EDEN ESTOPACE:  ENTER  THE  WORLD  OF  'PODCASTS'

MANILA, December 7, 2005
 (STAR) By Eden Estopace - Cyberspace has a wide enough room for wannabes. Not so long ago, a generation of diarists, pen pushers and self-styled publishers made a debut on the World Wide Web and the world took to them and their writing enthusiastically. Bloggers, you call them in Web lingo, and they gave us all a peep into their private thoughts and private lives and we liked what we read.

In a sense, we are all voyeurs on the Web, pounding away the PC keyboards even in ungodly hours to discover a bit of ourselves and humanity in ordinary people’s blogs.

Another wave is sweeping through the Internet nowadays. Amateur broadcasters are staking a claim to the airwaves in much the same way that bloggers earlier had claimed a share of the online publishing space.

Podcasting, or the process of transmitting an audio or video program over the Internet for people to download to their PCs or Macs and onto their iPods, is creating a small storm in the techie community.

This inexpensive, do-it-your way type of broadcasting is thriving on the Internet’s main allure – it’s free and it’s for everybody. If there is practically no cost, and there are no rules, restrictions, licenses, frequencies, towers, or time constraints to worry about, who can prevent aspiring DJs and VJs from turning the Web into their own stage?

But the real video and radio stars are not deterred. When even the president of the most powerful nation has a podcast to reach a broader and more intimate audience for his campaign speeches and political views, it can be said that the medium is made.

On the podcast planet

What is it like then to view or listen to a podcast? It’s the same way as listening to radio or watching TV but in your own gadget and in your own time.

A podcast is often delivered to your PC or Macintosh via RSS feed, which you can later download to your iPod or any MP3 player or handheld. For you to receive files automatically, you need to subscribe to a feed from podcasts you have chosen in a directory. Or you can merely do some Web cruising and stumble onto podcasts that appeal to your sense of music or sense of humor and other personal taste.

Newbies on the podcasting planet can turn to Podcast Alley, CastWiki, Digital Podcast, Podcast 411, and Vodstock, among other podcast directories, to listen to sample podcasts.

Last June, Apple added the podcasting feature to iTunes as a built-in support, making it easy for users to find, subscribe to, manage and listen to podcasts. It also allows users to search through thousands of podcasts in the directory.

When your desktop or notebook PC or Mac is finally receiving podcast feeds, you have a choice of whether to access these programs on the computer or in your choice handheld device.

This is the fundamental difference of regular broadcasting from podcasting. Analysts have said that podcasting is more akin to video-on-demand. You are not confined to a specific time, a specific place or a specific machine to view or listen to your favorite programs.

The tech market is actually squeamish about the use of the word "podcasting." Others prefer to call it video or audio blogs, saying that the word podcasting gives undue credit to Apple Computer’s iPod when, in fact, the technology has been in use even prior to Apple’s move to make it mainstream six months ago.

Though the beginning of podcasting can be traced only to about a year or two ago, it isn’t the iPod alone that can download and play podcasts. Any MP3 player or portable media can be a podcast device. Small media players that can handle video, music, photos, games and other data are actually making a show in the tech market lately, although you have to credit the world’s most popular MP3 player – the iPod – for popularizing the podcast phenomenon, mainly because of the ease with which you can download, transfer and manage media content in it.

Two days after the launch of iTunes 4.9 last June, the Macintosh maker announced in a press statement that its customers had subscribed to more than one million podcasts from the new iTunes Podcast Directory.

And on this podcast planet, you, too, can be a podcast star. Podcasting how-tos are a dime a dozen on the Web that even non-techies can follow. But the debate among Internet theorists on the democratizing effect of personal or personalized media rages on. The premise is simple: unless you have something important to say, show or distribute, why contribute to the trash that continues to flood the Internet.

In the early days of the Web, there was a vigorous uptake of technology for personal publishing. But where are they now? Only the best of the best survived. It was only a matter of time before the personal websites faded into oblivion.

