Pour one out for the iPod, the lovely little device of my teenage dreams. While Apple finally discontinued the last iPod model this week, the “pod” lives on in the digital audio medium we all love and are obsessed with.
The iPod was never really the format in which podcasting thrived (that was the smartphone), but when podcasts started, the iPod was pretty much the only game in town. In 2004, the iPod controlled 60 percent of the entire MP3 player market. It was the default option for listening to audio shows on the go, albeit an inelegant one.
- “In 2004, the iPod dominated the MP3 market”
“It was a terrifying experience,” says Leo Laporte, founder of Early Digital Audio Outlet This week in tech (TwiT) and host of the radio show The tech guy. “You had to download it onto your computer, connect your computer to your iPod via iTunes, copy it onto your iPod, and then you could listen to it.”
But with the ubiquitous gadget, the name “podcast” seemed like a natural fit for the rowdy online audio shows that were slowly emerging. So self-evident that two people claim to have separately merged “iPod” and “Broadcast”. The first recorded instance dates back to 2004 Guardian Article by journalist and technologist Ben Hammersley throwing around possible names for the medium (“GuerrillaMedia” didn’t get it). That same year, digital audio pioneer Dannie Gregoire named one of his software programs “Podcaster” and registered domain names with the word “podcast,” then popularized it with the help of former MTV VJ and early podcast host Adam Curry. Gregoire says he wasn’t aware of Hammersley’s article before coming up with the name. “Given the technology, it’s an obvious word to make up,” he said. Hammersley did not respond to a request for comment.
- “Apple embraced podcasting wholeheartedly”
In any case, it has prevailed. Not only did Apple keep the word alive despite possible trademark infringement, but it wholeheartedly embraced the medium by creating a podcast directory on iTunes in 2005. That same year, George W. Bush began podcasting his radio addresses as President. The New Oxford American Dictionary took note of all the fuss and made “podcast” its 2005 Word of the Year.
Not everyone was enthusiastic. For years, Laporte fought — and lost — the battle to have “podcasting” rebranded as “netcasting,” arguing that the word associated the form too closely with Apple. Time has proved him right and wrong. Yes, the iPod was a fleeting phase in the podcasting journey. But the word has so far outgrown its namesake that Apple is now just one part of the podcast ecosystem, and not even the dominant one. Spotify has taken the crown as the most widely used platform for podcasts, and Apple’s podcast programming is minimal at best.
Still, the word is inescapable. A few years ago, Laporte relented and eventually changed the TWiT Netcast Network to the TWiT Podcast Network. “That’s language,” he said. “You can’t fight it.”
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