--if you don't know what this word means, read my colleague's Sound Check column
(tutorial included) to get up to speed. This growing podcasting phenomenon gives anyone with a computer, a microphone, and an Internet connection his or her own radio show. Think of podcasts as blogs but with audio instead of text.
If you've already tuned in to podcasts, you already know it can be hard to find good ones, especially if you're looking for shows that deal with a specific topic or area of music. Even podcasting originator Adam Curry's show can get a little dull, occasionally veering into such murky areas as his girlfriend's progress with the dishwashing (yawn).
A new way to search for podcasts
In the short history of podcasting, the most popular way to find shows has been to browse through a directory, such as the ones available on iPodder, PodcastAlley, Podcast.net, or any of the other podcasting portals that have sprung up--seemingly in an instant--as entrepreneurs have struggled to make podcasting pay.
These podcasting portals are helpful, but they resemble the early mode of Internet searching, back when people still browsed Yahoo subcategories that were maintained by humans, rather than searching Google. If podcasting's growth is as explosive as most experts think it will become, these portals won't be able to keep up with the available content any better than Yahoo's directories were able to with the Internet.
Bob and AJ mentioned baseball three times in this podcast. Podscope lets me play each mention, hear or download the entire show, and/or subscribe to future shows--all from one simple interface.
Enter Podscope: the first search engine built specifically for podcasts. It's currently in beta since the official release will be next week. It was developed by a company called TVEyes, which specializes in audio and video files that are text-searchable (ironically, the company recently licensed its technology to Yahoo for video searching).
How does it work? According to TVEyes CEO David Ives, the core of the system involves a spider that plays each of the podcasts the company tracks (1,000 and growing), then runs a speech-to-text algorithm on it. When you search Podscope, you're searching that database of transcribed text. If you find something you like, you can play the entire show, subscribe, or hear only the snippet that includes the word or phrase you entered.
The system is scalable since it relies on automated transcription. Ives also told us that the current success rate for transcription is roughly 75 to 80 percent, which is by no means perfect but is accurate enough to let you find several needles in the growing haystack of the podcastosphere or whatever silly thing we're going to end up calling the podcasting community.
What do you think about the future of podcasting?
What can you expect from this community? Right now, it's a mix of music and talk shows, as well as hybrids that play a song, then comment on it. Ives said, "What's happening is, people are clearly buying and giving iPods initially for music. But it has now become so easy to download nonmusic types of audio that [the talk format] seems to be exploding." And it's not just Adam Curry. The BBC, NPR, Clear Channel stations, and several other commercial radio stations are making their content available as podcasts. Right now, Podscope is the best way to search them all.
This is all well and good for people who are looking for podcasts, but what about those brave souls out there who want to podcast their own thoughts and music to the world?
Podcasting made easy
I recently tried out a brand-new product from the company that makes the MixMeister DJ software. It's called Propaganda, and if you're interested in staging your own podcast but are fazed by the technical issues involved with doing so, it's exactly what you've been waiting for.
Propaganda capitalizes on MixMeister's strengths by letting you queue up a bunch of songs or other audio files, then letting you add your own commentary and perhaps a few sound effects. Enter the details of your podcast (your Web page, its audio directory, the title of your show, and more) into Propaganda once, and you're set from there on. After you record a show, all you do is click the Publish button, and you're done. If you're making a music podcast, you can even have the songs beat-matched and cross-faded automatically so that they flow together as if they were mixed by a pro DJ on two turntables.
Select your songs, line them up, and add transitions and voice-overs. Or you can just hit record and start talking. When you're done, click Publish to upload your show. That's it.
Podcast to yourself
Propaganda's primary purpose is to allow for the creation and publication of podcasts, but you can also use it to automatically create a mix of tunes to listen to on your own MP3 player. I've been clamoring for an easy way to add cross-fades and beat-matching to portable playback for a while. For now, Propaganda and its sister software, MixMeister Express, offer the best answer. Both are free to try for 30 days and $50 for purchase.
If you're looking for hours of fame (forget about Warhol's lousy 15 minutes!), this is money well spent.
Eliot Van Buskirk is technology editor for MP3.com