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Shovelcasting, talk radio and the weather:
A content analysis of news podcasts
Vincent F. Filak, Ph.D.
Department of Journalism
Ball State University
Muncie, IN 47306
[log in to unmask]
Presented in the Radio-Television Journalism Division of the
Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication annual
August 2006. San Francisco, California.
A two-tier content analysis of a collection of news podcasts
revealed that these casts can be primarily divided into several radio
news subgenres: talk, all news/headlines, sports and weather.
Furthermore, the majority of these casts contain repurposed material
that has been placed in this new medium without considering the
medium's benefits or limitations. While both newspapers and
television stations rely heavily on repurposing, television news is
significantly more likely to shovelcast than is print. The second
tier of this analysis contains statistical examinations of writing
style, all of which indicate that both print and broadcast news
operations are relying heavily on their medium-based roots while
podcasting. Additional descriptive analysis is added to augment and
support all findings.
Shovelcasting, talk radio and the weather:
A content analysis of news podcasts1
At the advent of the web, newspapers and television stations
grappled with the issue of how best to use the new medium. As
websites quickly sprang up at media outlets throughout the country in
the mid-1990s, the rush to have a website produced much of what
became known as "shovelware" – content created for another medium and
reproduced verbatim on the web (Stovall, 2004).
Some media experts immediately cried foul, arguing that media
managers were viewing the web as an extension of old media, as
opposed to a new communication tool (Pryor, 1999). Others argued that
readers who seek news through the web are looking for a much fuller
experience than those who rely solely on traditional media, and thus
media managers should look for ways to meet those needs (Lieb, 2001).
A number of organizations heard these calls for change and
began looking for ways to move beyond shovelware (Gilbert & Kerwin,
1999). By the turn of the millennium, the web presence of many media
organizations had gone from a marginal web commitment to the point
where web journalists began working hand-in-hand with the news desks
to provide information that was not available anywhere else (McCoy, 2004).
In a review of news websites, Greer and Mensing (2004) stated
that in the period from 1997 to 2003, the majority of newspapers had
moved from rarely updated, bare-bones websites to sites that were
frequently updated and filled with local and national news. In
addition, news websites were offering more of everything, adding
audio and video elements as well as increasing the number of
interactive opportunities. In this time period, "shovelware" became
less prevalent and "online journalism" had emerged as a unique media
form (Bardoel, 2002).
As was the case with the emergence of the web, the media is
again faced with a rapidly expanding new platform: podcasting. More
than 15,000 podcasts are available for downloading on topics that
range from opera to Harry Potter (Wasserman, 2005) and more than 15
million people have subscribed to at least one podcast (Anderson,
2005). That number is projected to climb as high as 55 million by
2010 (Fox & Albro, 2005).
Just as media outlets rushed to establish a presence on the
web, they are now seeking to stake their claims in podland (McBride &
Wingfield, 2005). The news area of iTunes' podcast collection has
climbed to more than 2,000 podcasts by early 2006. The Washington
Post, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal each have
multiple podcast feeds, as do ABC, CBS and NBC and their affiliates.
However, the question remains: how has the podcasting realm defined
news and have media outlets returned to their shoveling ways?
This study seeks to examine news podcasts from both a
statistical and descriptive approach in an attempt to map out the
podcast landscape. Furthermore, this study will assess whether
professional media outlets are providing podcast listeners with new
content germane to the format or repurposed content with little
regard for the strengths and weakness of the medium. The findings in
this study will provide an initial roadmap of "podland." Furthermore,
if podcasts are primarily comprised of shoveled material and
repurposed content, as was the case with early news websites, this
work could help establish a pattern of how the media approaches a new
platform for information dissemination.
The term podcast derives its name from Apple's MP3 player, the
iPod and refers to an Internet radio file that listeners can download
to a computer and transfer to an MP3 player (Bullis, 2005).
