Let's help these folks start podcasting

Radio stations should archive programs as podcasts for the same reason newspapers and magazines should save stories as Web pages. Especially since it's so darn easy. And help is so handy. (Hint, hint.)

This occured to me this morning when I was listening to KZSB/1290, the live news outlet of our local daily newspaper, the Santa Barbara News-Press. KZSB has no website, but it does stream live, using Windows Media Player. This brings up the Kaffeine Media Player in my Linux laptop, but ... nothing after that. Pretty annoying.

The same idea occurred to me again a few minutes ago, when I wished I could hear the Tabitha Soren interview of Ana Marie Cox, better known as Wonkette, which I had heard on a Commonwealth Club radio broadcast in the Bay Area earlier this week while I was driving down to Mashup Camp. (Here's one blog report on the 'cast.) So I looked up Commonwealth Club podcasts on Google. The top result wasn't useful; but the second result was Commonwealth Club Radio Program, an "unrecognized" file format that turns out to be http://audio.commonwealthclub.org/audio/podcast/weekly.xml. An RSS 2.0 file, for podcasts.

That was cool, but... there's nothing about podcasts or RSS on the Commonwealth Club site, though there are pointers to webcasts on KQED and KALW, San Francisco's two main public stations. Those pointers also include "Listen Now" links (like this one here, for Wonkette), which have other links that bring you RealAudio webcasts, rather than podcasts.

What's strange in both these cases is that podcasting is much easier than webcasting. You store files and point to them in an RSS feed. In KZSB's case, most of its broadcasts are programs. It would be easy for the station to archive those programs as .mp3 files, for downloading as podcasts. Storage is cheap these days. So, why not? As for the Commonwealth Club, same question.

So now I'm thinking it might just be a matter of tools. How about mashing up something combining podcasting with the open source Rivendell broadcast content management suite, which is written for Linux by Salem Radio Laboratories, and which I featured here a few weeks ago.

Stations with lots of programs, and not just music formats, would benefit enormously, methinks.

As for the Commonwealth Club, a simple RSS feed with pointers to extant archives would suffice.

As for RSS, there's some additional background in the form of the RSS roadmap and two pieces about it by Dave Winer, who has guided RSS development since he first made it stand for Really Simple Syndication.

The second of those pieces is about how much companies have invested in RSS over the years. Another angle on it is, how much have they saved?

I think we can save them a lot of money.

What do the rest of ya'll think?


Doc Searls is the Editor in Chief of Linux Journal


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pandora's picture

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Anonymous's picture

So there we go. Some radio stations are already archiving all of their content. How do you get them to put it on the web? Same way you get them to put it on radio....sell advertising time. I would say you could easily write a program that could splice in ads just prior to being downloaded if you like...

I agree

LauraC's picture

I think you have to ensure that podcasting is accessible to all though, but in my opinion its the future!

Archive that contet

SimonJ's picture

In my opinion for what its worth I think its only sensible to archive this content now as the search engines are fast approaching the day when they can crawl and index the audio in the podcast.

Follow what the clever people at webmasterradio.fm are doing with their podcasts as Darron always has an eye on the SEO angle.

Try Speex for speech

Haakon Meland Eriksen's picture

Five minutes of uncompressed speech at CD quality equals 100Mb on your hard drive. For lossless compression do as the studios do - use FLAC (explore your store bought CD's with your file manager - you will be surprised by what they provide in the sub folders...). Using general purpose compression formats like MP3 or - preferrably OGG - you get a smaller file, but you can do a lot better with the patent free, royalty free, free as in freedom Speex codec - 100 Mb becomes about 1Mb.

Speex manages this because it focuses on the frequencies of speech, unlike OGG or MP3, which cover a broader frequency spectrum. This makes Speex ideal for podcasting radio talk shows, news, wheather forcasts, plays and book readings, just to give you some ideas.

You can easily add Speex and other free codecs to Windows Media Player by downloading filters from http://www.illiminable.com/ogg/, or you can download VLC from http://www.videolan.org/ for any platform. On GNU/Linux just about every popular player has Speex support already. (Speex is so good it is used for IP telephony, just to give you another idea).


One step away

Anonymous's picture

When I worked in radio in Canada during the 90's, we were required to run a 24 hour archive of what went on the air in case there was ever a dispute about our content. That way the government regulating body could handle the dispute factually. The solution was to simply connect a very slow running reel-to-reel tape deck to a radio tuned to our station. This had the quality of AM or worse. There are solutions nowdays that archive to low bitrate mp3 whoich is much much simpler.

