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Pro vs. Amateur podcasters- everyone's learning...


Listeners wowed by the novelty of podcasting will switch off unless the quality of the audio is improved, warns a top production professional in today's Media Guardian.

The warning comes from David Prest,  managing director of Whistledown. Actually, given the spotlight of an opinion piece in the Guardian, Mr Prest knows he's expected to mix it up a little and so engages the more colourful parts of his vocabulary:

But much podcasting is essentially amateur. Look at any of the podcast search engines and you find a whole load of stuff from stuttering cat-lovers to people ranting about biscuits. Most of it is badly produced rubbish. Rambling and incoherent, much of it sounds like it has been recorded up a badger's backside, as we say in radio. More seriously, content is often crude, tasteless and potentially defamatory. As audiences grow, Ofcom and the lawyers are sure to take more interest.

Although he's right to a point - there may be legal problems to come, and most people won't listen to a poorly produced podcast for very long - there's something of the Trevor Butterworth about his tone: the mob have turned up at his studio and they're playing with the buttons.

The fact of the matter is that its not just amateurs that need to up their game if they are to compete for people's attention when they're listening to their iPod ("or any generic MP3 player", as Radio 1 DJs are obliged to say).

I don't know if they have improved much lately, but I couldn't bear to listen to the Snowmail podcasts from Channel 4 News, so poor was the sound quality. Meanwhile the Sun, which scored a coup with the UK's first political interview podcast with Tony Blair, have since seemed to decide that the best strategy for podcast programming is to hand a recorder to whoever wants to plug their film or TV show and then edit it lightly if at all - witness The Mighty Boosh show a few weeks back where the two stars of the shows interviewed each other in a rambling way.

In terms of quality, the Daily Telegraph is leading the way by a mile. It's quickly evolved from "reporter in a cupboard with a mic" quality to a slick show, hosted by a pro (Guy Ruddle) and sports enhanced features like the ability  to skip through segments and illustrations on photo iPods.

Mainstream media could also learn a lot from my favourite podcast, For Immediate Release, essentially an amateur production (they aren't paid for it and they aren't, as as I know, professional broadcasters). Neville Hobson and Shel Holtz, the presenters of FIR could - maybe already are - teach the professionals a thing or two.

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