Individuals can download specific files or request a subscription,
which will allow the computer to download each new installment of the
cast as it becomes available (Wasserman, 2005).
Although streamed Internet radio has been commonplace for
almost a decade, the first podcasts were not created until 2004
(Acohido, 2005). Former MTV video-jockey Adam Curry, known now as the
"podfather," helped develop the technology that allowed individuals
to create their own shows (Anderson, 2005). That, coupled with the
explosion of the iPod market has fueled the market for these
digital-file radio shows.
Podcasts combine the self-expressiveness of blogs, the
portability of MP3 files and the timeshifting capabilities of TiVo
(Anderson, 2005). They also fall in line with the current citizen
journalist movement (Gilmore, 2005), in that for a relatively small
amount of money, an individual can create and mass-distribute a
podcast. Thus, many podcasts are created by amateurs who want to have
their views heard in ways previously only available to large media
outlets (Deggans, 2005). As a result, much of what is currently
shelved under the "news" heading of the podcast libraries, Gil
Asakawa of denverpost.com notes, is less like a professional newscast
and more like "two stoners yakking at each other in a basement"
Despite the explosion of the podcasting craze, it remains a
relatively young and untapped market. Rishad Tobaccowala, the head
innovation offer at Publicis Groupe Media in Chicago, drew the
parallel between where podcasting is now and where the internet was
in 1994: full of promise and full of challenges with no clear path as
to where things will go next (Anderson, 2005). According to research
firm Ipsos Insight, only 28 percent of web users know what a podcast
is and only 2 percent had listened to one. David Schatsky of Jupiter
Marketing has argued that the podcasting phenomenon is overhyped,
noting that only 7 percent of web users download podcasts one a month
or more. Fine (2005) noted that "podcasting is the teenage clique of
media. Small enough that its pioneers refer to one another by first
names only, young enough that it's unclear which media model fits it
and brazen enough to believe it can figure it all out by itself." (p.2)
Still, corporations see the potential for this new platform
and are trying to find ways to use it to their advantage (Garrity,
Butler & Bruno, 2005). For example, Dixie paper products entered into
a contract with the producers of Mommycast that has been valued at
"north of six figures" in hopes of reaching "contemporary moms" in a
cutting-edge way. Rather than sponsoring a cast, appliance-giant
Whirlpool has created its own podcast, which discusses family issues,
such as parenting, marriage and child-rearing (Anderson,
2005). General Motors has been creating podcasts that update
consumers on product developments while IBM has used them to inform
listeners about advances the company is making technologically (Wahl,
2005). In a more traditional move, organizations such as NPR, Clear
Channel and Pod2Mobile have all worked to find ways to incorporate
advertising into podcasts (Bruno & Martens, 2006). Although some have
called the podcasting realm the "Wild West" of media (Klaassen &
Taylor, 2006), the unpredictability of this new frontier has not
scared off financial prospectors. Revenue related to podcasting is
expected to reach $80 million this year, $150 million by 2008 and
then nearly double again by 2010 (Anderson, 2006).
Mainstream media outfits have also joined the podcasting
revolution. Chicago Sun-Times movie critics Roger Ebert and Richard
Roeper have repurposed their successful television show, Ebert and
Roeper at the Movies into a podcast. Business Week magazine used its
first podcast to discuss the phenomenon of podcasting (Baker, 2005).
National Public Radio and its regional affiliates currently produce
more than 200 podcasts, which include both repurposed and original
content (Palser, 2006). Radio Disney is pushing to reach the
6-to-14-year-old market through a series of podcasts that are
expected to be released in June (Bannan, 2006). ABC's Nightline and
Good Morning, America have podcast versions while local stations such
as WCPO in Cincinnati and WBBM in Chicago are also making newscasts
available for downloading (Potter, 2006). In addition, the newspaper
industry, which is often thought of as close-minded and unwilling to
take risks, has embraced the concept of podcasting (Lieberman, 2006).
