Until the past week I'd managed to get through life without having listened to a podcast – don't ask me how. But that's been well and truly rectified thanks to a new service, Mixcloud, which describes itself as the YouTube of radio and promises to change the face of sound broadcasting. Possibly.
Let them tell you about it themselves: "Mixcloud is re-thinking radio by joining the dots between radio shows, Podcasts and DJ mixes. We refer to them as 'cloudcasts', audio shows that are stored in the 'cloud' – somewhere centrally on the Internet rather than on your local hard-drive – and available to be streamed on-demand." I'm not quite sure how that "re-thinks" radio, but anything that makes more stuff available can't be bad.
It's early days yet: the site, launched by a team of ex-Cambridge IT whizzes earlier this year, went public in late September, and doubtless in a couple of months it'll have cloudcasts coming out of its digital ears. For the moment: well, as I say, early days.
There are 17 categories, sorry, "tags" – mostly types of dance music, plus five non-musical tags: Comedy, Talk, Interviews, Politics and Sport, the latter two still awaiting their first uploads. The search algorithm might profit from a little tinkering: some "cloudcasts" appear in more than one category – a show is put in a category if it contains even one tiny example of that genre. So in "classical", for example, there's no single programme that's exclusively of that ilk, but any show that contains even a snatch is chucked in.
The Talk section needs building up, with eight "cloudcasts" in the past month – one of them by Stephen Fry, a man never knowingly under-represented on any new-media platform. Dating from February 2008, however, and containing his amiable burblings about his manically busy 2007, his "podgram", as he calls it, had a distinctly musty whiff about it.
The most fun to be had in Talk was on The Jody Hice Show – proper Genghis-Khan-was-a-wuss radio, hot and steaming straight from the Bible Belt. Hice, a Baptist minister, had the conservative columnist Ben Shapiro banging on about Barack Obama's Special Advisors – "We are becoming a nation governed by tsars," said Hice – and it was instructive to sample first-hand the kind of toxic waste that passes for political thought on the American Right.
"What we got is a covert racial radical who's used his race to get where he is," said Shapiro. "All the people he's surrounded himself with are racial radicals." And with his apparent willingness to use his position to subvert the rule of law, Obama is the most dangerous man in America. "It's like having someone from al-Qa'ida in the White House." Ah, sweet reason.
I admit I didn't give much of a chance to a podcast called Answermethis, by a male-female "comedy" duo. I made my excuses and left a few minutes in as the young man was saying, "my girlfriend caught me singing to my cat ...".
Red Matter, meanwhile, a news-based podchat/chatcast/whatever, by a bunch of American dudes, was like an LBC phone-in without the Wildean wit and Juvenalian satire.
I think there are two golden rules of podcasting, which should be enshrined in an Act of Parliament. Rule 1: simply shooting the breeze is not enough. Rule 2: if you think what you're doing is funny, you're probably wrong – try again and make it better, or just get out of your bedroom and get a proper job. You could always set up a website that re-thinks radio.Reuse content