23 March 2005

Podcast review: Coverville

Exercise: none

Since most of my readers are not only knitters/crocheters but also fairly competent with computers, I'm sure all of you know what a podcast is. For the two of you who don't, a podcast is like a home-brewed radio show. From what I understand, anyone with the right software can plug a microphone into her computer, record some content in mp3 format (comedy, music, whatever), and post it on her website for the masses to access. These files are called podcasts because they are designed to be downloaded to an iPod or similar portable audio device, but you can also listen to them on your computer with Windows Media Player or any program that plays mp3s. This is how I keep myself awake while doing my day job.

Usually I listen to talk show-style podcasts, but today I found a cool music show called Coverville, hosted by Brian Ibbott. I listened to three of the March podcasts for this review and I was quite impressed. This is a 30-minute show featuring bands covering songs by others. Some of the songs being covered are well-known (I heard a couple great Beatles covers) and others are deep cuts from albums by popular artists. Many of the covers are done by independent artists. Although there is a bit of new metal, most of it is bluesy-folksy and pop-rock stuff. If you can watch VH1 without wincing, then you will probably like this. The show is broadcast two to three times a week. Sundays are for requests , while the other shows are centered around a theme such as men's songs covered by women.

One thing that I noticed quickly when sampling podcasts is that they vary widely in sound quality. As I said before the minimum recording requirements are a computer and a microphone, but it quickly becomes obvious which podcasters have carved out a quiet spot for recording and spent a few extra bucks on good microphones and mixing equipment. Coverville sounds like it was recorded at a local public radio station. There's no weird hissing noises, the host's voice isn't muffled, and nobody's cell phone is ringing in the background.

Another thing that I look for is the design of the podcast's home website. Although many people use a podcast aggregator to subscribe to the RSS feeds for their favorite shows (similar to using Bloglines for your favorite blogs), that method isn't practical for me. I listen at work so I can't download the shows; I need to listen to them in a streaming format. This means that I must go directly to each show's website to access their content. Some sites do not have a very convenient layout for this purpose, probably because they think that most people are using an aggregator. Coverville's layout is great for me. The show links are right in the blog entries instead of on a separate download page. The site also has one of my favorite blog features: a calendar with hot links for the days when an entry was made.

All in all, I say give Coverville a visit. Mr. Ibbott has created 64 shows so far, but he will be removing some of the older ones soon to make space so get over there quick.

Once I learn a little more html, I will make a list of some of my favorite podcasts. Even though podcasting is relatively new, there are hundreds of them out there and I've only heard a few. Expect to see more reviews as I make the rounds :-).
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