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by Jay Fienberg

Podcast-talk, theme songs, and microcontent

posted: Dec 26, 2004 8:54:23 PM

On my Wrong Notes music blog, I just posted some suggestions for podcast talk shows from my point of view as a musician. But, I have a few more techie comments on podcasts that I wanted to post here as well.

Listening to a bunch of podcasts with folks basically doing audio blog posts, I'm getting the feeling that the microcontent advantage of textual blog posts is getting lost in the translation to audio. As an indicator: notice bloggers who are well-known for succinct, one-point, blog posts but who have single podcasts that cover a lot of different points.

Audio is different than text, and there are good reasons why podcast-talk audio is "longer" than blog post text. And, it totally can be a positive thing to listen to that longer audio than reading a shorter text.

But, the longer audio is more or less reflective of the structures of story telling or oration, which naturally can be thought of as having segments or chapters. (In my musical suggestions, I mention ways music can be used to serve the progression of these segments.)

What I think would be helpful, and even natural in the context of blogging, is for podcasts to be delineated into segments, and for each of the segments to have their own URL. A clean way to do this would be to place each segment into a separate mp3 file, and join them in a sequence with an m3u playlist.

A podcast produced as segments, released as separate mp3 files, and joined by a playlist, would continue the microcontent tradition of blog posts. When listening, folks could more or less "skim" to the parts that are of most interest. And, those parts could be linked to directly.

With streaming audio, there is some disadvantage to using multiple segments as the transition from one segment to another introduces an awkward pause / silence while the upcoming segment downloads and buffers. But, with the podcast client downloading the media files in advanced and playing them locally, this should not be an issue at all.

You may recall that I'm using m3u playlists in my music-podcasting on Wrong Notes, and I curious to see if m3u support becomes a feature of podcast clients. This is coincidental to my point, but it's a nice tie-in and segue to my next paragraph.

Dave Winer recently posted his thoughts on Multiple enclosures on RSS items?, and I offered some comments on the use of m3u (and XSPF) playlists in enclosures as a way to maintain a single enclosure element in RSS while linking to multiple media files. Again, I'm curious to see if there is real interest in making playlist enclosures a commonly supported feature of podcasting—and now this microcontent issue seems like another good reason to encourage this interest.

Finally, as I mention in my Wrong Notes post, I'm considering creating music specifically for podcasting. If you'd be interested in having your podcast theme music composed and performed by the Ear Reverends, let me know—we might come up with something for you!

Hope everyone is having a happy holidays, and has a happy new year!

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