Thursday, 28 February 2013

"Live your life with passion - and, as long as it lasts, enjoy your freedom": Why Adam Curry is called the 'Podfather'

Do you know who this guy is? Would you know who he was if you saw him in walking on the street, in a supermarket or in a restaurant?

No? Well I would. I'd probably go up to him and tell him what an honour it was to see him in the flesh. That would look rather odd if you didn't know who he was though wouldn't it? Me just going up to this guy and shaking his hand without even knowing who he was.

Ah, but therein lies the answer: I do know who he is. He is the 'Podfather'.

That man there is Adam Curry, the creator of the world's first independent, financially successful podcast which sparked the podcasting trend that we see today. 

He is the creator of the Daily Source Code podcast which first aired in 2004 was the first ever podcast to integrate RSS elements, scripting and audio content such as music, making his podcast much like a radio show.

"There are no Secrets, only Information you don't yet have"
- Adam Curry

Early career and tryst with MTV

After spending eight years in the Netherlands working for both pirate radio stations and mainstream media, Curry moved back to the United States in 1987.

MTV had come calling, and at that time were one of the first TV channels to play music videos on the air. Curry rose to fame with the music channel, hosting two shows named MTV Top 20 Video Countdown and Headbangers Ball. 

While at MTV, he interviewed world-famous music celebrities such as Michael Jackson and Sir Paul McCartney and presented shows for New York-based station WHTZ, hosting the nationwide programme HitLine USA.

While at MTV, he began to experiment with the internet and volunteered to start an online profile for MTV, registering the domain name in 1993.

By 1994, millions of internet users had come into contact with the site, which led to Curry gaining much fame in the online world. The internet as we know it then was still very rudimentary, and this appeared to be the start of something new.

But despite being given permission by MTV brass, it was Curry who was developing this website using his own personal resources when he wasn't working. MTV asked Curry to shut down the website in 1994.

In spite of this, court documents show that MTV asked Curry to promote the site and advertise content of the same on his show, meaning that they were in fact using Curry's personal creation, despite asking him to shut it down, for the benefit of the company.

Curry took MTV to the New York Supreme Court and the matter was settled out of court.

Curry's adventure with podcasting

After leaving MTV spending much of the nineties and the nougties founding companies which aided in promoting the use of the internet, all of which were unfortunately unsuccessful, he struck gold when he founded the company PodShow with business partner Ron Bloom in 2005.

Designed to attract advertisers and promote podcasts, PodShow - later renamed Mevio - was an umbrella for the Podshow Podcast Network, the Podsafe Music Network and the Podcast Delivery Network.

Turns out that Curry's idea to form this company was in hindsight a stroke of genius.

In 2008, three years after its formation, PodShow claimed it had attracted over nine million unique visitors and had raised $15 million in 2008 alone, taking the total amount it raised in those three years since its birth to a very impressive $38 million from investors.

Bloom also predicted the site would be profitable by the end of that year.

But despite fathering the first site which gave birth to modern podcasting, that is still not why Curry is remembered in the pod world.

"Imagine being able to listen to "Science Friday," or last night's game whenever you want, wherever you are. That day is coming, and it's likely to bring a whole host of as-yet-undiscovered radio talent with it."
- Bob Garfield, co-host, On the Media

In 2004, Curry released iPodder, a podcast aggregating software. Inspiration for the programme dawned upon him when he spoke to Dave Winer, one the early developers of the RSS Feed, which made it possible for computers to detect where the next episode of a subscribed podcast would come from.

To create iPodder, Curry taught himself the Apple source code which automatically linked users to the download hub for all their podcasts. In his free time, he took apart the code, made changes to it so that it would be easy for everybody to use and then put it back together.

The incentive to create iPodder began to germinate in Curry's mind after painstakingly searching for sites which contained the podcasts, which took plenty of time (and patience) and downloading them. What iPodder basically did was collect all these podcasts and then give you the option to download them to your computer whenever you felt like.

"Curry sparked the podcasting boom in three significant ways: He persuaded Dave Winer to add the enclosure element to RSS 2.0 in 2001, created a popular podcast and released an Applescript hack as open source that led to the first standalone podcasting client."
- Rogers Cadenhad, RSS Advisory Board

More than half a million people downloaded the software in the first three months after its creation. Even after Apple Inc. have came out with their own podcatching service, the iPodder continues to be one of the most widely used podcatchers in the digital market.

In that span of time, the iPodder had established a directory of more than 2,000 different podcasts, which just goes to show how much of a success it has been.

Free to download and very easy to use, the iPodder metamorphosed into Juice, another podcatching software that is free to use. What makes Curry's invention even more impressive is that it continues to make a log of the podcasts you have subscribed to even when your computer is switched off.

Nowadays, most podcasts come with 'subscribe' options, but that hasn't diminished the presence of the iPodder in the world of podcasting.

"Every new medium needs a celebrity, and Curry is happy to fill that role"
 - Annalee Newitz, Wired Magazine

To prove that the iPodder actually works, Curry created a podcast called The Daily Source Code show. It was in a lot of ways like comedian Jerry Seinfeld's sitcom on NBC - a show about nothing. Speaking about the advancements in podcasting and general topics that concern people throughout the globe and liberally peppered with swear words - a strict no-no in mainstream broadcast media - the show is one of the world's most popular podcasts.

The reason this is is because Curry's podcast was an excellent alternative to what was being heard on radio stations in the United States at that point - content that some termed 'bland'. 

He would also discuss conspiracy theories such as Free Energy Suppression and the 9/11 Truth Movement, something which was rarely breached on mainstream media.

"People are still looking for the 'meat and potatoes' of the internet, and this is it. This is just the beginning."
- Adam Curry

Take his episode made in the first week of March 2005, for example. Recorded in the front seat of his car, which he dubs Studio A8, Curry's show was downloaded and listened more than 50,000 times by people all over the world in the 36 hours that followed the show. 

Today, the show has more than 500,000 subscribers.

Curry's vision and innovation has led to making the podcast one of the internet's most known sources of information, an expanse previously untapped that even large corporations throughout the globe are looking into.

What he has basically done is given everybody in the world the ability to have their own voice on the internet, something that wasn't possible in the past.

But what makes it pick your jaw off the floor with a shovel is that anybody can use it, from a corporation - as mentioned above - to a high-school teacher looking to impart knowledge to his pupils, for a very, very small cost.

In addition, Curry introduced PodSafe music to the world, wherein recording artistes and singers agreed to remove their royalty fees in exchange for free exposure on the web. 

And that legacy - which will be discussed in my next post - is why Adam Curry is called the 'Podfather'. 

In the end, he gave us all an offer that we just couldn't refuse.

Until Next Time,



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