Somewhere around 2004, the Internet spawned a new form of media known as the podcast.
It's unofficially defined as a digital audio or video file that is episodic; downloadable; program-driven, and has a host or theme or both.
For almost as long as most people have been using the Internet, there have been streamed webcasts, radio or TV broadcasts and digital files you could download. But this was something different, the evolution of a community, one that didn't yet know it was a community, in fact was mostly individuals in cubicles or basement offices, converging audio, the web and portable media players so the world might listen to what they had to say for a change.
In Communication terms, podcasting is what's known as a disruptive technology, meaning that it circumvents or end runs the established media outlets to distribute content to an audience it assumes has enough similar interest to find and value it. In a way, it's a medium where the producers are the consumers who are also the distributors and contributors to the conversation.
Basically, podcasts are conversations held without chaperones or gatekeepers, shared to spread the conversation.
In 2005, iTunes began offering podcasts as part of its download services. There are now more than 150,000 separate titles available, some numbering hundreds of episodes updated monthly, weekly, or daily. Add the number of podcasts hosted by other sites and their pervasiveness increases exponentially.
To a great extent, the people podcasting have never been part of a recognized media outlet. And yet their ability to inform, entertain and offer intelligent opinion often surpasses those who are well paid to do the same by the mainstream media.
All those who say they'd be lost without CBC Radio, NPR, Fox News or Pajamas Media just haven't looked very hard at what's available to them for free in the form of podcasts.
In the same way that the audience has fragmented, the business of providing us with our cultural touchstones has forever fractured as well.
And if you ask me, that's a good thing.
Those of us who work in Canadian Television are doubtless aware of Anthony Marco, co-host of Diane Wild's essential and perhaps definitive weekly round-up of Canadian TV news, "TV-Eh?". Anthony does several other podcasts, all accessible from his eponymous website.
Among them is "Best Episode Ever" a look back at television series which had a popular impact on the culture that is now in its third season.
I got to help Anthony kick off that third season by joining him to talk about "Route 66", one of the series that sub-or-unconsciously got my creative juices flowing before I'd even reached puberty. You can find that podcast here as well as episode two which features MacLean's Entertainment blogger Jaimie Weinman.
Our industry has always been driven by the arrival of new voices and new ideas. And in a media world that seems to be endlessly polarizing into Fox vs MSNBC and CBC vs SUNTv in a perpetual "He Said, She Said", perspectives that inhabit other points of the compass can be more than a little refreshing.
In the same way that I hope what I had to say about "Route 66" informs the way you look at television, I hope you'll search for what some of the voices of podcasters have to offer.
Like the incredibly infectious theme of "Route 66" it might help you -- Enjoy Your Sunday.
The episode of "Route 66" that Anthony and I discussed is also available on Youtube in its entirety. You can find it here.