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Watching the radio

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Funny how media is these days. We've come full circle, and then we've gone arou nd again a couple more times in the past few years. Used to be we just had radio to listen to. Then the movies came. Then TV. Recor ded material came and went: wax cylinders, vinyl, cassettes, film, Beta, VHS, L aserdiscs, CDs, VCDs, DVDs, HD-DVDs, Blu-Ray - we could listen to music and wat ch shows on tape and discs. Cable came and opened up the world to us - we could watch anything and everything, on demand. We can now pause live TV, and record many shows simultaneously, preprogrammed weeks ahead if we couln't be there to push the buttons. Then internet mixed it all up together even more: you can watch live streaming TV, download music and movies and enjoy them on players and computers. All perm utations existed, and there wasn't enough hours in the day to listen to and wat ch everything we wanted. If you've been reading this blog for a while, you'd know I'm a voracious podcas t listener. While the name is new, podcasts are just old-fashioned radio shows at heart. Having worked in radio for two decades and doing three-hour talkathon s twice a week for years, there's a special place in my head and heart for the format. It's nice to sit back and listen to folk talk about things and discuss them. In the course of listening you get to know them and they feel like they'r e your friends. One of my favorite podcasts is Buzz Out Loud, which is a daily (well, Monday to Friday) tech-news-and-views talk show of indeterminate length (usually about 30 minutes) from CNET. It's over 700 episodes now, which is a considerable run, and I started listening to it in the upper 30 0s or so. Hosted by Tom Merritt and Molly Wood, with producer Jason Howell piping in now and then, it's an interesting and fun show for geeks like me who need to get updated and hear dif ferent takes on what's new. (Give it a try, why don't you? It's available free from the CNET site and through the iTunes Store. Links at the end of the post.) BOL and CNET have lately taken to streaming their podcasts live on cam via UStream as they are recorded, which seems to be an increasingly po pular trend with previously audio-only podcasts. (Leo Laporte' s TWIT is also doing the live video streaming thing, along wit h other shows.) I've been watching, and it strikes me as odd to watch people do a radio show on TV - or in this case, live video streaming via the net. Radio is meant to be h eard, and the missing dimension of sight is actually a major factor in the make up of the show. Watching people talk in front of a mike gets seriously boring a fter a while - I mean, what are you watching for, facial expressions and wild g esticulation? Radio shows are best heard than seen (no offense, Tom and Molly). In my talk shows in radio back in the day, I've had visitors come and sit in on a live show to watch, and they invariably go glassy-eyed after the novelty of being in the radio booth wears out. After a while they just stare at the soundp roofing on the wall and listen, they way they've been accustomed to at home or in the car. (It's a phenomenon similar to when I catch myself at a front row se at at a live concert watching the video monitor coverage instead of the stage - but that's a topic for another post.) I've been watching BOL vidstream live for a few days now, and I'm the same way. After a few minutes I stop watching Tom and Molly and just listen to them talk , staring absently out into space the way I normally do when I'm plugged in and listening on my morning commute to work everyday on my iPhone . The vidstream is in that odd limbo between TV and radio that sometimes exists when new technologies get mashed up, and it can't seem to yet find its level a nd place in the world. Those visually-oriented will sit and watch, and those au dally-inclined will just listen. (Said another way, the young 'uns will watch, and the old farts will listen. I'm an old fart.) Also, watching them takes out a bit of the mystery of the show. Through my mont hs of listening I've created my own CNET studio in my head, and have invented p laces where Tom and Molly and Jason would sit while they talk, how they would a ct, how they were dressed - and watching the reality somehow takes the magic ou t of it. And lately, I find no joy in listening to the audio version of the epi sode I've already watched, and I miss my BOL in the morning. It may work for some people, but I guess not for me. I'd rather listen to them on my iPhone on the road than watch them on my Mac at 1AM - wh ich is the ungodly hour they come on in my country. (I had to sneak in the Ma c reference, lest some readers berate me again for posting something not Mac-re lated; this is after all a Mac blog.) But it'll find its level eventually, I'm sure. Until then I'll just listen. Aft er all, Buzz Out Loud is still an audio podcast, and not a TV show; the live vi deo stream is just a bonus for hardcore fans, so I don't really have any right to complain. Only BOL completists and obsessives will watch it, I figure; most folk, like me , will stick to the old audio version on their iPods. So why does BOL do it? I guess because, like that adage about why dogs do what they do when they have no thing better to do, they can. Catch Buzz Out Loud here , and the video stream here (which s tarts at 5PM GMT) or here, or subscribe to the podcast via iTunes here.

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This page contains a single entry by published on April 27, 2008 11:18 AM.

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