15

A podcast is typically a digital audio file distributed on the internet, to be downloaded for later listening on a computer or portable audio player.

What the origin of this word?

The Online Etymology Dictionary says:

2004, noun and verb, from pod-, from iPod, brand of portable media player, + second element abstracted from broadcast. Related: Podcasting.

I'd like to know more. How did this come about? How was it adopted? Who came up with and popularised it?

21

Summary

Journalist Ben Hammersley first suggested podcasting in February 2004 in the Guardian newspaper but it didn't catch on. Developer Dannie J. Gregoire later used podcaster in a mailing list for podcast app developers, seemingly independently, and it caught on and spread from there.

Antedatings

The Oxford English Dictionary recently added podcast and its variants. Here's their first-known dates and the antedatings I found:

podcast, n.     OED:  8 Oct 2004 -> 18 Sep 2004
podcast, v.     OED: 18 Oct 2004 -> 18 Sep 2004
podcasted, adj. OED: 20 Dec 2004 -> 29 Sep 2004
podcasting, n.  OED: 12 Feb 2004
podcasting,
Compounds
General attrib. OED: 18 Oct 2004 -> 20 Sep 2004
podcaster, n.   OED: 19 Oct 2004 -> 15 Sep 2004

podcasting, n.

On 12th February 2004, Ben Hammersley wrote in the Guardian:

With the benefit of hindsight, it all seems quite obvious. MP3 players, like Apple's iPod, in many pockets, audio production software cheap or free, and weblogging an established part of the internet; all the ingredients are there for a new boom in amateur radio.

But what to call it? Audioblogging? Podcasting? GuerillaMedia?

podcaster, n.

Yet the term didn't quite catch on amongst the early podcasters, who were still figuring out the technical ins and outs of creating and distributing podcasts. On 13th September 2004, Adam Curry created a tech discussion group called iPodder-dev.

On 16th September 2004, Dannie J. Gregoire wrote:

I can see there being the desire of users in some instances to be able to easily subscribe and get older posts/episodes/shows (what are we calling these things anyway? How about pode or sode for short?) that no longer appear on the rss feed. Right now if for example someone wanted to listen to all the Daily Source Codes back to sode #1, they would have to manually go through the archives and download any sodes not automagically received, somewhat defeating the purpose of an ipodder. Not too much of a problem now but...

I guess one could argue that this is simply an rss/server side issue, and that the "podcaster" (yes, I like making up new words) should be responsible enough to offer a page of seperate feeds of old sodes by month/year/season/etc.

Well, podes and sodes didn't catch on, but soon the developer community enthusiastically adopted podcast in all its forms and used them on the iPodder-dev list, in their applications and podcasts.

podcast, n. and v.

In his Evil Genius Chronicles podcast episode "Audioblog for Sept 18, 2004") (mp3) Dave Slusher says (from around the 16m10s mark):

Somebody has registered podcasting.net, and I saw podcaster, or podcaster.net and I saw podcaster hitting as a user agent hitting my RSS feed and I went and looked at it and right now it's just a coming soon page but I'm going to pay attention to that. I want to see who's got that and what they're doing but that term, I think they've coined the term. So "iPod platform" just doesn't spring from the tongue but what I'm doing right here, and what Adam [Curry]'s doing, and what Dave Winer's doing, and what IT Conversations are doing, that's podcasting. I think that is the term. I am using that from here on out. Y'know, so I am a podcaster, and they are podcasters, and I am podcasting right now, and you listen to my podcast. Fuckin' A! I'd like to know who this is, because you are one brilliant bastard! Goddamn that's a good term!

He also blogged briefly about it the same day.

podcasting, compounds, General attrib.

Dave Slusher's Evil Genius Chronicles again, in "Audioblog for Sept 20, 2004" (mp3) (from 24min):

You could run a pretty good web startup on this hudred-buck a month server that I rent so there's still no huge barrier to entry for a lot of classes of startups and I'm thinking in the terms of podcasting startups [...]. Arguably I guess IT Conversations is already the first podcasting network but we're going to see media startups based around the podcasting idea.

podcasted, adj.

Eric Rice, 29th September 2004, "Broadcast the Podcast":

Now, if I were to tell the developer team to make Audioblog.com MP3 files publish along with the player (as a user-selected toggle), and the user has an enclosure-friendly blog software, then that means every single phoned-in audioblog would be podcasted, blogcasted, and broadcasted.

