Don’t Call It A Podcast

I’m so sad that I can’t make it to Podcast Expo this weekend due to schedule conflicts, but if I were there here’s something I’d want to talk about with my fellow podcasters.
In my keynote last year I warned that the name “podcast” was a problem. Not only is the word “pod” closely associated with Apple’s iPod in the minds of listeners, but I also felt, somehow, that the name itself is slightly demeaning. Now, a year later, I think I’ve pinpointed what made me so uneasy about the word “podcast.” It’s become clear to me that there is no such thing as podcasting!

Technically, a podcast is audio or video enclosed in an RSS feed. It’s the RSS feed that magically turns audio or video into a podcast, but why do we focus on the RSS? You don’t distinguish a blog from its RSS feed. There’s no “blogcast.” You talk about radio shows and TV shows, but no one who does a radio show says they do a “radio.”

Podcasts don’t exist separately from their content.

I create shows that are distributed on the Internet via download, Flash, and, oh yeah, RSS, but it’s the show that’s the thing. By focusing on the RSS we’ve confused people and limited our audience. Even the word I suggested last year, “netcast,” doesn’t serve. It’s a show, period. It doesn’t matter how it’s distributed. It’s all just content. Tying the content to its method of distribution is confusing our audience and holding us back.

Words are powerful. Using the right words about what you do is important. It helps you understand what you’re up to and it helps the audience understand what you offer. The word podcasting worked for us in the beginning, but it doesn’t work any more.

I am not a podcaster. I’m a journalist, a pundit, an entertainer. I create audio and video shows and distribute them over the Internet. Maybe that’s YouTube, maybe it’s my own web site, maybe it’s via an RSS feed. The medium isn’t the message – the message is the message. It’s not a podcast, it’s a show, and I plan to call my shows by the right name from now on.

Fellow podcasters, and podcast listeners, what do you think?

Have fun at PME this weekend. I’m with you in spirit!

(On a side note, I’m writing this in the Vancouver airport. It’s not a good idea to blog while eating a Cinnabon®. I need a Handiwipe!)

73 Replies to “Don’t Call It A Podcast”

  1. Amen Leo! But, what do you call them? What about TV shows? They’ll have to start renaming them to something else…Maybe just programs? I don’t know. iTunes sells TV shows, even though you may not watch them on your TV. Based on your numbers, are most of your downloads via RSS downloaders of some type? I don’t know, but you definitely raise an interesting question Leo.

  2. I have always struggled with the word podcast but then, even after 21 years at the BBC, I still struggled with the word broadcaster.
    What excites me about where we are heading is that people with good stories and the ability to tell them well are surfacing all over the web and giving the “real” broadcasters a run for their money. There are still good guys in there but they are buried under crap that has built up over years.
    Whatever you call what you do Leo DON”T STOP!!

  3. I have to agree; the term podcast is irrelevant to what you are other online producers create. What you guys do is far superior to anything done on the large TV and Radio networks.
    You create online media that should be called as they are, great content.
    Can we now get rid of that saying at the beginning of your shows about netcasts; it drives me crazy! haha

  4. When I saw the title, I thought: “Oh, he’s at it again with the ‘netcasting’…,” but I was pleasantly surprised by this excellent post, Leo.
    Definitely linking to this. Great stuff, and you may have started to slightly, sort of, almost convince me that Podcast isn’t a good word. Kind of.

  5. Right, though after reading Your post I feel like saying – the name is not the message either, Leo, don’t be too obsessive about it. 🙂
    Aren’t there quite many examples of things that seem to have odd names, once You start thinking about it, and yet we use them because that is what we called them in the beginning and the name kinda stuck and now everyone knows what is meant even though it might not be the most descriptive one.
    Maybe the name podcast will subside as ‘shows’ on the internet and the good old TV/radio will merge even more and/or become otherwise indistinguishable, but until that time please let us not agree on a new one each year. Podcast(ing) is just fine for now, I think – it’s easy to remember and (as long as it’s still necessary) sets it apart from traditional offerings. Because for now, there still IS a difference, You see?
    Podcaster: “I produce shows.”
    Average Joe: “Really? What network?”
    Podcaster: “Ah, no, on the internet.”
    Average Joe: “Oh, I see…”
    I’m pretty sure that when there is no more differentiation to be made, the name podcast will fly off into obsolescence and take its rightful place somewhere on Wikipedia.a

