Array Microphones: Podcasters Prepare For Excitement

Array Microphones: Podcasters Prepare For ExcitementYou’re thinking of doing your own podcast, I can tell. You were getting all excited about the new generation of digital microphones.

Microphones on laptops really are good quality – a fact which you could be forgiven for not noticing. You probably remember trying to make a voice note on an early notebook PC, and on playback, got something rather like an early 1910 bakelite recording of the sea, with a noise in the background that might (or might not) have been your voice.

Actually, the trick of getting a microphone – even if it’s a MEMS array – on a single chip is good, but what’s better, is the new array microphone technology.

It’s an extension of the idea of the two microphones of stereo, taking it up to eight. If you feed the sound from two points into a recorder, the two ears will be able to use the phase differences to concentrate on one sound stream. For example, you can make notes from what the Chairman said, even though your two neighbours were muttering about a donut right next to you.

Array Microphones: Podcasters Prepare For ExcitementDigital array microphones, however, are as good as the data stream they’re poured into. Imagine my delight to find that the default setting for OneNote audio recording is eight kilobits per second, mono. I found this out AFTER recording an Important Person at a press conference. I have no idea what he said; all I have is a recording of people coughing and creaking their chairs. I’m sure fellow-recorders have found the same.

Tomorrow, I’ll do you a NoteCast. It will be created using a digital array microphone on a Motion Computing Tablet LE1600 model. I’ll set the audio to CD quality stereo. Not only will it be clear as a bell, but it will be indexed, and you’ll be able to play back each section of the NoteCast simply by touching the indexed bit with your mouse pointer.

Excited? You are? Oh. Darn. I suppose I’d better do the Notecast, then…

Meanwhile you could amuse yourself by preparing by downloading an eval version of OneNote. It works just fine on any ordinary PC – you don’t have to have a Tablet.

BBC Release First Podcast Chart

(Digg this!)BBC Releases First Podcast ChartA few years ago, you’d be greeted with a blank face or a call to the local psychiatry service if you started going on about ‘listening to your downloaded podcasts’, but figures released from the BBC show how the format is continuing to grow in popularity.

Launched last May, the BBC’s trial service has offered twenty podcasts for free download frlom their website.

According to figures released from the BBC, the weekly podcast from the Radio One ‘personality’ DJ Chris Moyles was downloaded nearly half a million times in December.

The mp3 podcast – called the ‘Best of Moyles’ (which frankly appears to us to be a contradiction in terms) – comes in the shape of a 20-minute broadcast featuring speech highlights from the week.

With a recorded 446,809 downloads over December, the broadcast earned Moyles the top spot in the first published chart of BBC radio downloads.

BBC Releases First Podcast ChartThe chart also revealed that nearly two million downloads took place during the BBC podcasting trials over December.

Moyles said: “I’m very pleased we’re number one and that people are making an effort to listen to the show even if they can’t be bothered to get up early to hear us.”

It’s not just iPod-toting kids who are getting down with the BBC’s podcasting service, with Radio 4 enjoying a strong presence in the chart.

The popular Today Programme’s daily 8.10am interview notched up an impressive 413,492 downloads during December, and other programs like ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ and ‘In Our Time’ proved a hit.

BBC Releases First Podcast ChartSimon Nelson, controller of BBC Radio & Music Interactive was enthusiastic: “It’s fantastic to see how the demand for radio downloads has grown since we first offered them in 2004. These figures underline the enduring relevance of radio in the digital world.”

The BBC have stated that podcast trials are set to into 2006, with an expanded offering of programmes being provided to help them get a better understanding of listeners’ preferences.

BBC top ten most downloaded podcasts:

Best of Moyles (Radio 1)
Today 8.10 Interview (Radio 4)
Documentary Archive (World Service)
From Our Own Correspondent (Radio 4)
In Our Time (Radio 4)
Mark Kermode’s Film Reviews (Five Live)
Chris Evans – The Best Bits (Radio 2)
Go Digital (World Service)
Fighting Talk (Five Live)
Sportsweek (Five Live)

(Digg this!)

BBC podcast trial

Channel 4 First Podcast Fronted By Jon Snow

Jon Snow Fronts Channel 4 1st PodcastUK TV broadcaster Channel 4 is joining the podcast steam train by launching their first podcast presented by the very excellent, Jon Snow, the front-man for the highly-regarded Channel 4 News.