So there we go. Some radio stations are already archiving all of their content. How do you get them to put it on the web? Same way you get them to put it on radio....sell advertising time. I would say you could easily write a program that could splice in ads just prior to being downloaded if you like...

Radio archives: podcast!

Gardner Campbell's picture

Doc, I think this suggestion is right on. The BBC is already making all its archives (and they actually kept archives) freely available to UK folk as a searchable resource, or so I'm told. It'd be really interesting if the vast distributed authoring industry of radio in the US did something similar. It might even encourage a return to local programming if the authors thought their work might have a long tail. Maybe we could start by asking all the radio fans who have airchecks of their favorite DJs to contribute them to, say, OurMedia or some such.

Great idea, Doc.

Linux-based podcast appliance for radio stations

Erik Herz's picture

We have been trying to do this since we released this product last June:

Here is our 06/2005 announcement:

Here is our open source podcast library on cpan:

Here is our podcast hosting service that is currently hosting a few radio stations:


ban 'mashup'

mike's picture

can we please kill the term 'mashup' now. I can't take anything said by someone using the term seriously.

Even people who make music mashups are avoiding the term now, having jumped to bastard pop to avoid being associated with the blog 'elite' who have taken 'mashup' and tried to apply it to ever stupid thing they do.

So, I suppose this is a plea for more than not using the current fad word, but to avoid fad words entirely. I see the coming storm of stupid on the rise. While I want to agree with so many interesting voices with so many interesting ideas, I see the same lack of grounding in reality that came before.

Truely, I hate the internet and all it's hype men. And that saddens me.

absolutely right!

Hook's picture

I agree to mike, even if I love the net, but some terms are horrible often written or spoken out, that you loose your interest in listening about new features, renamed old thinks and simply trash - keep it simple! That`s the secret to success...


mixed media

pj's picture

Artists have been calling it "mixed media" for many years ;)


Doc Searls on archiving stories and radio shows + mashup as term

Vaspers the Grate/steven streight's picture

(1) Before online newspapers "archive" their stories as web pages, they need to learn how embed hypertext links in their articles, especially to sources.

(2) Most radio shows seem to be time-sensitive, thus not very vital to archive as podcasts.

(3) "mashups" is a poor term, but it means blending creatively two or more distinct items, whether songs or other audio, or web app hybrids. Come up with a better term, and I'll use it.

Great idea!

George Luft's picture

Doc, this is a brilliant idea! I must say I have already implemented some of the ideas in a previous LJ article in order to snarf some shows that are streamed from our fine local community radio station WPKN. Check them out some time. Great eclectic programming.

Archiving and podcasting this content would be wonderful. The limiting factors may be (the cost of) bandwidth--especially for a small 100% listener supported station--and perhaps performance rights (ASCAP, BMI, etc).

stream capture

Anonymous's picture

Good thread on SVLUG about capturing streams.

really great - thanks!

streamy's picture

..its a really great threat with many infos - everybody who`s interested in streaming, should read this!


Depends on which way you attack things.

John Handelaar's picture

Hi again from Ireland.

So now you've seen Rivendell, let me introduce you to something slightly different: Livesupport. Unlike Salem's effort, this one broadcasts only that which is prerecorded and scheduled. It can also be operated remotely using only a browser -- as befits its main purpose of allowing stations overseas to keep going on air even when it's far too dangerous to actually venture into the studio.

For some people, building a station from recordings will be more interesting than building recordings from a station :)

On the main point, something I used last year at Festival FM in Edinburgh is a slightly-modified version of Darkice developed a couple of years back by students at the University of Warwick's radio station.

They call it Darklog. Like Darkice it operates on whatever's coming through the sound hardware. Unlike Darkice they've added an MP3 disk dumper to the list of output options. I used it to do legally-required logging, but it comes with a rudimentary web-based retrieval thing. With minor alterations a person could have the disk logs thrown into a directory accessible by (for example) Helix Server, and autogenerate .ram files based on the published schedule for super-easy ListenAgain links.

However, for nonspeech output, licensing on this is a bitch.

Music clearance

Marcus's picture

Yes, I think so too. My start-up company, Tables Turned, is clearing music for use on podcasts, and we're slowly helping college radio begin podcasting.

I think they need hardware tools - pure software solutions aren't sufficient for your average radio crew.