  6. […] Laporte explains why we shouldn’t call it “podcasting.” Incredibly insightful post about a subject that I’d once dismissed as trivial. I’m […]

  7. Check my emails, my post on Jaiku, my blogs, my post in Pownce. I still call it netcasting. I know this doesn’t address the issue of no one taking this media seriously, but it sounds better than “narrow casting”. Feedcast? RSS Shows? The RSS? IRS (for internet relay shows… no strike that. I dunno.

  8. I think the word Podcast will wind up being the catch word of “internet hobby broadcasters ” who put out their shows, only wishing to express whatever subject they are passionate about with no intent to “monetise or being discovered”

  9. Completely agree! Many many “podcasts”, video and audio, are better in quality, content, production, and entertainment value than their traditional media counterparts. I have moved almost exclusively from traditional media to net-based media and I’ve found it to be a HUGE improvement. If we could only get sports onboard somehow, I’d be set…

  10. Is it possible to receive a virus through a Podcast? I think I got one today–I was listening to this Tuesday Night Tech podcast and all of a sudden my iPhone restarted itself and now all my 3rd-party apps are GONE from the phone. It also doesn’t work with t-Mobile anymore for some reason. Damn podcast viruses.

  11. I confess, I thought I had to have an iPod to get podcasts before I got one. The name is definetly limiting potential audience for anyone doing it.

  12. It’s ‘podcast’ and it will probably always be ‘podcast’.Renaming it would be like trying to get everyone in the US to call Q-Tips, “cotton swabs.” You’ve decided to call them netcasts in hopes to separate the content from incorrect belief that you needed an iPod in order to listen; that obviously never caught on. Podcast just stuck, just like ‘google’ is now used to mean ‘search.’

  13. Leo, I agree. But I think it is too late. I believe we can only slowly change the definition of podcast to include all media at this point until broadcast television networks are calling their one hour dramas during primetime and the evening news podcasts. And Major motion picture releases are called podcasts.
    “Hey did you see the new James Bond podcast? Great special effects, huh? Katie Couric talked about it on the CBS evening podcast. My girlfriend left me a podcast about it on my voice mail.”

  14. I agree with the sentiment Leo, but unfortunately “netcast” sounds plain and uninteresting – and means something entirely different if you live in a coastal region. Due to the association with the iPod, Podcast tells me that I’m dealing with audio or video and has a zippy ring to it, at least in my mind. For better or worse, the term podcast is so ingrained in ‘net lingo that I’m afraid it’s not likely to go away anytime soon.
    I’m in the process of starting up a {net,pod}cast of my own, and haven’t been able to decide which term to use. I’ll likely go with podcast because in my experience it’s a very recognizable term (used to work at an Apple reseller and most of the “switchers” that came in had heard of podcasts, but usually stared blankly at me if I referred to netcasts – go figure).

  15. Hrm. What else could they be called? Webcasts reminds me of “webinars” (another term I despise!) … prodcast? Filmed in Net-o-vision? 😉

  16. I agree with Leo. The word “podcast ” can be very confusing to the masses out there who aren’t very tech savvy. The word itself suggests that you need an ipod to listen. Which is exactly what I believed till about 6 months ago, and I should have known better. It’d be much less confusing if they were called exactly what they are… “internet talk shows” or “internet video shows” I know that isn’t very catchy but the casual net user would be much more likely to at least check it out.

  17. You’ve just nailed it Leo -plain and simple. Everyone from my 4 y/o to my grandfather-in-law in southern Greece surf the net, but when I mention podcast, even highly trained scientists that I work with go: “huh?”. Then I have to explain RSS etc… I can’t take it anymore, it’s a pain and also the barrier you mention.
    It will always be about the content. People will seek out good content. And as the big network content producers flood the net, it is up to networks like TWiT.TV and Revision3 to keep up the quality, and see it as a challenge to produce the best shows. I’ll try to do my part!

