Every new medium uses old media as the content. For example, radio programs were some of the first successful television programs. Brochures became some of the first web sites. CDs are still called albums. New media retrieves old media.
But some old media works better than others in the new medium. For example, people still want to load all of their CDs onto their iPod. There are even iPod service companies that will do this for you. In this case people want to put their old media that they love, understand and own into their new medium. Old media content helps people adapt to the new medium.
The success of iPod can not be separated from iTunes. RIAA furor about Napster and others was that sales of old media, CDs, were hurt. The beauty of iTunes is that Apple figured out the best old media for the iPod was not CDs but songs. (They also then worked on the details to make it a business.) iPod's interface is built around selecting songs. It is songs, not CDs, that are the best old media for iPod or any digital player.
Podcasting is a new medium and so it too takes old media as its content. Look at the Pioneers of podcasting and you'll see that they adapted the format of a radio program. Dave Winner commented in his Morning Coffee Notes of October 21, 2004 (mp3), that Adam Curry made his Daily Source Code program a perfect length of 40 minutes. This is the length of an hour long content without commercials that we understand from classrooms lectures, documentaries, interviews and public radio. It is no wonder that Adam Curry, a radio broadcaster with success in radio as television content (MTV), is the leading figure in podcasting. The familiar format of radio is making it easier for people to understand podcasting and is a key component in its rapid spread to early adapters.
However, the radio program format is not necessarily the best old media format for podcasting as it evolves. Just as iPod crossed the chasm to popular adaptation with songs instead of CDS, so it will probably take a different format for podcasting. A microcontent format will evolve.
Microcontent is the direction we are seeing in all media. Eric McLuhan in Electric Language shows the long term change in writing to paragraphs that are a single sentence. Look a Power Points - paragraphs without sentences. Look at how blogs are different than standard (brochureware) web sites. A blog produces RSS feeds which breaks a single web page into microcontent. Consumers want small blocks of content to make their own playlist, their own digest, their remix. People will create their own "radio programs" with microcontent podcasts.
So where is the microcontent for podcasting? Instead of long playing records (LPs) expect to see more and more 45s. WGBH is podcasting Morning Stories weekly which are short audio stories. Radio station KOMO is doing podcasts of individual news stories. And we are starting to see remixes and poems and other shorter formats of old media.
As the podcasting software, devices and producers move beyond the early adapter, look for better support of microcontent and remixes. Look for the 45s, not the LPs. Look for the tunes, not the CDs. Look for the blog, not the web site. Look for the elegantly design of TiVo or the iPod. It will all be there. The content of podcasts will be many different old media.