Guardian Rubbishes Podcasting, Badly

A columnist has decided to trash the medium that the paper has done so much to popularise.

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

The Guardian has occasional moments of confusion. Despite being one of the leading big media proponents of podcasting in the UK, it’s just published a piece mocking the whole idea. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. Newspapers should have room for different ideas and positions within the covers. It’s just that, well, it’s so predictable. You could have picked out some of the ‘jokes’ in advance. For example:

The term podcast – coined and first used, according to most sources, by the writer Ben Hammersley in this very newspaper in February 2004 – distinguishes a certain sort of internet-borne audio (or, increasingly, video) content from all the other sorts, and specifically denotes an MP3 file that can be downloaded to one’s computer automatically via RSS subscription technology and thence transferred to one’s personal MP3 device for later listening. In short, it’s like a radio programme that you listen to on your iPod. A podcast is not to be confused with a webcast, which uses real-time streaming to allow you to listen at your leisure, but not on the hoof, as it were. (You are free to regard this distinction as largely semantic or, if you prefer, wholly incomprehensible.)

The emphasis is mine. So, Mr Dowling, are you suggesting that the readers are free to regard your journalism as inferior, because you can’t comprehensibly explain the the theory and technology behind it? Surely the distinction between something you have to sit and listen to at your computer or something you can listen to anywhere you take your iPod isn’t that hard to express or understand?

Other podcasts make use of “podsafe” music, that is, music wholly owned and controlled by the artist, who has uploaded it on to something like the Podsafe Musical Network in order to make it available, for free, to registered podcasters. (“Podsafe”, therefore, is well on its way to becoming a synonym for “homemade and/or of necessarily limited appeal”.)

That’s Podsafe Music Network, and do you really believe that “not picked up by the mainstream music industry” really equals “rubbish”?

Though the technology probably exists, my iPod has no means of fast-forwarding through a boring rant or a dreadful podsafe tune

And that’s a pretty clear example of what IT support types call “user error”. Mine can do that Mr Dowling. All iPods can do that.

There’s a funny article to be written about this stuff, but it’ll rise above “isn’t technology so geeky?” and “all amateur material is laughable”.

So nyah, nyah, nyah.

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.