise things I’m interested in,” Jobs said. “Whether it’s a podcast on new films that have just come out, on music, whatever. And it automatically—every time there’s a new episode of that particular show, it automatically puts it on iTunes and syncs it to my iPod. So without any work on my part whatsoever, when I’m driving to work tomorrow, the latest and greatest episodes of the podcasts that I’ve picked are right on my iPod, saving me a ton of time.”
Today, Audible announced plans to distribute the New York Times Audio Digest, Wall Street Journal and other periodic audio content via RSS. Audible customers can schedule automatic delivery of their periodic programming to their computers and to any one of more than 135 AudibleReady handheld devices, including the iPod.
Audible has also launched an information page outlining its strategy behind profitable podcasting. “Starting June 24th, you can put Audible’s management experience, platforms and tools to work for you and your podcasting strategy. Audible now offers content producers the infrastructure for circulation control, paid subscriptions and advertising management needed to effortlessly produce and manage podcasting - and turn that audio content into predictable, incremental revenue.”
iLounge recently spoke with iPodderX developer August Trometer on what impact the forthcoming iTunes 4.9 update will have on podcasting. As previously reported, Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced iTunes 4.9 at the Wall Street Journal’s D: All Things Digital conference, and then later provided further details at this month’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference (WWDC).
Trometer told iLounge that he was by no means surprised at the announcement. “It was inevitable that Apple would take an interest in podcasting,” he said. “After all, the more uses Apple can find for the iPod, the better for them. So when iTunes 4.9 was announced, I wasn’t too surprised.”
Trometer said that in the long run, it’s great news for both podcasting and for applications like iPodderX. “In much the same way that Safari RSS is introducing a whole new audience to syndicated newsfeeds, I think iTunes 4.9 will do the same for podcasting. But, also like Safari RSS, people will soon tire of the basic feature set and want more capabilities than iTunes offers. These folks will look elsewhere and to other applications for their podcast needs.”
After seeing Jobs give a demo of iTunes 4.9 at WWDC, Trometer said Apple, like always, has come up with a great looking and easy to use solution to a technology many have yet to embrace. “I have to admit, iTunes 4.9 looks slick,” he told iLounge. “I have a feeling that people will get tired of the way it lists their podcasts—disclosure triangles for each feed will get tiresome—but overall it looks like a great introduction to the world of podcasting.”
Apple and the Sundance Channel have signed a deal to make content from the cable network available exclusively as podcast downloads from the iTunes Music Store.
“The partnership with Sundance gives iTunes one of its first exclusive podcast partners and inches Apple’s iTunes operations—originally created as a music distribution hub—toward becoming a broader, radio-like media entity,” reports AdAge (free registration required).
One of the first podcasts from the Sundance Channel will be “The Al Franken Show,” which features the Air America talk show host.
The Unofficial Apple Weblog reports that Adam Curry, a former MTV VJ and key player in the development of podcasting, recently spoke with Apple CEO Steve Jobs, offering his thoughts on future iPod features.
“The highlight of the day was, without a doubt, about an hour and a half that we had with Steve Jobs, which was really fun,” Curry said on the May 23rd edition of his popular podcast, “The Daily Source Code.” “Just a private conversation, and that was great. Of course I can’t tell you everything that we talked about, but I will say that I was able to provide a lot of input. The number one great piece of input that I was able to feed back was, hey, I want to record on my iPod. And I can guarantee you that’s going to happen some time in the near future.”