Since when did newspapers think they were radio stations?

Since some time last year, as it happens, when the word 'podcasting' started catching on in media circles.

A podcast is an audio or video file that you can sub-scribe to, a bit like an email newsletter.

Once you've subscribed (using software called an aggregator, newsreader, or feedreader) you don't have to keep going back to the original website to download new stuff - it arrives on your computer (and your MP3 player, if you like) automatically.

Podcasting has caught on among all the people who spend a lot of time with their MP3 players and wanted some variety, something extra alongside all the thousands of songs they can carry in their pockets.

Podcasts are essentially radio-on-demand, and most of them are still home-made affairs; amateur broadcasting, in just the same way that w eblogs are amateur publishing.

But now the professional media have realised how popular podcasting is becoming, and why people find it so convenient.

Commuters, especially, love being able to pick up an MP3 player on their way out and it being pre-loaded with hours of interesting new content, both music and speech.

The Guardian lead the way with a series of guest podcasts by comedian Ricky Gervais, mainly consisting of him and his sidekicks larking around in a studio for 30 minutes.

A leader in digital media for several years, The Guardian took the step of creating its own in-house podcasting studio, where newspaper staff and guest broadcasters would be able to make professional quality recordings.

You can download and listen to the first results of this investment at

The newspaper's reporters have been sent on assignments with microphones and mini recorders, and new content includes interviews with Doctor Who actor David Tennant, and a weekly politics round-up.

The other Fleet Street newspapers are not hanging about. Both The Telegraph and The Times have started their own podcasts, and the latter is reported to have signed up more comedians - this time David Baddiel and Frank Skinner - to provide it with exclusive commentary on World Cup matches.

Why this move into online multimedia?

The newspaper business is not having a good time of it at the moment; advertising revenue is down and readers, especially younger ones, are getting increasing amounts of their news and entertainment from elsewhere, such as the internet.

Some commentators argue the future of newspapers lies online.

That's not to say that newspapers themselves will disappear; indeed, a lot of people say that the printed paper still has a long life ahead of it. But the most successful ones will be those that can integrate and assimilate the online audience, make the print and the electronic sides of things work together.

* Giles Turnbull has a website at