The Arizona Republic has put forth a variety of podcasts as part of
its azcentral.com website. The Naples Daily News offers not only
podcasts, but also content over cellular phones and PlayStation
gaming systems. The Denver Post, Philidelphia Daily News and Daily
Journal in Kankakee County, Illinois are just a few of the other
newspapers that have begun podcasting (Potter, 2006).
In spite of some innovative approaches and some forward
thinking, much of the mainstream media appears to be engaging in
shovelcasting. Podcasts from traditional media outlets often are
repurposed snippets from morning talk shows or radio broadcasts that
have been re-cut into podcast-friendly chunks (Green, 2005). Palser
(2006) argues that if news organizations are to find a permanent
place for podcasting in their newsrooms, they will need to look
beyond the technology and understand how individuals are using the
content. Otherwise, she warns, the podcasts will be as "clumsy and
inauthentic as the so-called newsroom blogs that are really nothing
more than editorials or news updates."
In sum, the podcasting realm is still being defined and
refined, with amateurs and media corporations working to find the
best ways to provide content of interest to an eager audience that is
utilizing a new platform. "Podland," especially the news section,
remains uncharted and no research has been done to this point to help
map out this phenomenon. Although some podcasters are using this
platform to test new ways of communicating, some authors have noted
that the traditional media has continued its trend of shoveling
content from their old platforms onto the new ones.
With this background on podcasts, we propose the following
RQ1: What are the predominant formats of news podcasts?
RQ2: How much of the content is clearly new as opposed to repurposed?
In addition, we wanted to more succinctly examine whether
television stations and newspapers are relying on their traditional
methods of news production, as opposed to seeking out opportunities
to utilize the strengths of podcasts. We decided to examine only
newspapers and television stations because they are the most dominant
forms of news media. Furthermore, unlike radio, they would be forced
to change their approach to news in order to thrive on the podcasting
platform. Thus, we decided to textually examine television news and
newspaper podcasts for medium-based differences. Nowhere is it more
evident that newspapers and television stations differ than in their
approach to writing (Papper, 2005). Television news relies on its
strengths of immediacy, using present-tense verbs to relay
information. It uses short sentences that are easier to process and
uses specific words in specific places to help the viewer follow the
story more easily. Newspapers rely on longer and more complex
sentences, as they can provide more depth in a story than television
news can. While television news is written to be heard, newspaper
stories are written to be processed visually, as the medium allows
the readers to go back and reread something they might have missed
the first time. Even in innovation, journalists at these media
outlets are likely to remain tied to their medium-based norms.
Thus, we propose the following hypotheses:
H1: Podcasts created by television stations will use shorter
sentences than those created by newspapers.
H2: Podcasts created by television stations will use more
present-tense verbs than past tense verbs in their attributions when
compared to podcasts created by newspapers.
H3: Podcasts created by television stations will place attributions
at the front end of their sentences more often than those created by
A two-part content analysis was performed to examine the
current landscape of news podcasting. The first stage involved a full
examination a large cross-section of podcasts while the second took a
specific look at what television stations and newspapers were doing
in regard to podcasting.
All the podcasts that are listed under the "news" genre were
accessed through iTunes on March 1, 2006 and were coded for format as
well as for their use of new or repurposed material. Given the
distinction that users are beginning to draw between podcasts (audio
only) and vodcasts (video and audio), we decided to exclude those
casts that contained video components.
Categories for format were drawn from the traditional
categories of radio news: talk, headline/all news, sports and weather
(Paneth, 1983). A "non-U.S." category was added to account for the
large number of casts that came from other countries. As many of
these casts were in foreign languages, coding them was prohibitive.
Furthermore, countries vary on their views regarding news, media
formatting and other similar issues making cross-cultural comparisons invalid.