  18. I was having a similiar discussion with a fellow podcaster a few weeks ago during recording of our PhotoGeek podcast. He wanted to do a show about audio techniques using video “how to’s”. Since we were doing an audio podcast about photography I suggested a podcast about video that with just do with photographs.Then came the idea that we just write text and call it a “TYPECAST”.
    So web pages should all now be called Typecasts…
    Keep up the good work Leo.

  19. I’ve always had a hard time explaining what a podcast is to people who are unaware.I end up saying something like “’s a radio or TV show you get on the computer”.
    It’s a Show!

  20. Leo,I wholeheartedly agree with you on this. I co-host a podcast with a few friends of mine and using the word “podcast” to describe it have confused people which are less literate than us.
    I really liked your idea of calling it a netcast, but as you’ve pointed it out, we shouldn’t confuse the distribution method with the content.
    I hope that more podcasters take note of this reality and do something to change this. Putting less emphasis on the word “podcast” might be a good start.
    Keep up the great work,
    You’re a genius!

  21. I attended PodCamp SoCal today, and they kept referring to podcast as the P-word. I almost never use that term as it always generates the lassie head-tilt to whoever I say it to.
    I don’t podcast either. I make a show!

  22. Leo,
    I think you have a good point in that outside the “tech”community, the term is not well understood. This leads to a very large general audience not wanting to tune in because they think podcasts are just too “techie”. Both in terms of topic and in terms of how to “receive” them. Of course, TV shows are named for the device that they are watched on. I think we need something to differentiate audio vs video to start with. I think Video Show (or Video Program) or Audio Show (or Audio Program) is what’s needed. Either that or some cool new synonym of Video Program or Audio Program. Hence, “This Week in Tech Audio Show” or “MacBreak Weekly Video Show”. I think a key goal needs to be the elimination of any reference to the medium used to distribute or watch (or listen to) the program. We should concentrate on “Media Neutrality”. So as not to alienate half the potential listeners before you even tell them the subject of the program.

  23. Up until this moment I’ve never really thought about it too much. I remember when you and the fellow twitters commented on it a while back but it really didn’t sink in. As a person of technology I rarely think of such small things since I’m usually so open to everything that is new. This is a problem with most in the tech field, since we cannot relate to those on the other side. Relating to everyday Joe, is a hard task and this is a good way of tearing down that barrier.
    I fully support this idea and hope that if you do get this to change, that the trend will carry on to other mediums.

  24. 98% of the traffic for the RSS feed for my shows comes from iTunes. In iTunes my “show” is listed in the “Podcast” section. Not to be daft or anything but because it’s there that’s what I’m going to tell people it’s called. However usually what I do is tell the knobs “on the iTunes Store search for beer and you’ll find my show” if I don’t have a business card with the show details. And if I do have a card the info to the “show” takes the potential listener to then to the web page that has relavent links and instructions.
    The question that comes next (sometimes) is “I don’t have an iPod….” which is answered by “you don’t need one to listen to the show [there’s that word again] you can listen on the web page or you can download the MP3 which will play on any player.
    But no matter what it’s called the “show” takes some support to get some of the potential listeners. That’s why this “medium” sucks. It’s not simple enough for some people. Which is why we have a limited potential listener base.
    Beyond the “whatever we call this podcast, netcast, whateverCast” is an even worse problem. Which is “large media” swooping in filling the top 25 most popular. As that happens we’ll see less people seeking out the speciality shows.

  25. I agree with the fact that we should start thinking about referring to the content as just (internet) shows. But I think podcasting still is an important recognized word as a distribution mechanism. Main stream media already uses it as this way, namely in frases like ‘get our show as a podcast’ as opposed to via your television/radio/… similar to ‘get our blog content via rss’.

