Extended holiday weekend … a chance to catch up on a variety of things. Given the options of:
- Watching regular television
- Watching movies on cable
- Watching DVDs
- Watching Video-on-Demand (VOD)
- Watching/Listening to Vidcasts (videoblogs) or podcasts
I find myself increasingly moving in the direction of #’s 3, 4, and 5 (with 5 becoming the fast favorite). Frankly, regular TV blows (duh), and has for some time. Lame concepts, rehashed plots, and commercials … those flippin’ commercials that you see every 5 minutes (if you’re fortunate, you won’t see the same commercial every single break … if your fortunate). Same companies pushing the same crap over and over and over again. I know, I know, I wrote about this before. I can’t help myself … I find the entertainment industry unbelievably frustrating these days.
Sadly, cable channels are beginning to follow in their footsteps at a more and more irritating rate. I used to really enjoy watching the SciFi Channel (which is sad, because now that they’re doing their own B-rated movies, I’d enjoy a mindless film from time to time … but …), the Food Network (it’s my personal chef side), Biography, The History Channel, and others … until they took the concept of commercials and cross-bred it with cross-promotion. Now, you have the same number of repeated interruptions to whatever you’re attempting to watch. But, rather than pepper you with spots for floor wax, spot remover, or the latest and greatest in SUV technology … they run ads for other shows on their own networks, and they do it with even more idiotic frequency than the major networks run “traditional” spots.
Even public television is beginning to go overboard. Granted, you don’t get commercial interruptions during the program (unless you’re watching during a pledge drive … and there seem to be more and more of those happening nowadays, too), just between shows, where you see one “underwriter” mentioned after another. And the “mentions” now take the form of 15- to 30-second commercial spots (but they’re not “commercials” … because public television doesn’t do “commercials” … you say toe-MAY-toe, I say toe-MAH-toe, doesn’t matter what you call it, it’s the same damn thing).
The folks from the premium networks (HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, etc.) must watch their fair share of public television, because you now see the same over repetition of “ads” promoting other shows on the same networks. And now that there isn’t just a single HBO, Showtime, or whatever channel there are entire networks of them (HBO Family, HBO Latin, Encore, Showtime Family, etc.) they can cross-promote shows from one channel to the next, providing an even broader selection of spots to assault us with.
Pay Per View (PPV) and Video On Demand (VOD) can aleviate commercial overload, assuming that you either:
- are willing to put up with the fees the cable companies charge to rent a player that’s compatible with their networks, or
- subscribe to a service like TiVo, and are willing to accept their restrictions on content utilization (including, but not limited to, their systems ability to delete content from your system after a period of time, whether you wish that content deleted or not), or
- are technically savvy enough (and equipped with some disposable income) to construct your own personal video recorder (PVR), which is becoming easier with the evolution of systems like MythTV, but still doesn’t necessarily integrate into a home theater system in a straightforward way.
And heaven forfend if you should opt out of television and want to listen to music. You can:
- use iTunes from Apple, locking yourself into their software’s “interesting” (transaltion: designed by people who apparently never bothered to ask the user community how they do things) method of managing music. The price ($0.99/song) is right (though the record labels want to change that), and it works for many … but …, or
- subscribe to audible.com, locking yourself into their proprietary format, or
- use software like WinAmp and rip your own music (again with the technically savvy)
Depending on the path you choose, you may find yourself limited, hobbled, frustrated, or harrassed by the RIAA (which seems to have carte blanche to act as a private collections agency/enforcement unit with almost complete impunity).
In a word … make that two words … no thanks.
I love what’s happening in the podcasting and videoblogging world right now. New content … fresh content … niche content … things you’d never see through other commercial channels (because they wouldn’t be able to figure out how to monetize it sufficiently) … and, most important, content created by regular people for regular people. Plus, because it’s “time shifted”, you can listen watch what you want when you want to. Save shows for later and listen/watch them again. Got an idea for a show of your own? Grab an iRiver (or similar player w/ a microphone) and dive right in.
It’s giving the regular media channels a headache they so richly deserve. They can’t control it … the can’t monopolize it (in spite of Apples iTunes 4.9 launch which, initially, pushed “indie” podcasters out of the limelight as the networks rolled shows out … until people realized that the network’s “shows” were just the same crap they’ve been slinging in a new package with a pretty pink bow) … they can’t even figure out how to monetize it (making some of them question the viability of the medium: “If I can’t figure out how to make money with it, it’ll never be popular enough to worry about.” Wrong).
But enough of the rant. Check it out, it’s worth exploring. To start “casting your own web”, check out some of the following places:
- IndiePodder.org — Adam Curry manages the top-level of this growing OPML-based directory (meaning the individual categories are managed by people from around the world) of podcasts.
- PodSafe Music Network — Loaded with music that is safe (i.e. free of RIAA interference) to listen to (and use in your own podcasts)
- PodNova — An online podcast aggregation service (simple and easy to use). Access your feeds from anywhere.
- MeFeedia — An online video cast aggregation service. Relatively new, easy to use.
- Juice — Open source “podcatching” client for Windows, Mac, and Linux (soon). Can be tied to your PodNova account to automatically keep up your current list of feeds, downloading new casts as they become available (so you can plug them right into your player without having to go hunting for them).
- FireANT — Video feed catcher/watcher
If you’re interested in getting started with your own podcast, one of the best sources I can mention is Podcast411. Rob’s done a remarkable job creating a library of tutorials that can get you off and running.
Me? Yeah, I’m working on a couple shows (completely different genres). When they’re ready for prime time … you’ll be the first one to know.