Coders listened to the most recently uploaded file for each
podcast, and placed it in one of the previously noted categories,
based on the category's definitions. The talk category was defined as
having one or more individuals discussing topical issues either with
or without a guest. The headline/all news format was defined as the
presentation of news stories by an announcer or announcers in a style
indicative of a one-way conduit of information. The cast could
consist of one or multiple stories each with the purpose of conveying
factual information. Sports radio was defined in the same way as talk
radio, but with the discussion primarily devoted to sporting events
or happenings. Weather casts consisted of the reporting of the
current or future climatilogical conditions of a given city or state.
Podcasts that did not fit into one of these categories were coded in
the "other" category.
The podcasts were also coded in one of three categories in
regard to the type of material they contained: new, repurposed or
unknown. A podcast was coded in the "new" category if it contained
material that was germane to the cast and not available elsewhere
either verbatim or with very few changes. News organizations that
incorporated in-depth interviews with reporters regarding their
stories were coded here as were talk shows that were not broadcast
elsewhere. Internet radio shows were also coded here, as the material
created for these shows was meant for computer-based consumption.
Podcasts that contained primarily material that had been created for
another medium were coded as repurposed. These casts included
newspaper podcasts that consisted of a reading of the day's headlines
or a columnist voicing her column or a reading of the day's headlines
with no additional material. They also included radio and television
news programs that had been reformatted for a podcast. In cases where
it was unclear whether the material was new or repurposed, coders
searched the podcaster's website for the podcast's source material.
If it was still unclear, the podcast was coded in the "unknown" category.
The second portion of the study textually analyzed a series of
podcasts from print and television news operations to examine whether
they had embraced the new medium or had simply used their traditional
thought process in regard to news when creating the podcasts. We
subscribed to a series of podcasts that had been created by
television news networks and newspapers, gathering casts from the
first of the year through the second week of March. The frequency of
the casts varied greatly ranging from less than once per week to
multiple times per day, thus making a traditional sampling approach
impossible. Thus, we employed a variation on the two composite week
approach, first randomly selecting seven newspapers and seven
television stations for analysis and then randomly selecting two
podcasts from each media outlet for textual analysis. The TV podcasts
came from WTVD-TV, WHNT-TV, WMPI-TV, WMAZ-TV, CBS-TV, WNCN-TV and
WXLY-TV. The newspaper podcasts came from the Washington Post, the
New York Times, The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.), the Roanoke
Times, the Los Angeles Times, East Bay Newspapers and the Naples Daily News.
Papper (2005) outlined several key differences between writing
for print and writing for broadcast, which we hoped to measure here
to assess whether the media outlets were accounting for limitations
of their new media. Given that our knowledge of how each outlet
approached the podcast is limited to our ability to examine only the
output, we chose the following rules of broadcast for coding:
attribution before statement, keep sentences short and use present
tense in attributions. While other rules based on script writing
(i.e. the use of pronouncers) would have had additional merit, it was
impossible for us to attain this material.
We had the 28 podcasts in our sample transcribed and coded for
the placement of attributions (beginning, middle or end of the
sentence) and the use of present tense in attribution verbs (said vs.
says). Attribution verbs included the traditional said and says
(Brooks et al., 2002) but also included verbs that demonstrated an
attempt to attribute the information to a source (e.g. "He admitted
In addition, we data analyzed the total number of words and
the total number of sentences in each podcast. Word counts were
divided by sentence counts and then compared between the media.
Intercoder reliability for format (.71), material (.62),
attribution placement (1.0) and present tense attribution verbs (.80)
was computed using a Cohen's Kappa. All met with an acceptable level
of reliability, as they were all higher than .60 (Stemler, 2004).
Descriptive Analysis and Statistics
Of the 1,311 podcasts we examined, 384 were coded as talk
radio, 311 were coded as headline/all news, 35 were coded as sports
and 119 were coded as weather casts. In addition, 363 were placed
into the non-U.S. category and an additional 99 were coded as other.
The podcasts in the talk category ranged from popular radio talk
shows, such as NPR's Diane Rehm Show: Friday News Roundup and WBZ's
Jay Talkin', to the type of show that Gil Asakawa referred to as
sounding like "two stoners yakking at each other."
