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A Podcast by any other name is still a..

Sep 28, 2010

Note this is a republish of a column I wrote for Blogger and Podcaster Magazine back in June of 2007. In honor of Blog world I am reposting this article now.  


In the beginning God created Adam and then Adam (with the help of Dave) created a new medium called Podcasting.  Well maybe that is stretching it a little, originally Podcasting was known as Audio Blogging. But within weeks of its creation a new name appeared and that name was “Podcast”, and the small group of Audio Bloggers said, “This name is good” and they accepted the new name.  The name “Podcast” was also quickly accepted by Bloggers and the main stream media.  This new medium armed with a catchy name was then able to ride the coat tails of the iPod media frenzy in the fall of 2004. 

 However all was not perfect in the garden of Podcast. Even from the beginning there were some that wanted to hold on to the name AudioBlog or others that felt the name Podcast was misleading. They argued the name made people think they needed an iPod to listen.  However these few dissenters were small in numbers, not organized and offered no better alternatives.

 Then in the Spring of 2005 a new group of people (lets call them for the sake of this article “the forces of evil”) arrived on the scene and they declared that the name Podcast was not good and we needed to change the name.  The first name the forces of evil suggested was “Nanocast”. They quickly formed the Nanocasting alliance, they were organized and they were focused. They pushed forth their combined wisdom, which they as experienced media and marketing professionals clearly had an over abundance of.  However they overlooked one small detail Podcasting had become more than a name, it had become a community.  And so the name Nanocast quickly died along with the names Picocast, Femtocast and Attocast.  Although I do hear from time to time that the name Zeptocast is getting a little bit of a niche following. 

 Then the forces of evil, this time a group from Redmond, decreed that the name should be “Blogcast”, and a collective yawn was heard throughout the land. The final nails were driven into the coffins of the names Blogcast and NanoCast when Apple released iTunes v4.9 with “Podcast” support in late June of 2005.  In one move Apple put the name Podcast on to millions of computers and put the most effective marketing machine in the world behind the name.

 For a while it seemed there would be no more real issues with the name Podcast, however the forces of evil were not through. They waited in the wings for an opportunity and in late September 2006 offered that opportunity by misreporting on a story and making it look like Apple was trying to take over the name Podcast. Within days of that story the bloggisphere had twisted the story into a feeding frenzy of fear and anger. Sadly a white knight in the community and his trusty steed were both tricked by the forces of evil to support the name “Netcast”. Fortunately the truth about Apples intentions was quickly revealed and people learned that Apple had “no issues with the term podcast”. Not only that the US Patent and Trademark (USPTO) office rejected the trademark application a company, who is not Apple or related to Apple in any way, had submitted for the term “Podcast”. The USPTO even added the term “Podcasting” into the list of generic terms.  So what at first looked like might become a civil war in the community over the name in the end turned out to be just another name that did not measure up to Podcast.  Netcast is still used by a couple of people, but outside of the community the name has shown zero traction and today the name Netcast is for all realistic purposes dead.  If you don’t believe me on this just go to wikipedia – the entry for Netcast was removed and redirected to podcast or you can google both terms and look at the difference in the number of results.

 While Apple did not introduce the term Podcast as a replacement for AudioBlogs, Apple did throw both audio and video together in the podcast directory in iTunes.  Which is not a bad thing for Video Bloggers, uhm I mean vidcasters or is it vloggers or...  Seems that community could never decide on a name for itself. I think one of my guests on podCast411 said it best.  “I don’t care what a reporter calls my medium when they are interviewing me – just as long as they get my URL spelled right.”

 Granted the name Podcast is not perfect, but it has proven to be clearly the best name. Today the name podcast is supported by most of the major technology / new media companies including Amazon, AOL, AT&T, Blackberry, CNN, Google, Nokia, Sprint & Yahoo. Even Microsofts Zune has a podcast section. Game over “Podcast” wins. 

 Finally, there is no single name that is going to magically transfer knowledge about RSS feeds with Audio or Video enclosures and how to subscribe to said RSS feeds. We need to get over the fact that non-technical people are confused when they hear the name Podcast for the first time.  They will be confused no matter what the name is. Many people were confused when they first heard about CD’s, DVD’s and Computers. We as "Podcasters" should be spending our energies on teaching people how to subscribe - rather than wasting our time fighting Windmills.