We've discussed in previous posts the phenomenon of podcasting and the potential threat it poses to traditional broadcast models as well as the opportunity it offers content providers who are savvy about the "new medium". A quick assessment of the state of market seems that things are going very well in terms of the digital distribution of audio and, increasingly, video. At the end of February, Apple iTunes announced their billionth download since launching three years ago; the site now boasts over 3,500 music videos, 35,000 podcasts,16,000 audiobooks alongside its catalogue of over 2 million songs. On top of that, Apple has netted sales of over 40 million iPods - in their various shapes and forms. That is before we take into account sales of the myriad of other MP3 players from manufacturers such as Creative Zen, Philips and Sony (with their revamped Walkman brand). In terms of podcasts, it is also noteworthy that Ricky Gervais has announced plans to re-launch his own highly successful podcast on a subscription basis. So, with that in mind, it is re-assuring to see an Irish company in The Digital Hub getting into the fray of this potentially lucrative market.
Digicast Ltd. is a new and dynamic Irish company which aims to exploit digital technology to fully maximise its potential to transform content creation and communications. Their website www.podcastingireland.ie hopes to be the portal of choice for all things relating to podcasting in Ireland as well as a portal for new podcasting channels like Making Waves .
The company's backers are certainly experienced hands. The CEO is Joe Conway, a senior manager with hands-on experience in developing and implementing technology-based business tools. Helen Shaw, former Director of Radio at RTE, is heading the creative and production team behind the enterprise. The Chief technologist is Simon Factor of Moving Media, an analogue archive digitization service that used to have its base in The Digital Hub but moved to larger premises in Blanchardstown Corporate Park due to rapid expansion. In many ways, Digicast is one of the first off-springs of The Digital Hub cluster - where Shaw's own company, Athena Media was based beside Factor. 'Being in the cluster here in the Digital Hub has allowed me to cross ideas with like minded companies - including Simon Factor's Moving Media company - about potential projects and collaborations.", says Shaw. "Simon and I had been talking seriously for some months about how to create a project which could build on the strength of quality content being delivered through digital technology."
Making Waves will be Ireland's first bespoke professional podcasting channel with the intention of bringing new bands, acts and artists together. A weekly episode will star a new Irish artist or band performing their own original material. The flexibility of the medium will mean that users can subscribe and download these episodes and listen to them at their leisure. This is the real thrill of the medium - flexibility.
The response from artists - many of whom are extremely technically-literate - has been phenomenal. Already familiar with using new technology to create their music, the chance to use it further for distribution was a "no brainer". As Shaw points out "many are already using the Internet to allow sampling of their music."
The commercial model is perhaps a bit trickier. Digicast's ultimate plans are to connect their channels like Making Waves with sponsors and support their free channels through Internet advertisement and an online shop. This will mean that they will be competing with the main broadcast stations in terms of advertisers. But the aim at present is to get subscribers - and the target age group are certainly that elusive bunch of 15 - 35 year olds that advertisers are increasingly struggling to reach.
A further innovation that Digicast offer is corporate podcasting . This service provides public and private companies and organisations with a one stop shop for multimedia communications delivered through the Internet and available for downloads. Kingspan Century, the maker of timber frame homes, is their first commercial corporate."Podcasting can be used for internal and external communications and for delivering training seminars and workshops.", Says Conway, "We see tremendous scope for corporate podcasting - using both audio and video - and point to the track being created in the US with companies like IBM using podcasting extensively to communicate with staff and customers."
But Podcasting in Ireland is becoming a much wider phenomenon - although still a minority interest. There are a number of blogs and websites dedicated specifically to Irish podcasting such as http://podcaster.blogsome.com/
. Notable Irish podcasts include the popular radio podcasts from RTE Radio 1 (www.rte.ie/radio1/podcast/
), Phantom FM (www.phantomfm.com/now/podcasts.htm
), Near FM (www.nearfm.ie/podcast
), Newstalk (www.newstalk106.ie/podcasting.html
) and the goeat.ie (www.goeat.ie
) video podcasts. From a digital media perspective one to check out is Tom Rafferty's Digital Rights Management Podcasts. (www.tomrafteryit.net/everything-you-blog-is-false/
launches on March 10th with the launch in The Village in Dublin of the podcast channel Making Waves. Artists from the Making Waves channel will perform live for a media and marketing launch which will give Digicast's team the opportunity to showcase podcasting and it's potential.