[Surf's Up, as published in The Telegram on Friday, Dec. 16, 2005, and posted here very late indeed.]
The editors of the New American Oxford Dictionary recently announced their choice for word of the year: podcasting.
Podcasting wasn't actually introduced to the language in 2005, but there's no question it was used a whole lot more in the last 12 months than in the year (or years) before that.
The basic point of podcasting isn't that new, either; audio files have been transferred over the Internet for years now.
What is (relatively) new is the ease with which podcasting now works … and the ease with which you can get interesting material straight to your ears.
Podcasting - a playful amalgam of "broadcasting" and iPod - works best when you can subscribe to a particular series, and then have the subscription do all the hard work from thereon in.
So, instead of having to remember the web address of a cool radio show, for instance, and then remembering when it's updated, and then clicking on a link to trigger a download, and then waiting for a download to run its course, and then getting the sound file (usually an MP3) on a player, a subscription does it all for you.
When you plug in your audio player, iPod or otherwise, your subscriptions are automatically updated for you.
And what a difference it makes to actually have a player.
I've been subscribing to some podcasts for months, but only got around to popping the cash for a player recently.
After several audio-packed weeks, I can say this: it's much easier to listen to podcasts when you're out on foot than when you're sitting at your computer.
I listen to British, American, Canadian, German and local material while walking to the store, doing chores, getting some exercise, even putting out the garbage.
We're still at the early days of all this. In a year, I expect the range and quality of podcasts to be greatly superior to what's there now.
Following are some of the podcasts I've subscribed to. Feel free to drop me a line about what you like to listen to.
Actually, this is not a particular podcast, but a place to find them by the truckload. You'll find shows from experienced professionals, and you'll also find the most unusual kinds of audio out there. Poke around, and you'll understand why many people feel podcasting is bringing new energy into what we used to think of as radio.
Republic of Avalon Radio
Jim Fidler is world-renowned for his music; he's also developing an international following for his regularly updated podcast, which comes to listeners straight from the streets of St. John's (not to mention his kitchen table, too). The tone is loose and friendly, and I think thousands of subscribers have responded to that. If I could recommend anything, it would be to edit the introductions and chatter.
Quirks, Quarks, more
Quirks & Quarks became the first CBC Radio program to move into podcasting; there are currently three options available during a current trial. More CBC programming may be available in the future. If you would like to see more, take the survey available on the link above. Also available is a mostly-music package of alternative and independent tunes from CBC Radio 3, and highlights from the Toronto regional morning show.
National Public Radio
NPR offers a number of podcast options from this directory -- scores of them, actually. You'll find everything from political reporting to book reviews, essays on religion to tech reviews to interviews with musicians, famous and otherwise.
Ricky Gervais is rightly regarded as a genius for creating The Office; he continues to make great comedy, and for a limited time is making a free podcast with cohorts Steve Merchant and Karl Pilkington. Be advised: the language gets a bit salty. That said, I laughed out loud on a walk down Water Street, as Pilkington laid out his theories on dinosaurs and pets.
The Telegram's website stepped into the podcasting world last week with an interview with singer Rex Goudie. I naturally signed up for the interview; the audio quality is a bit tough, because it's a phone interview, but I imagine that Goudie fans could care less. I'm looking forward to what else the Tely folks are willing to send out.
Ebert and Roeper
Each weekend, I have my recorder set to catch the weekly TV show featuring Roger Ebert and his sparring partner, Richard Roeper. I have to confess I haven't been bothering much to watch it, though, because I'm finding the audio version of the show - available as a podcast here - suits me about as well. Naturally, I don't get to see the film clips, but I don't think I'm missing much. Besides, catching the show while doing a morning coffee run makes me feel like I'm still in the movie loop.
If you know The Simpsons well, surely you can imagine the voice of Bart and Lisa's principal, Seymour Skinner. The man behind that voice (and numerous others) is actor Harry Shearer, who has been doing a Sunday morning radio show in L.A. called, well, Le Show, for many years. You can subscribe to the feed here (or listen to archived shows online).
John Gushue is a news writer for CBC.ca in St. John's. E-mail: surf at thetelegram.com.