  • 1
    Wow. Earliest reference to "podcaster" was the same day that he registered podcaster.net who.is/whois/podcaster.net But podcast.com was registered on June 02, 2002 ! – Phil M Jones Dec 23 '15 at 16:13
  • @PhilMJones: I didn't think to check whois, thanks! That 2002 podcast.com is very curious... Although it was just a holding page until 2005. – Hugo Dec 23 '15 at 20:17
  • I've sent these antedatings to the OED. – Hugo Mar 20 '16 at 22:12
  • ✅My antedatings have been added to the OED! – Hugo Jan 12 at 13:07
  • (Except for the quote for podcasted, adj., which on second-look is probably the verb.) – Hugo Jan 12 at 13:08
3

The following is an extract on the history of podcasting and the etymology the term. Couriousily Ngram appears to show usage of the terms podcast, podcaster and podcasting from 2001:

  • The term "podcast" is derived from the media player, "iPod", developed by Apple, and the term "broadcast", the traditional means of receiving information and leisure content on the radio or television. When the two words were merged, the terms podcast, podcaster, and the art of podcasting were born.

A Brief History:

  • Adam Curry, former MTV Video Jockey, with the cooperation of RSS feed developer Dave Winer, created podcasting, a sophisticated method of broadcasting that makes audio content available to listeners at their convenience, in an always on state. Starting at the grassroots level through the "Daily Source Code" podcast, a podcast was directed by the developers who worked at iPodder.com. From there, many of these developers improved the code and produced their own iPodders. When people discovered that they could create and host their own radio shows, a community of pioneer podcasters was born.

Initial Development:

  • By 2003, web radio had already existed for a decade, digital audio players had been on the market for several years, and bloggers and broadcasters frequently published MP3 audio online . More recently, the RSS file format was being widely used for summarizing or syndicating content. While RSS/RDF already supported media resources implicitly, applications rarely took advantage of this development......

  • In September 2003, Winer created an RSS-with-enclosures feed for his Harvard Berkman Center colleague Christopher Lydon, a former newspaper and television journalist and NPR radio talk show host. For several months Lydon had been linking full-length MP3 interviews to his Berkman weblog, which focused on blogging and coverage of the 2004 U.S. presidential campaigns. Having Lydon's interviews as RSS enclosures helped inspire Adam Curry's pre-iPodder script and related experiments, leading to a variety of open source iPodder developments.....

First Use of the Term "Podcasting":

  • Possibly the first use of the term podcasting was as a synonym for audioblogging or weblog-based amateur radio in an article by Ben Hammersley in The Guardian on February 12, 2004.

  • In September of that year, Dannie Gregoire used the term to describe the automatic download and synchronization idea that Adam Curry had developed. Gregoire had also registered multiple domain names associated with podcasting. That usage was discovered and reported on by Curry and Dave Slusher of the Evil Genius Chronicles website.

  • By October 2004, detailed how-to podcast articles had begun to appear online. By July 2005, a Google search for "'how to' +podcast" returned 2,050,000 hits.

  • Apart from the development of Podcasting and its distribution via RSS, an idea resembling Podcasting was developed independently at Compaq Research as early as 1999 or 2000. Called PocketDJ, it would have been launched as a service for the Personal Jukebox or a proposed successor, the first hard-disk based MP3-player, that Compaq's R&D department had started developing in 1998.

  • Thanks for this. Those 2001s from Ngrams will be bad OCR and bad metadata. – Hugo Dec 24 '15 at 6:14
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    I thought it was worth posting. But I agree, all evidence shows 2004 as the first usage. Btw, Merry Christmas! – user66974 Dec 24 '15 at 6:21
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I always thought it was an analogy to a group of whales (which as we know, is called a pod), in the sense of "broadcasting to your group". I didn't know it had anything to do with an Apple product until recently.

I think that my answer makes more sense and is also not proprietary. Feel free to use it.

  • Do you have supporting evidence for this claim? If this is pure speculation, it is better made as a comment than an answer. Once you gain enough reputation, you will be able to leave comments on any question and answer. – jxh Sep 29 '17 at 18:48
  • You can't invent an etymology just so that it is "not proprietary." In fact, a great many words have commercial and otherwise proprietary origins, from aspirin to moxie to zipper. – choster Sep 29 '17 at 19:49

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