Podcasting goes from amateur hour to KCRW

Adam Parth

Podcasting,” a form of recorded media distribution via the Internet to MP3 players, is slowly making its way into mainstream use.

Podcasting, a practice that started about a year ago, was originally a way for “average people” to record and distribute their thoughts to the public using what was then amateurs-only technology.

However, radio stations and some newspapers are beginning to use podcasts as a way to increase their audiences’ size and scope.

“(We) saw this as a really cool service to offer our listeners,” said Jason Georges, Webmaster for KCRW, a public radio station in Santa Monica that is the flagship station for National Public Radio on the West Coast.

KCRW started to produce podcasts for listeners in March 2005, and the number of podcast downloads has risen from 18,000 downloads in its first week to 85,000 downloads each week this month, according to Georges.

The station offers about 25 of its shows for download, including “Which Way, LA?” “To The Point,” and “Left, Right and Center.” KCRW also provides free MP3 files of programs from WNYC, its New York-based sister station.

Podcasts are limited to voice broadcasts due to the various copyright laws associated with music broadcasts.

Since podcasting, for the most part, is a free service and downloads can be shared, it is difficult to control the copying and transmission of music files.

Radio personality Rush Limbaugh has recently joined the ranks of podcasting, offering free downloads to members of “Rush 24/7,” a service operated through his website that gives members access to various features.

Membership for “Rush 24/7” costs about $7 per month or $50 for a year, according to the official website. In order to comply with copyright laws, Limbaugh has removed all music from his podcasts.

KCSN, CSUN’s radio station, does not offer podcasts of its programming.

“(We’re) open to anything that makes us more accessible to the community,” said Martin Perlich, KCSN’s program director.

Perlich said KCSN does not have the money to make the jump to podcasting, which would require changes to its website.

With podcasting being a mostly free service, providers are still trying to find a way to turn the low-cost service into a profit producing online component.

Georges said KCRW uses its podcasts to expand station exposure and reach.

KCRW, as a public radio station, does not use the same advertising as a traditional radio station, and often relies on fund-raising initiatives and corporate underwriting to operate.

However, some podcasts do contain advertising.

Podcast users must subscribe to software called an aggregator that periodically searches for and downloads new podcast files. Once a podcast is downloaded to a computer, the user can upload the recording to any MP3 device, not just Apple’s popular iPod device.