PODcasting, academia and XM Radio

There’s a recent buzz around what’s being called PODcasting, wrapping web audio with whatever wrappers are necessary to make them convinient to link in a blog and download to your MP3 player of choice for later listening. (See Doc Searls’ explanation for a nice intro.)

It’s a nice meme, and having gotten a lot out of my own browsing through audio links I hope it catches on. I find it interesting and not that surprising that the PODcasting meme seems seems to mostly involve pointing to educational and intellectual audio rather than the music that drove the P2P music-sharing revolution. Music briefly had its day on the Web, but was rapidly driven off by commercial interests worried overtly about piracy and covertly about both piracy and competition. Education has both a different culture and economic structure, and while educators and lecturers like to make money somehow there’s a much deeper understanding that giving away our best ideas is often in our own best interests.

Unfortunately, even in the academic and public-radio world it looks like we’re in a meta-stable state, with many sites offering only streaming audio due to either legacy licensing issues or presumably to maintain some control on distribution. Once the technology to record off a stream becomes ubiquitous (as it surely will), will the remaining barriers to recording and rebroadcasting the audio be enough to placate people who want to distribute their content for free but not let it run wild?

Regardless, this whole thing just reconfirms my original skepticism at the long-term viability of XM Radio as a basic technology. Here we are in the age of personalized, on-demand, time-shifted and place-shifted content… and XM Radio is offering a capital-intensive satellite-based broadcast solution. Maybe I’m underestimating the value of live, up-to-the-minute news and information, and maybe I’m underestimating the long-term value of a big company that can afford to make deals with the RIAA, but I just don’t get it…