Feature on YakkYakk.com on cybersocket
Revolutionizing the Podcast
By Ramy Eletreby
When dealing with online fixes and finds in the digital age, one cannot escape the latest trend that has exploded all across the globe: podcasting. Not just a trend really, but a pivotal tool in the growth of time-shifted entertainment. A direct descendent of the blogging craze that has been dominating the Internet for the past few year’s, podcasting has become a worldwide form of audio and/or video blogging.
With the growing popularity of YouTube and personal blogs, we are in the midst of a radical change in how we choose to be entertained, who we choose to do the entertaining, and where we decide to enjoy the entertainment. Podcasting is the automatic download of digital audio and video broadcasts directly to your iPod using an RSS (Real Simple Syndication) feed. Much like your favorite radio show, podcasts are generally available free to the public through subscription while constantly being updated with new installments on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. Though podcasting entered the lexicon in early 2004 to describe this phenomenon, you do not need an iPod specifically to enjoy downloading these broadcasts, most MP3 player’s will do.
To those green to the world of podcasting, charting through the seemingly endless selection of free entertainment can be somewhat daunting. With only 24 hours in a day and thousands upon thousands of hours of podcasts available for immediate downloading at your fingertips, finding a good place to start is no small task. From sketch comedy to current affairs, from eclectic music to sex tips, depending on your mood or entertainment style of choice, the perfect podcast is out there just waiting to be fed to your digital library. One of the most extensive resources for podcasts can be found in the iTunes Music Store, offering free subscriptions to both audio and video podcasts, which run the gamut in terms of quality, content, and entertainment.
While iTunes is a great place to start, podcasting has become such a worldwide phenomenon that the large majority of podcasts available on the Internet are best obtained directly through podcasters’ official sites. In order to subscribe, download, and play back any podcast available, users must have the necessary RSS-reading (“podcatching”) software on their computer. Free podcatching software programs available for download include Transistr, Juice, CastPodder, and PodNova.
Once the podcatching software is installed, any podcast found online can be easily subscribed to and automatically downloaded as an MP3 file and played back on any portable MP3 player or computer.
One of the most striking and immediate effects of the podcasting era is the true immensity and variety of what type of entertainment it offers to the public. This newly-realized free accessibility to a full spectrum of music, art, comedy, thought, political satire, and social discourse has enlivened the world by enabling the tiniest voice to be easily heard. On one end, amateur, independent podcasters are refreshingly asserting an individual’s voice and raising the level of exposure of the general “everyman.” On the other end, mass-produced and highly esteemed leaders in public broadcasting are using the podcasts to continue their long-standing journalistic integrity and their ability to effect change. With such wide readily-available messages, the role radio plays in our daily lives has never been more critical. One such small, independent podcaster giving voice to everyday people is Yakkyakk (www.yakkyakk.com), a Santa Monica, Calif.-based grassroots audio/video production company with a staff of seven people. YakkYakk airs 30 original programs geared towards all aspects of entertainment and popular culture such as comedy, education, news, film reviews, hot topics, technology, celebrity interviews, and insider opinions. YakkYakk’s original programming includes gems such as “8 Plays a Week” hosted by David Beach, a weekly showcase of eight new songs by eight new independent bands in which listeners can go online and vote for their favorite. “The View From Planet Desmond,” hosted by political maverick Desmond Ortega, offers political and social commentary with a comedic twist. For creative individuals longing for a sense of community, “Creative Thursday,” hosted by artist Marisa Haedike, chronicles her creative journey through life hoping to inspire other artists and non-artists alike. Launched in February 2006, YakkYakk immediately saw a tremendous jump in its traffic ratings within its first few weeks. “The future is all about time-shifted entertainment and the short program. It’s finally giving people what they want, when they want it, where they want it,” says YakkYakk CEO and Founder Jay Goldstein. In addition to original programming, YakkYakk also features several other independent podcasts for download and subscription. “The first outside podcast we featured on our site is Rocketboom (rocketboom.com), a three-minute daily video blog from New York City, which we’ve really tried to emulate our company after,” says Goldstein. Several of YakkYakk’s programs can be found through the iTunes Music Store but for the full line of production, it’s best to go directly to www.yakkyakk.com. Last year, when National Public Radio (NPR) first made some of its most successful and acclaimed programs available via podcasting, the growing genre exploded and put public broadcasting of vital issues on the global stage. Almost overnight, the ability to obtain influential and authoritative information regarding the state of our country and the rest of the world had been simplified and made seamless through podcast subscriptions.
One such company that has taken advantage of the newly elevated playing field is KCRW, a Santa Monica, Calif.- based NPR station that has earned a strong reputation among L.A. listeners for their savvy and razor-sharp personalities, eclectic programming, and hard-hitting political discussions. KCRW offers 25 different podcasts updated on a regular basis. Over 100,000 podcasts a day are downloaded from KCRW’s homegrown content, which features programs dedicated to the arts, food, music, television/film, comedy, news, politics, business/finance, and sports. “Left, Right & Center” is the popular weekly half-hour program where esteemed political analysts discuss public policy and culture. “Morning Becomes Eclectic” is a nationally-recognized daily program celebrating innovation, creativity, and diversity in music by combining, pop, world beat, jazz, African, reggae, classical and new music. On the other side of the spectrum, there’s the satirical “Le Show,” which allows popular voiceover artist Harry Shearer (“The Simpsons”) a weekly opportunity to showcase his notorious wit on all things political and media. All KCRW content is available through the iTunes Music Store or through the KCRW website at kcrw.com/podcast.
Furthering the goal of reaching out towards every type of audience, a generous selection of podcasts geared towards specific communities is also available for subscription. Popular online 24-hour gay radio station, PrideNation Network features regular podcasts dealing with topical gay issues. Ragan Fox’s “Fox and City” was deemed “one of the funniest podcasts in the pod-osphere” by iTunes and showcases the queer performance poet and artist as he waxes philosophical about gay life and pop culture’s biggest gay pleasures. For the sexually-adventurous crowd, porn star and sex educator Violet Blue’s “Open Source Sex” offers one explicit, erotic, sex lesson after another.
Though the majority of podcasts are strictly audio, there’s a whole array of free video content available through podcasting that further enhances the increased accessibility the public has to producing and receiving images. One of the largest featured video podcasters out there right now is G4TV, the Video Gamers Network, which offers 20 free video podcasts a week, such as “X-Play,” which gives gamers tips, tricks, and previews as well as comprehensive daily reviews of the latest video games. MTV News features video podcasts of its “Daily Headlines” as well as episodes of “Making the Band” and “Real World/Road Rules Challenge” while VH1 offers podcasts of its “Best Week Ever” and “Celebreality.” British comedy writer/performer Ricky Gervais’ video podcast, “The Ricky Gervais Show,” became such a hot download when it first premiered that it is one the few podcasts in the medium not available free to users. Instead, users must purchase each podcast of “The Ricky Gervais Show” for $1.95.
What we want, where we want it, when we want it, and how we want it. Those days of sitting back and waiting for our favorite programs to go on air every night at 8 p.m. are becoming legends of the past. The entertainment world around us is changing and the masses are running to keep up.
Ramy Eletreby is a freelance writer for Cybersocket.