All this talk of different kinds and lengths of podcasts on my last From Our Own Podcase blog, has led me to wondering: when is a podcast not a podcast? Or rather, when is a podcast an audio blog? I’ve heard this term audio blog being bandied about you see, but I’m yet to really understand what exactly it means. And surely 5 to 8 minute podcasts like Grammar Girl or The Ethicist deserve a different genre category to an hour long magazine-type show.
Of course, my first port of call was my trusty friend Google. Hmmm, not so trusty after all. The only advice I can seem to find is people clarifying the difference between a written blog and a podcast. Now forgive my cockiness but I think I, along with most of the population, have mastered this one. I kinda got that one was written and one was sounds. That’s why I don’t spend my time shouting my thoughts on audio journalism into my computer-thingemy-bob in the belief that they’ll be communicated to you.
Next up then was trusty (not to be confused with trustworthy) friend Wikipedia, who told me: “An MP3 blog is a type of blog in which the creator makes music files, normally in the MP3 format, available for download. They are also known as “musicblogs” or “audioblogs”. MP3 blogs have become increasingly popular since 2003.” This is all very well, but couldn’t this passage well be describing a podcast? Sigh.
Time to ask an expert methinks. So I turned to media and technology journalist, editor and chief analyst of www.themediabriefing.com, all round lovely chap and Dalston pub-aficionado Patrick Smith aka PSmith.
So what’s the difference PSmith?
“Hmm, blogging vs podcast…. I guess blogging has to be sequential, regular updates on something. Podcasts are longer and less regular. Also, most podcasts tend to be just edited versions of radio shows, or people chatting, e.g. the Ricky Gervais model. Blogging is very different to that.”
So would it be helpful to see an audio blog as the aural version of a written blog? Are audio blogs actually therefore less formal and structured than a podcast…more, like this blog, just pondering on ideas and, well, throwing them out there?
“The blog is just the platform, the tool you use. You can write anything you want on it. Some are personal, some are professional. It’s the same with audio blogs. I used to work for paidcontent.co.uk which started as a blog, but no one calls it that now – it’s a news website. Just think of blogging as a convenient mode of digital communication – the same rules of journalism apply, in my view.”
So there you go. If the same rules of journalism apply to blogs and audio blogs as they do to other forms of journalism, like news stories for example, it stands to reason that both forms of blog should certainly still be structured, well-thought out ways of informing the reader of something. The main deciding factor between podcasts and blogs is nice and simple then: the length.
So I’m officially categorising Grammar Girl et al as audio blogs. In fact, thinking about my own listening experiences, and reflecting on Patrick’s wise words, I reckon podcasts are the medium that allow more discursive discussions between people, but again only be dint of their length. Audio blogs still have to be just as structured to pack in all the facts into a quick, digestible snapshot into a certain subject area.