The strangely named “From Mellow to Mental” is aimed at the yout(h) market, as will be “looking at issues affecting young people today.”

The first half-hour report will explore the current controversy surrounding the link between cannabis and mental health problems. Just what the kids of the new generation want to hear.

Channel 4 are cleverly using this podcast give-away to highlight their DAB radio ambitions, as the show will also be broadcast on their 51%-owned DAB station, OneWorld, on Friday 20th January at 8am and 4pm.

Jon Snow Fronts Channel 4 1st PodcastBig Chief, Channel 4’s Chief Executive, Andy Duncan, speaking at the Oxford Media Convention today (19th January), said: “We’re delighted Jon has agreed to present Channel 4’s first podcast. It’s great to be creating a genuine public service offering for new users on different platforms. And, as part of a possible bid for the new DAB national multiplex, it’s important that we start to explore the considerable potential to create cross-over content from the best of Channel 4’s output.”

So there’s not too many lines to read between there. Channel 4 has big DAB ambitions, and Andy D has got a strong digital background, coming from his previous position as marketing Freeview to the British public for the BBC. Something he was clearly pretty good at, given the considerable take up figures, which started at zero.

Channel 4 podcast

Podcasting Studio Built Into New GarageBand

As expected, there’s lots of interesting things being revealed at Steve Jobs keynote at MacExpo, and in parallel at the BBC, where Steve Kennedy is embedded for us.

Among the things that grabbed us is big news for Podcasters. Apple are expanding GarageBand to include a podcast authoring studio.

Included are 200 royalty-free sound effects and 100 jingles. While other audio such as music is playing, the volume will automatically reduce once the host speaks.

Apple are also including a speech enhancer, which, without extra detail, I’d imagine is an audio compressor.

This kind of move by Apple will have a serious impact on companies offering podcasting software like Odeo.

Another great addition, which may hit Skype slightly, is the ability to carry out remote interviews using iChat.

More details soon. We’d imagine, once Steve gets off the stage on the Apple aite.

Apple GarageBand Unveils Portable Video For iPods Unveils Portable Video For iPodsBlinkx have unveiled To Go, a new service that helps users track down online video content and then lets them upload it to their iPod or personal video player.

With the growth of video blogging and video-capable personal players, there’s a growing interest in viewing free alternatives to commercial broadcasts, and To Go service aims to “throw open the doors” to a wide variety of new, user-generated video. Unveils Portable Video For iPodsVisitors searching the company’s database of video blogs and podcasts are able to either save the video to their player with a single click, or save the search to a channel which automatically feeds updated video content to their player, where it can be viewed as a single media stream.

Blinkx takes care of all the formatting, regardless of the original file type, so that video content selected for saving is automatically re-encoded to the appropriate video format for the user’s player.

Blinkx founder Suranga Chandratillake commented, “We wanted to make the experience of finding compelling multimedia and making it portable, as efficient and easy as possible.” Unveils Portable Video For iPods“Our vision of IPTV combines the interactive, customisable experience of the Internet, with the simple, seamless way we watch TV, and now we’ve made it portable,” Chandratillake added.

As you know, we’re big on seeing technology being used to promote and propagate user-generated content – the process of the democratisation of the media, if you want to get arty fart about it – so we look forward to seeing how blinkx’s initiative fares with the public.


Yahoo Podcast Search Site Launches

Yahoo Podcast Search Site LaunchesKeen to get their size nines stamped all over the fast-growing podcasting revolution, Yahoo have launched a spanking new podcast service designed to make it easy for punters to rummage through the zillions of audio files available and find the stuff that interest them.

The beta Yahoo Podcast service aims to let folks search podcasts by keyword, categories or user-generated topic coding (‘tagging’), with the home page flagging up notable podcasts, based on popularity, user recommendations and ratings.

Yahoo Podcast Search Site LaunchesSurfers will also be able to listen to or subscribe to RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds for individual shows, episodes or entire series.

“We intend to be the most comprehensive source for podcast content,” said Geoff Ralston, Yahoo!’s chief product officer.

Yahoo Podcast Search Site LaunchesThe service will offer a unique feature that lets users find content quicker by speeding up playback without the the broadcaster’s voice sounding like Mickey Mouse on helium.

