I was speaking to my friend Linda the other day, and we started talking about all the people who still aren’t sure what a podcast is.   I had this experience earlier in the week, wehn I presented the podcasts we were creating for residents to the new doctors themselves.  Out of 18 medical residents- that’s trainee doctors, about 28 to 30 years old on average- only three of them already owned ipods and only 2 knew, or admitted to knowing, what a podcast was.  They certainly understand internet radio, and digital audio, but didn’t get RSS and online subscriptions.  And these are people with plenty of education, but perhaps not plenty of time- a great audience for podcasts of all sorts.

We’ve been talking to people about “breaking out of the echo chamber” and “stop playing inside baseball” in our internet new media community, but how does that happen?

Linda stated the people we REALLY have to connect with are not just the guys in the Apple Store, but the guys hawking mp3 players at Circuit City and Best Buy.  We need to make sure they let their customers know about all the free content available,  and how easily accessible it is.  Maybe we need to offer to teach free classes on discovering podcasts at CompUSA or the local electronics store, or even Music shop where musicians buy their gear.  Maybe we need to hand out CD’s with samples of our favorite podcasts at the train station.  We need to become apostles, or evangelists and bring the message out in unexpected ways.  Like community service, in a  way.

We need to spread the message and I think we need to do it with some haste.  The frontier is expanding, but manyof the initial explorers are getting ready to give up.  I’ve seen some long time podcasters recently go into podfade.  I’ve seen others  struggling with the question of What’s Next on the agenda.  I know we aren’t patient with the status quo, but it’s still taking a while for the main stream to catch up with where we are on this frontier.

All along the frontier in the American West, little towns popped up and became trading posts.  Small communities of people who plantd their flags in the sand and decided to stay and rest a bit, and then, gradually, moved in, forming larger groups and towns.  Some of those towns became terrific cities; other have gradually died away as interstates or time itself passed them by.

I think the frontier and evangelist approach- taking it on as our individual and collective responsibility to spread the word is what will lead to the creation of cities.  Without increasing the community of producers and listeners, with fresh blood and fresh ideas, we are doomed to gradually fade away or be passed by.

Defining the groups and communities that will grow and succeed is easier than trying to predict which ones will draw the most “new residents”.

What do you think of the grass roots evangelism idea?  How do you think people would react to being handed a CD of podcasts- business shows, education shows, music shows, etc. randomly at a train station or on the street?  What about a DVD of some of the greatest video content available?   Is this worth an experiment at a Podcamp?  I think it’d be interesting to try it, and maybe film the project as well.    How do people react?  Do we give them a k7 number, email address or the like to give us feedback?

Anyone want to play along?   Any takers?  Let me know and maybe we’ll give it a whirl in September.