Much of what is in the talk category is unlikely to be viewed
as "news" in the strict journalistic definition. While Kovach and
Rosenstiel's book The Elements of Journalism argues that the first
obligation of news is to the truth and that journalism is a
discipline of verification (2001), the "two live fools" podcast
issues the disclaimer that they "take no responsibility for the
misreporting of facts."
Many of these talk podcasts were little more than an
individual or group of people giving opinions on topics that mattered
to them. Going beyond simple debate and discussion, approximately 10
percent (35) could be easily be deemed "egocasts" with the individual
who created the podcast merely filling you in on his or her day.
These casts took on the feel of stream-of-consciousness blogs, where
the podcasters talked about things that were going on around them and
what they thought about it. For example, a podcast by "Gonzo" spent
several minutes discussing the host's latest difficulties with
flatulence and defecation. Paul Gestwick, a computer science
professor at Ball State, noted recently that podcasts like these will
continue to proliferate because they give people "a false sense that
people are listening" (Studinski, 2006).
Other shows used the traditional talk format, in that the
hosts discussed several topics either with a co-host of the show or a
named guest. For the most part, this is where amateurs and special
interests propagated. Topics for these casts included discussions of
Formula One racing, bluegrass music and the art of bartending. A
total of 368 podcasts were coded as being primarily comprised of new
material, many of which fell in the talk category. Some podcasts
straddled the fence between talk and headline news. For example, the
Naples Daily News podcast features news, weather, sports,
entertainment and a letter to the editor, much of which is drawn from
the paper. However, their podcasts are substantially augmented by
online staff members who interview the reporters of the headline news
stories to further advance the story.
The podcasts in the headline news category were created mostly
by media organizations that re-cut items from radio and television
shows or recapped the front page of the newspaper. The New York
Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Chronicle
were all represented here with multiple casts, as were ABC, CBS, NBC,
NPR, PBS and CNN. Groups outside of the mainstream media also used
the headline news style to inform their listeners. The U.S. Airforce,
for example, has several podcasts that outline the happenings at
certain bases throughout the country. Alpha Tau Omega fraternity's
national chapter has issued a podcast for its members as well. The
latest happenings in science, computer technology and plastic surgery
are just a few of the other subjects that have been presented in a
Of the 407 podcasts coded as being comprised of repurpose or
shoveled material, most of them were in this category. (Of the 948
total U.S. podcasts, the remaining 62 were placed in the unknown
category.) Some television stations used the top story from the
night's newscast as their podcast for the day, while others uploaded
the full newscast, including weather and sports, into a single
podcast. Newspapers often recapped the front page (The New York
Times) or went as far as to read a full story or column as a podcast
(The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times), thus fully engaging in
Although television news has a large repository of
broadcast-ready material available for podcasting, difficulties
emerged in the straight transfer of some of these stories from the
visual media. For example, one re-cut of the nightly news intoned,
"We begin with these pictures tonight" when there clearly were no
pictures. Numerous visual references plagued other podcasts, such as
KXLY-TV's coverage of a man who drown in the Spokane River. The
reporter's package likely had several "supers" (names and titles
shown over the video as the source is speaking) that identified her
sources. However, the script never introduced the individuals so once
the video was removed, the identifiers were lost. ABC11 (WTVD-TV) had
a similar issue when reporting on the death of three high-school
students. They covered the funeral with a "voice over" in which the
anchor read scripted material while video played on TV. At one point,
the sound attached the video was audible, thus leaving the listener
wonder what was happening.