As Geoff Ralston explained in an interview with PodTech, “You can hear someone and understand someone talking at a much higher speed. The problem is that when you speed it up naturally the pitch goes up, but we done some work to lower the pitch down. So it actually stays relatively normal and much more comprehensible.”

Although Podcast search services aren’t new – companies like AOL, Blinkx, and already offer services – Yahoo’s heavyweight clout make this move significant, with Ralston commenting, “We feel like we are really getting ahead of the curve with this.”

Yahoo Podcast Search Site LaunchesUnlike rival Podcast search sites, Yahoo! isn’t bundling in tools for creating podcasts at the moment, although that’s likely to happen in the future, with Joe Hayashi, Yahoo!’s director of product management saying, “This is all about discovery for now. Step One is all about growing the ecosystem.

With search engines constantly trying to dream up new advertising revenue-boosting services to retain and attract punters, it can only be a matter of time before the other Internet big boys respond with their own Podcast services.

Yahoo! Podcast

Virgin Radio Adds Another Podcast

Virgin Radio Adds Another PodcastAfter an encouraging response from listeners, Virgin Radio has announced that it will be making its Sunday afternoon programme ‘The Tim Lovejoy Show’ available as a podcast.

Virgin first experimented with podcasting earlier this year, with the ‘The Pete & Geoff Breakfast Show’ making Virgin Radio the first UK radio station to offer a podcast of a daily show.

The service, launched on the 9th March 2005, now receives 85,000 downloads a month.

Virgin Radio Adds Another PodcastLovejoy’s sports and entertainment show is broadcast weekly from 4pm to 7pm, and Virgin have said that they’ll make the “best bits” available for consumers to download to their MP3 players from 28th August.

iPod-toting fans of the show will no doubt appreciate the new service, although they may not be pleased with having to put up with adverts for the podcast’s sponsor, Nivea, popping up throughout the download (see: ‘Podvertising’ Supports Virgin Radio Daily Podcast)

James Cridland, head of strategic development for new media at Virgin Radio was enthusiastic about the potential for podcasts, “The response shows us that people are more than willing to have a play with the technology if the content is good enough”.

“It also allows them to listen in at their own convenience if they don’t fancy getting up at 6am,” he added.

Cridland has stated that the radio station was also looking to make more of its content available as podcasts, describing the delivery method as “a great mechanism to get people to trial our flagship shows”.

Virgin Radio Podcasts

FeedStation, FeedDemon Review: RSS Newsreader (Rated 5/5)

FeedDemon RSS Newsreader ReviewDeveloped by Nick Bradbury, the smart fella responsible for creating the fabulous Homesite (still our fave HTML editor) and the superb Top Style CSS Editor, FeedDemon 1.5 is a powerful RSS aggregation tool.

As we’re sure you know RSS stands for Rich Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication. It’s an XML standard that easily enables the distribution of new article, as summaries or full text – further details are on Wikipedia. The key thing to know is that in this world of fast moving, ever-increasing news, RSS and its readers making it easier to stay on top of it all.

The slick, standalone newsreader is ideal for people dipping their toes into the world of RSS, with FeedDemon’s setup wizard making it easy for folks to find and subscribe to popular RSS feeds by simply choosing from a pre-configured list of popular feeds.

If you can’t find anything of interest, users can boldly seek out new search channels via the Search Channels functions.

This lets users select a feed search engine, enter a keyword, and sit back while FeedDemon subscribes to a dynamic channel containing the search results for that keyword.

An unlimited amount of feeds can be filed into channel groups (like ‘news’, technology’, ‘sports’ etc), with all the RSS feeds being displayed in the left hand panel.

Clicking on a feed brings up a list of headlines in the middle panel, listed by date, and clicking on a headline opens up the entire article within a tabbed browser in the third pane.

FeedDemon RSS Newsreader ReviewWe found this approach intuitive and fast, although users with small monitors may have to indulge in an orgy of scrolling to view all the content in its default layout.

The interface is configurable though, so users can make more room by shunting the browser to the bottom of the interface.

The program contains a nifty “Watch Channels” feature which searches for news items containing user-specified keywords and then organises them into a separate group so they’re easier to find.

The “News Bins” function was also a hit with us: this feature lets you archive a story simply by dragging a headline and lobbing it in the storage bin at the bottom of the left-side column.