What the market is saying is that technology for technology’s sake is a dead-end street. Even an industry with low barriers to entry, the standard rules of the corporate game applies – quality, excellence and the ethics are values that will make any endeavor last.

Pinoy podcasts

You may be surprised to find out that among the pioneer Filipino podcasts now available on the Web are not from some DJ or VJ wannabes who can’t make it through mainstream media but those who are already institutions in themselves.

Take the podcast of the highly respected Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) on the newly launched Philippine Podcast channel.

With numerous awards, book titles, well-respected names in the media circle, and syndicated content that make a difference in Filipino reportage, the PCIJ needs no introduction. The PCIJ podcast is no vanity on its sleeve but an effort to expand its reach and bring its reports to the next level in the virtual domain.

Instead of "reading" well-researched and well-written investigative reports, one can now "listen" to PCIJ reports in your own time and in your chosen device.

The first episode of the PCIJ podcast has broadcaster David Celdran discussing the "Paradox of Freedom," and explaining what has happened to the People Power phenomenon in the Philippines. In another episode, PCIJ’s Yvonne Chua is deconstructing the "Hello Garci" controversy, while another episode features the launch of the "Hello Garci" jokebook.

The podcasts are opened and ended with a kind of station ID: "This is the PCIJ channel, podcasting from the Philippines."

In a way, it is an acknowledgement that Pinoy "readers" have evolved into "active audiences" attuned to tech trends and in synch with the mobile lifestyle.

Those who are into light stuff may find the podcast of pop and stage expert Direk Freddie Santos downright hilarious as he answers questions on becoming a star in this star-struck nation.

In the first episode of his "Dial Direc" podcast, someone in the audience asks the veteran director if he can be a star by virtue of his good looks, to which Freddie retorts: "Because a mirror has not cracked whenever you look at it does not mean that you are good-looking. It just means that we make better mirrors."

If sarcasm, humor and wit are your cup of tea, then subscribe to this feed and you’ll have a nice time laughing.

For easy listening delight, you may want to listen to Redbox Requests and update yourself on the top hits that Filipino karaoke lovers have been belting out on gimmick nights at Redbox. You may be surprised to know that at the top of the charts is not My Way but Gino Padilla’s Closer You and I, which is actually taken from a toothpaste commercial in the 80s. This, side by side with the very recent hit Huwag na Huwag Mong Sasabihin by Kitchie Nadal.

These podcasts are part of the Philippine podcasting channel launched recently by Microwarehouse, a distributor of networking and mobile and digital devices, iPods included, in the Philippines.

Last week, the company launched more than 26 Pinoy podcasts that cater to various interests and quirks of Pinoy audiences.

One podcast on pop culture features "Gay Speak" by Danton Remoto, editor of Ladlad, giving excerpts of Filipino gay lingo and its evolution. Another podcast features writer Jessica Zafra, columnist, TV talkshow host and author of seven books, dishing out her trademark humor on the airwaves. Another podcast called "Heights," named after the literary publication of the Ateneo de Manila University, has young Atenean poets Edgar Calabia Samar, Naya Valdellon and Arkaye Keiruff reading their poems.

Games, beauty, fashion, parenting, youth issues, and men and women’s concerns have all found their way into the podcasting planet.

"This is the first time that a collective effort is done to create podcasting content the Philippines can be proud of," says Cynthia Veloria, president of Microwarehouse.

These podcasts, she says, aim to showcase local content and promote Filipino talent across the world, especially to the OFW market.

The Filipino online community has come a long way since the introduction of the Internet in the mid-90s. Pinoy blogs, e-zines, news sites and chatrooms have sprouted all over the Web, making a difference in the lives of virtual Filipinos, especially those residing overseas.

But podcasts are not that many yet. Prior to the launch of the Pinoy channel, it is said that the Philippines has only 13 podcasts, with minimal information about the country.

Hopefully, this is a start of another journey of discovery on the Web by Filipino talents.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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