  26. EXACTLY!
    I’ve been broadcasting over the internet for over 5 years, always hated the word “podcast”.
    Hated it so much, when we put together our newest project, if you go to the site, you’ll see our shows marked as they should be…
    1. T.V. Show
    2. RADIO Show
    3. JOURNAL
    When we criss-cross the USofA the last thing I’m gonna say over a beer with plumber is “I’d like to record this for my podcast”.
    I think new-media will die if it doesn’t market ourselves outside of the existing community.

  27. I think Podcast is becoming the net version of ‘cable access channel’, which is, unfortunately, not too complimentary. However, just like cable access, there are real gems like TWit, Buzz Out Loud, Revision3, Tiki Bar, etc., and there are bound to be a much greater number of “less than engaging” shows.

  28. Amen! Cast does not even need to be included in the name. Netshow works. RSS has nothing to do with it. You can place a show on the internet without having to use RSS. RSS is nothing more than a means to an end.
    A show could be created and distributed without RSS, using email.. (I know it is slow, but it works) so NETSHOW it is!

  29. I completely agree with you, Leo. I consider myself a content creator or even new media producer. I call my show a show and rss is just one way of delivering that content to my audience. It’s not the only way by far. In fact I have more people that listen through direct downloads than through my rss feed. Whenever I’ve used the word podcast to describe my show and what I do in the past, I’ve gotten a lot of confusing looks, so I refer to it as an internet radio show. Even though internet audio show is more accurate, the word radio seems to be the easiest way for people to understand it. I feel like the word podcast is limiting and a lot of people still have these notions that it is only avaiable on an iPod or mp3 player, and I definitely think that is crippling and can possibly limit the reach of out shows.

  30. I completely agree with this Leo.
    I have been banging on about content being the most important thing, and that the delivery needs to be transparent, not a focal point.
    I’ve been a radio producer for more than 15 years, and I just see podcasting as a delivery method – and not a very clever method at that.
    When my gran can switch MBW on as easily as she can BBC 1 (we’re in the UK) we’ll be nearer that transparency.

  31. “…show on the Net”, “Netcast” and “(Inter)Net Show” have been my preferences for years and I encourage others to do the same.
    “Podcasting” and “Podcast” should refer to shows with iTunes-only distribution or anytime you are screening a certain 1950’s Don Seigel movie.
    Also, I should be a billionaire with a harem.

  32. I wish this idea would catch on. Otherwise all of this great content will never be found by the more mainstream folks. And that would be a shame.

  33. I think the word still has value, when you explain one way in which your shows are available. “I have an Internet audio show, and you can listen to it on the website or subscribe to it as a podcast.” For my shows, the overwhelming majority of listeners do come in from the RSS subscriptions, so I’m still comfortable calling them podcasts, at least for now.
    And the term, while still causing some confusion, is becoming mainstream enough (not as much as “blog” yet) that people at least have an idea what I’m talking about when I mention it. That has some value in itself, while just talking about an Internet-based audio or video show seems too vague, at least to me.
    I’ll stick with the word for now, at least in most contexts, but you have a good point.

  34. I agree with you, sir! Netcast is the perfect name… “Netcasts you love, from the people you trust” that is my favourite line from every TWIT show.

  35. Yes, yes, yes. Standing up and applauding to your words, Leo. You nailed the problem. You do ‘shows’ in many formats. You, like others, are entertainers, educators, leaders and journalists. Go forth and produce!

  36. The correct answer is Web show. It’s a show that originated on the Web. To use it in a sentence: “My name is Leo, and I make quality Web shows. Learn more at my various Web sites.”

  37. I have to reiterate that I think referring to them as “Internet audio show” or “Web show” or even “Netcast” is completely wrong. The method of distribution (or even production) should not in any way be included in the name. A lot of peoples eyes glaze over when they hear that. What Leo does is produce content. He has a network that produces entertainment and information content. It doesn’t matter how it is produced or how it is distributed. Those technologies can change. More rapidly now than ever. Also, everyone in the world knows how to turn on a TV or a Radio. A lot of people still have no idea how subscribe to a podcast or netcast or internet show etc. Keep whatever the new name is production and distribution neutral. Just talk about the content and maybe whether it is audio or video. I can get “podcasts” on my Tivo now. That’s the type of way mainstream consumers are going to get involved. Having a confusing name for the product is going to hold its acceptance back. Can anyone think of a really cool sounding synonym for “show” or “program”? Or should we just go with Show or Program?
    p.s. This kind of stuff is driving the big networks crazy. I love it!

