Podcast: What Does the Name Really Mean? Is it Fundimentally Amateur?

Every couple months a new voice shows up asking what podcasting really means. Its a valid question: there are so many shows out there calling themselves podcasts and in all reality they might not be. But what is a real podcast? Is there a magical line that crosses you from podcaster to broadcaster?

Leo Laporte Sets TWIT Straight on Podcasting

On episode 471 at the 45:00 mark, Leo tells John C. Dvorak, Ben Thompson and Jason Snell his view as to why TWiT is no longer a podcast. It brought a few podcasters back to hear Leo’s reality, which was:

“Podcasting is the hobbiest broadcaster – somebody that is not trying to emulate broadcasting – not trying to emulate radio, but just having fun talking about something they care about. That is a podcast. It is fundamentally amateur. What we are trying to do is much more like traditional broadcasting.”

What is a Podcast? The REAL Definition

The reality is, any audio, video, PDF or ePUB that is put up in episodic format on the web using an RSS or XML feed can be a podcast. This includes any show that could have been broadcasted on regular TV or radio.

Now Merriam Webster defines broadcast as “transmitted by TV or radio”. With that definition, only Leo’s “The Tech Guy” show can really claim a broadcast simply because it does get played over the radio.


Official Podcasting Icon

Is a Podcast an Amateur Broadcaster?

I would say no to that. I know many a podcaster who does this on a full-time basis. Adam Carolla is one name that comes to mind. I could bring in several other names, but any podcaster knows who is doing this full-time.

Heck. I podcast full-time. I create shows for myself, shows for 3rd parties and even podcasts for Fortune 500 companies.

Ham Radio

Ham Radio

Let’s Carve Into That Ham

On the other hand, Ham Radio is considered Amateur Radio. Yet there are a lot of Ham operators that make compelling content. And they are broadcasting over radio frequencies.

Further, some of those Ham Radio operators have crossed over into the podcasting realm. If you do a podcast about Ham radio, does that make you a double amateur?

The Profession is Not Amateur

If I was to ask you what a professional is, you might answer “someone that gets paid to do something”. So if you have an amateur profession that makes money for you, does that make you a professional amateur?

James Agate said: “Professional is a man who can do his job when he doesn’t feel like it. Amateur is a man who can’t do his job when he does feel like it”.

So on that angle: If I call anyone an amateur I am saying they don’t know what they are doing. Yet I know many a podcaster that does know what they are doing. More so than a lot of conventional broadcasters.

Now in all fairness, Leo did say “Fundamentally amateur”, which means if you have a microphone, recorder and means to distribute on the web, you can become a podcaster. If you turned that and put it on TV or radio, what type of broadcaster does that make you?

I used to record podcasts to air on public radio in Chicago. I know of many podcasters that also air bits and pieces on air for radio and TV. Where does that stand?

The Reality of the Name – Podcasting

The one thing I agree with that was said – a new medium stays in its infancy until big corporations find ways to make money with it. We are now in the 11th year of podcasting. Some can even lay claim they’ve been doing it years before.

I used to create mix tapes with my brothers and our fabled radio station “QTRS”. Most of those tapes were for us. Sometimes we let others listen.

Neither a broadcaster nor a podcaster we were. It was a fun thing to do. Years later, I created my first podcast in The Independent Music Podcast. It fell on the same lines as my QTRS days, except now it was more for the public to hear.

The simple fact is this: A podcast is an audio, video, PDF or ePUB that is put up in episodic format on the web using an RSS or XML feed. Call it what you will, but you are also a podcaster.

Yes. You can be both.

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  • Guinness Ian

    In my opinion if you’re creating content for multiple distribution channels, and a podcast is just one of those channels, you can legitimately back away from categorizing yourself as a ‘podcaster’ or referring to what you do as ‘podcasting’.

    Content from TWiT is only one example. Like the TWiT network, MSNBC records their programs and packages them for distribution across several platforms…including as a podcast. This does not make Rachel Maddow or MSNBC podcasters, nor are they podcasting.

    The words ‘podcast’, ‘podcasting’ and ‘podcaster’ have their place, but should not be used to universally classify all individuals or entities serializing content via RSS/XML. This terminology is a better fit in situations where content is created specifically, exclusively or primarily for this medium.

  • I think that Leo Laporte’s quote misses out on the idea that professionalism lies in the perception of the listener. Leo could have the best audio equipment available but if he’s a jerk or seems less informed on the subject that he’s covering than others in his industry, people could see that as amateur.

    This is the beauty of podcasts and the internet in general. Professionalism is ultimately decided by the online community.