The time-shifting component of podcasts also created issues
for broadcasters. Given the desire to stress immediacy in broadcast
(Brooks et al., 2004), many of the anchors and reporter were noting
that they were "live" somewhere or joining the newscast with a "live
report." As podcast listeners will decide for themselves when they
listen to the cast, "live" is not only a misnomer but also places
emphasis on an inconsequential aspect of the coverage. In addition,
many of the podcasts from broadcast sources used the term "today" or
"tonight" to signify when the story was happening. WBAL-TV, for
example, had a report on the Dubai-based company's decision to
withdraw its request to run several U.S. ports. In that report they
had the reporter "joining us this morning." Newspaper podcasts were
traditionally more on point with their description of when the
podcasts were being produced or when the source material had been
produced. For example, Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzick
turns his "Golden Gate" column into a podcast each week. At the end
of the column, he notes the month, date and year that the podcast was
recorded. The Daily Journal (Kankakee County, Illinois) also notes
the date of the podcast, but has also numbered them, which has become
the norm among many podcasters.
Weather podcasts were not as common as the first two types of
casts, and were primarily the output of the Weather Channel and
accuweather.com. Of the 119 weather casts, 99 of them were created by
one of those two sources, with the remaining 20 re-cut from
television newscasts. Several podcasts include weather as part of
their headline newscast, such as WMAZ-TV in Macon, Georgia which has
meteorologist Andy Wood not only voicing the weather but hosting the
cast. Sports podcasts were rare in the news category, with only 35
cases showing up. However that can be explained, as iTunes has an
entire section of its podcasting library dedicated to sports. As of
late March, it contains 1,752 podcasts.
The "other" category of podcasts included 99 podcasts and was
primarily composed of things that were clearly not news, but had been
categorized as such by their creators. Much of this was "mock news"
in which individuals were making up news, but other "non-news" fell
into this category as well. For example, there is a "Santa" podcast,
which is said to be delivered from the North Pole and contains some
information on the importance of being nice.
Statistical analysis of news media podcast sample.
To support and augment the descriptive analyses, we conducted
a series of statistical analyses of the podcasts created by
newspapers and television news operations. This well help us further
examine the degree to which newspaper and television outlets are
relying on their medium-based norms as they create their podcasts.
Hypothesis 1 states that podcasts created by television
stations will use shorter sentences than those created by newspapers.
The total number of words and total number of sentences were
calculated by a word-processing program. Those numbers were then
transferred to SPSS for statistical analysis. In our sample, the
average newspaper podcasts sentence was 18.25 words while the average
television news podcast sentence was 17.04. A one-way analysis of
variance (ANOVA) confirmed that these differences were significant
(F= 4.23, p < .05). Hypothesis 1 was supported.
Hypothesis 2 states that podcasts created by television
stations will use more present-tense verbs than past tense verbs in
their attributions when compared to podcasts created by newspapers.
Of all the attributions, television podcasts used 63 present tense
verbs and 9 past tense verbs while newspaper podcasts in the sample
used 70 present tense verbs and 49 past tense verbs. A chi-square
analysis demonstrated that these differences are significant
(chi-Square = 17.45 p < .001). Hypothesis 2 was supported.
Hypothesis 3 stated that podcasts created by television
stations will place attributions at the front end of their sentences
more often than those created by newspapers. Of the attributions in
newspaper podcasts, 54 were placed at the front of the sentence and
65 were placed in either the middle or at the end of the sentence. In
the television podcasts, 59 were placed at the front of the sentence
while 13 were placed in the middle or at the back. A chi-square
analysis demonstrated that these differences are significant
(chi-square = 25.36, p < .001). Hypothesis 3 was supported.
In addition, we conducted one augmentary analysis of
news-based podcasts to assess to what degree newspapers and
television news operations were shovelcasting. We recoded all the
podcasts that were listed under the news heading of iTunes podcast
library, focusing only on those that were created by newspapers and
TV stations. Again, only coding the most-recent edition of each
podcast, we found that of the 70 podcasts created by newspapers, 40
were classified as new, 26 were classified as containing primarily
repurposed content and 4 were classified as unknown. In contrast, of
the 53 podcasts that came from television news stations, 4 contained
primarily new material, 48 contained primarily repurposed content and
1 was classified as unknown. A chi-square analysis indicates that
these differences are significant (chi-square = 37.11, p < .001) with
repurposed content dominating the podcasts.