  38. hmm . I do a radio show on XM Radio – The Move and offer the same thing for download on my site and give people the chance to subscribe to the show via RSS .. if I all just call it the show, won’t I miss the opportunity to let people know about the different ways they can access the show?
    one thing I’ve seen on a few websites is a link to ‘Automated Download’ .. sorta describes a Podcast but sounds even worse imho.

  39. “Independent Network Show” seems to me to be a reasonable title. It gives you the option of calling yourself an Independent Network Show Producer, Reporter, Instructor/Teacher/Educator, or other title as is appropriate for the content you create.
    Leo does a great job both as a producer in the sense of directing, engineering, editing, and publishing the content, as well as being the host of most of the shows, interviewing guests discussing news, etc.
    From what I’ve done, and talked with others about, engineering, editing, and publication uses most of the same skills, just different tools related to the medium the content is on. You package the content as appropriate for the system that will utilize that content. That may mean connecting the output of a sound card to a phone line, or a broadcast transmitter, storing the recording on a web server, or ftp server, or streaming it.
    That distribution part is rarely the critical aspect of the show itself. It does affect who the audience is, and as a result may affect the content, but in most cases that’s decided far enough in advance that it does not directly impact the production itself. (It may affect advertising, and expenses…)

  40. I posted this over on the forums, too… And I haven’t read all of these responses, so I apologize if this point has been made.
    To the technically non-savvy public-at-large, ANY digital music player is an iPod. So calling something a “Podcast” is building on the awareness of that. It’s simply good marketing.
    Yes, language is a powerful thing. But just think of the word “show.” How did that come to mean anything dealing with entertainment? I’m going to “show” you something, on stage… Theater. Show was simply easier to say. We’re going to a show. Then radio, ironically, adopted it. You can’t “show” something on radio. But because show had come to mean a program of entertainment, the programs started being called “shows.” Radio shows. Then TV eclipsed radio, and the term stuck there. By all rights, we should be calling what we’re doing “PodShows.” but it sounds pretty dorky.
    So somebody came up with “Podcast” rather than “Broadcast.” And it had a ring to it and stuck. It has a visual element to the name; “Pod.” Something you can associate with sound. And “Cast,” a distribution system.
    Netcast on the other hand has a muddier meaning to it. The internet is pretty huge and nebulous and means many things to many people. So adding “net” to the word “cast” muddies the meaning of the phrase.
    Anyway, I think Podcast is here to stay, and we have to deal with it, like it or not. And unless someone huge like Microsoft starts promoting “netcasts” or “Microcasts” or “MSCasts” we’re not going to see a change anytime soon.
    And I think Podcasting has reached a plateau. Without reaching that critical “Tipping Point” of popularity. (Read that book, “Tipping Point.” It’s fantastic) I think as content producers we’re doing as much as we can. There just needs to be that little thing that pushes it over the edge to the public-at-large.
    Anyway, I’m rambling. So I’m just going to say that whatever one calls it, Leo, you’re a big part of the independent net/pod/web/cast industry. So keep it up! 🙂 I listen to 4 or 5 of your shows a week. They’re awesome.
    Also, kind listeners, check out my humble internets show at

  41. Peter, I agree with you 100%. When hosting my ‘show’ I refer to it as such. When pointing people to my site, I’ll let them know about the possibility of downloading the ‘show’ but when it comes to the rss subscription, I refer to the ‘show’ also being available as a podcast.
    and .. I forgot to give some props earlier .. Leo, I’ve been diggin’ your style since I first saw Screen Savers years ago when I wasn’t even living in the US yet ..

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