FeedDemon RSS Newsreader ReviewFeedDemon’s new podcasting tools let news-hungry junkies download audio files and automatically copy them to their iPod (and, notably, other media players) with the bundled FeedStation utility allowing the scheduling of downloads – letting users charge up their iPod with new content while they’re snoozing.

With an enthusiastic developer regularly contributing to the online help forums and a slew of updates and tweaks being made to the program, we can thoroughly recommend FeedDemon for both newbies and RSS old hands.

Star Rating: 5/5

Price: US$29.95 (~£17 ~€24) Windows only.

AOL video search; iTunes 4.9 podcasting; 24Mb Broadand in UK – News Round Up

News Round UpAOL launches video search service

America Online has launched a free, enhanced video search that includes a new lightweight video viewer and speech-recognition technology claimed to give better results based on the audio of multimedia files.

The beta service, called AOL Video, offers free access to search and playback for more than 15,000 “video assets” from Time Warner, news clips from CNN, MSNBC and other sources.

The lightweight video viewer uses the playback engines of popular media players (such as RealPlayer, Windows Media Player and QuickTime) that are already installed on a user’s PC.

AOL reckons that the new speech recognition tools will bring significant improvements to its previous ability to search only closed-caption information provided by content contributors.

AOL plans to announce next week new content partners for its video-search repository with advertisers able to deliver ads relevant to the content chosen by the consumer.

With a demand for video growing as consumers switch from dial-up Internet access to broadband, AOL said that it plans to use video as the primary lure for consumers using broadband connections.

AOL launches video search service [ZDNET]

iTunes 4.9 rockets Podcasting into the mainstream

News Round UpPodcast subscriptions have rocketed over the one million mark, with figures from Pew Internet and American Life suggesting that over 6 million Americans – nearly a third of the estimated 22 million owners of MP3 players – have listened to podcasts.

Tuesday’s launch of Apple’s iTunes 4.9 software – which lets listeners subscribe to and download podcasts – has left servers groaning under the strain of soaring downloads.

Will Lewis, management consultant for US radio station KCRW talked of a “stratospheric” increase in traffic since the iTunes 4.9 launch, with downloads increasing tenfold.

Podcasting goes mainstream [ENN]

Be* Unlimited to offer 24Mbit Broadband In UK

News Round UpLife on the Web going to get considerably faster for some denizens of London, thanks to an ultrafast 24Mb broadband connection offered by Be* Unlimited.

The Billy Whizz connection will use a local loop unbundling (LLU) operation to launch a pilot scheme using ADSL2+technology in August.

Planning to eventually un-bundle exchanges throughout the UK, the London based company will be installing its high speed kit in 45 BT telephone exchanges throughout London.

Company founder Boris Ivanovic has already proved the viability of the service after a 26meg broadband venture in Sweden increased its revenue from US$1million (~€837k ~ £564k) to US$55million (~€46m ~ £31m) in just three years.

Be Unlimited First With 24Mbit Broadband In UK [BIOS]
Be* Unlimited

Apple And Sundance Sign iTunes Podcasting Deal

Apple And Sundance Sign iTunes Podcasting DealApple and the Sundance Channel have signed a deal that will make content from the cable network exclusively available as podcast downloads from the Apple iTunes Web site next month, according to AdAge.

Sundance will be one of the first exclusive iTunes partners in a deal that sees Apple spreading the focus of its iTunes operations to incorporate radio-like media within its music distribution hub.

Apple And Sundance Sign iTunes Podcasting DealOne of the first iTunes podcast features scheduled for download from the Sundance Channel will be The Al Franken Show who is, apparently, an Air America talk show host.

Apple will also be hosting a streaming collection of video clips from the show on their site.

Apple is currently believed to be propositioning a host of media and entertainment outlets – including magazines and radio stations – in an attempt to strike deals to make more content available via iTunes podcasts.

Apple And Sundance Sign iTunes Podcasting DealThe feature in AdAge also reports that Sundance will receive Apple’s post-production editing equipment and expertise as part of the barter deal, with the two companies likely to collaborate on the Apple retail level in the future.

“For us Apple is absolutely a like-minded brand in the way they position themselves,” said Kirk Iwanowski, senior vice president for marketing at Sundance.

Apple clearly view podcasts as an important development, with Apple CEO Steve Jobs previously talking about providing podcast directories within iTunes, supported by an editorial team dedicated to identifying the best podcasts.

Sundance Channel
AdAge [subscription site]