This study was meant as a first-cut examination of the news
area of the podcasting realm. The results indicate the majority of
the podcasts that are currently categorized as news are akin to ham
radio and early websites: a cornucopia of discussions, arguments and
streams of consciousness along with some repurposed content that has
been shoveled to a new medium with little consideration as to the
limitations of the medium.
Furthermore, it appears as though print and broadcast news
operations are encountering many of the same growing pains with
podcasting as they did with the advent of the web. In a rush to
establish a presence in this new form of information dissemination,
few of them seem to be concerned with what they are putting out
there. Gil Asakawa of the denverpost.com explained that his paper's
podcast is a reading of the next day's top headlines by college
journalism students who are using their home computers to voice and
produce the cast in the middle of the night. He acknowledged that
listeners are showing an interest in the newness of the podcast but
that the paper will need to keep improving the quality of these casts
if it is to retain these listeners in the long term (Potter, 2006).
Thus, just as the web users tired of shovelware and demanded more, so
too will podcast listeners.
As that demand for more and better content increases, it will
be interesting to see how many of these amateur podcasts remain
viable. In the early 1990s, Nicholas Negroponte predicted that the
web would be an affordable means of reaching out to a vast audience
and would put the average citizen on equal footing with the media
giants (1995). While the number of web pages grew exponentially
during the web's early years, many of the web pioneers were unable to
keep up with the constant demand for content. In the end, many pages
ended up abandoned and those media giants that had the time and
resources to invest in the web ended up being the dominant players.
It was interesting in this examination how many of the podcasts noted
that this was the first podcast for the individual. In subsequent
checks by the researchers in this study, the first podcast often
remained the only cast. In some cases this will change, as people
develop formats, styles and blog-like followings. However, some will
go the way of those abandon web pages. Four podcasts found in this
study were merely "placeholders" with the podcaster noting that he
was "just checking this out" and that he'd be back soon to do a full
cast. Those casts remained unchanged from early examinations in
January through the close of research in March.
As this was the first study to examine podcasting in this
manner, there are obvious limitations. The first is that there is
little that can be done in order to verify the findings. Podcasts in
the news area grew from about 1,900 in mid-February to about 2,100 in
the first week of March. A quick check near the end of March found
that the number of podcasts increased again by about 10 percent.
Until the podcasting phenomenon stabilizes, getting an accurate read
on what exactly is out there will be extremely difficult.
Furthermore, until Apple finds a way to cull dead links and abandon
casts from the archives, it is likely that the talk radio category
will be drastically over represented and that dead links will account
for the lion's share of what is being offered.
In addition, it is clear that the analyses performed need to
be augmented and further supported. The analysis of the cast
transcripts, while offering an interesting bit of supporting
material, needs to be done with additional variables and with other
samples. Given what is available at this time in terms of coding
categories and rules for readability, this was the most logical way
to proceed. However, as the norms and values of the podcasting world
come more sharply into focus, it is likely that a better set of
categories and approaches will emerge and replace the borrowed ones used here.
Finally, the comparative sample was created by sampling from
what little populations are present in regard to both television and
newspaper podcasts. Comparing the material created by the Washington
Post and comparing it to a local TV affiliate might be unfair.
However, given what was available to us at the time, this was the
best way we could draw a sample for analysis.
In spite of these limitations, this study moves podcasting
research forward. To date, no podcasting research has been published
in any scholarly journal nor has any been presented at a national
journalism conference. Thus, attempting to get a toehold in this
field has remained difficult for scholars interested in ways to come
to grips with this new phenomenon. This study provides an opening
gambit from which other research should follow.
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1 The author would like to thank the Lilly Endowment Inc. for its
support of this research through a Lilly V early-career faculty support grant.