Podcasting was developed in 2004 by former MTV video jockey Adam Curry and software developer Dave Winer. Curry wrote a program, called iPodder,that enabled him to automatically download Internet radio broadcasts to his iPod. Several developers improved upon his idea, and podcasting was officially born. Curry now hosts a show called The Daily Source Code, one of the most popular podcasts on the Internet.
Right now, podcasting is free from government regulation. Podcasters don't need to buy a license to broadcast their programming, as radio stations do, and they don't need to conform to the Federal Communication Commission's (FCC) broadcast decency regulations. That means anything goes -- from four-letter words to sexually explicit content. Copyright law does apply to podcasting, though. Podcasters can copyright or license their work -- Creative Commons is just one online resource for copyrights and licenses.
Although several corporations and big broadcast companies have ventured into the medium, many podcasters are amateurs broadcasting from home studios. Because podcasters don't rely on ratings as radio broadcasters do, the subject matter of podcasts can range from the refined to the silly to the excruciatingly mundane. Podcasters typically cater to a niche group of listeners. By podcasting consistently on one subject, podcasters not only assert their expertise on the subject matter but also draw a loyal and devoted group of listeners.
Consider two popular podcasts: Keith and The Girl is a say-anything-about-anything podcast run by Keith and his girlfriend, Chemda. The podcast's official website touts its expressive (and explicit) freedom, proudly proclaiming "Not held back by the FCC or anyone else." On the other end of the spectrum is A Mysterious Universe, a podcast devoted to examination of the paranormal, UFOs and cryptozoology.
Podcasts are also used for informational and educational purposes -- self-guided walking tours, talk shows and training are all available through podcasting, according to Podcasting Tools.
Several companies are trying to turn podcasting into a profitable business. Podcasting aggregators such as PodcastAlley.com and Podcast.net now feature advertisements. The Podcast Network, based in Australia, runs commercials and sponsorships during its audio broadcasts. Television networks have gotten into the action, too. National Public Radio, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the BBC have begun podcasting some of their shows. Corporations such as Heineken and General Motors have created their own podcasts to attract consumers.