Podcasts and Video Blogs: Exploring New Ways to Communicate

March 1, 2006

Podcasting is often used to refer to independent audio shows that can be downloaded from the Internet. According to the online encyclopedia, Wikipedia: “Podcasting is a blanket term used to describe a collection of technologies for automatically distributing audio and video programs over the internet via a publish and subscribe model. Podcasting enables independent producers to create self-published, syndicated ‘radio shows,’ and gives broadcast radio or television programs a new distribution method.”

While the name podcasting initially derived from the ever dominant Apple IPod you do not need an iPod to listen to podcasts. As podcasting has evolved, podcast clients have become available that work with most portable digital audio players and computers and a few newer mobile phone which can play mp3 files.

In order to create a podcast, I use a microphone which I plug into my PC and free software called Audacity, which is an open source audio recording application and a microphone. Audacity offers a solid complement of editing features with an interface simple enough for a novice such as myself prior to starting.

The main significance for me for podcasting is that it enables me to communicate with the online world using a different medium – my voice. Unlike streamed radio, you can listen to the podcast whenever you want.

Video blogging is a blog which uses video as the primary content; the video is linked to within a video blog post and usually accompanied by supporting text, image(s) and additional metadata to provide context. Blogs often take advantage of RSS for syndication to other Web sites and aggregator software (RSS readers).

The main reason why video blogging is gaining in popularity is that video is set to become more mainstream in what we do. The latest iPod now offers a video facility and the best selling PSP (Portable Play Station) has the capacity to store video. More significantly, we are seeing digital camcorders continue to decline in price as well as some mobile phone handsets now offering the chance to take and edit images. Finally, the telecommunications company, Skype, which was recently purchased by E-Bay, now offers free video calls over the Internet.

As with podcasting, the main appeal of video blogging is that it provides a different medium in which to communicate with the outside world and a younger audience can relate well to it. With the inclusion of RSS Enclosures, which provides the ability to attach media files to a feed item/blog post, it is possible to bypass the mainstream intermediaries and openly distribute media to the masses via the Internet.

In order to video blog, you will need to use a camcorder, webcam or advanced mobile telephone to film and you may possibly need an external microphone to take the sound. Thereafter you will need to edit the movie and use some software to get it on the Internet; you must then find a company to host the video.

Overall, I found the experience of video blogging far more difficult than podcasting. With video you have to be concerned with so many more variables than podcasting, such as the lighting and the background and then you have to memorise what you have to say. I can recall that for one video post I tried it at least 30 times before getting it right. To edit the movie I used Windows Movie Maker. To get it online I experimented with a number of hosting packages prior to plumping for the service Audioblog.com.

Whatever the difficulties, video is a rewarding medium and I have had very positive feedback from my clients and others. I can see more law firms using video but perhaps it will not take off as much as podcasting due to the level of investment of time required.

Justin Patten is principal of Human Law, a law firm which specialises in employment law and intellectual property. He is also the author of the weblog Human Law, which deals with issues relating to law, technology and people.