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Bloggers, Meet the Pod People

By Leslie Walker
Thursday, March 10, 2005; Page E01

Jeff and Tina Henry-Barrus were lying in bed in their Adams Morgan apartment a few weeks ago when he grabbed his Macintosh laptop and started recording their pillow talk.

Their Boston terrier got in the act, jumping up with his owners and snoring in the background of their maiden podcast, a new way to distribute audio that is sweeping the Internet and prompting talk of homespun programs knocking commercial radio off the air.

Podcasting Primer

• What is it? A podcast is an audio file specially formatted so that podcasting software programs can download it automatically and transfer it to an iPod or other portable media player.

• Where do I find podcasts? The Web has spawned several indexes of audio content, including www.podcastalley.com and www.podcastbunker.com.

• What do I need to receive a podcast? Free software for Windows computers is available online at www.ipodder.org. The most popular program for the Macintosh is iPodderX, available in free and premium versions at www.ipodderx.com.

-- Leslie Walker

_____Photo Essay_____
The Post's Leslie Walker sent back a photo essay from the DEMO conference in Scottsdale, Ariz. Check out views of Motorola's new iRadio, the Intellifit body measuring device and more.
_____Live Discussion_____
Transcript: DEMO executive producer Chris Shipley joined Leslie Walker for a one-hour discussion of the top trends and innovations on display at this year's conference.
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The husband-wife duo, with twins on the way, has since recorded two more half-hour talk shows and podcast all three to the Web, where anyone can download and listen to their banter on iPods or other portable music players. More than 100 strangers did just that the first week the D.C. couple started podcasting with a silly riff about falafel and family life posted to his and hers blogs (www.restaurantfuel.com and www.ilikeseamonsters.com.)

"Our theme is to let people watch the lifestyle of these urban hipsters change as we go through this pregnancy and end up with two babies," said pink-haired Tina Henry-Barrus, 31, who is four months pregnant.

Although the technology is less than a year old, thousands of people are podcasting nationwide, meaning they post audio files online in a format allowing personal computers to zap them to portable MP3 players. The word "podcasting" is a mash-up, a contraction of broadcasting and iPod, the popular music player from Apple Computer.

The big idea is to let people save Internet audio so they can listen whenever they want from a computer or handheld device. Receiving software lets people pick podcasts from online directories, clicking a button to tell their computers to find and download new versions of those selected programs. Files automatically get copied to iPods.

At least they're supposed to: I tested two receiving programs and found both raw and rickety. Some shows I downloaded disappeared from my computer before I got a chance to listen or transfer them to my iPod; others wouldn't appear in my playlist no matter how many buttons I clicked. And not surprisingly, the content quality was uneven.

Topics range as widely as human conversation -- political rants, religious sermons dubbed Godcasts, musical mixes, kitchen gossip and barroom chatter called beercasts. A few big corporations have experimented with podcasts, including one General Motors recorded at a Chicago auto show. While home recordings are attracting the most publicity, commercial broadcasters are making over-the-air shows available, too, adding fuel to the larger trend of time-shifting radio.

BBC Radio offers its "Fighting Talk" show as a podcast, and some National Public Radio stations are doing the same with their regular programs. Locally, WTOP Radio began podcasting some on-air fare a few weeks ago. Yesterday, it launched its first made-for-podcasting program, a new afternoon newscast called the Podcast Update.

"We will market this to Metro riders, saying, 'Before you leave work, download this thing and you get an eight-minute news update to listen to on your ride home,' " said Steve Dolge, WTOP's Internet operations manager.

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