Subscribe by email, free
Your daily briefing for podcasting and on-demand
A close-up of the word Podcasts
Image: Mingo Hagen

The history of the word 'Podcast'

· By James Cridland · 7.9 minutes to read

How did audio referenced by an enclosure tag in an RSS feed get named? This is a full timeline, showing when, and where, it was used - and who invented the term.

A new medium emerges

As Eric Nuzum discusses elsewhere here, the first audio referenced by an enclosure tag in an RSS feed was published on Jan 20, 2001; with Dave Winer placing one song by the Grateful Dead into a post, as a test.

Christopher Lydon is generally held to have the published the first ever original piece of audio referenced by an enclosure tag in an RSS feed on Jul 9, 2003. Here’s the first 60 seconds, via Dave Winer’s website:

The first program to automatically grab an audio show like this, originally called RSS2iPod, was launched by Adam Curry on Oct 12, 2003.

But these audio shows did not have a name. Yet.

'Podcasting’

Ben Hammersley, a British author and journalist, had been researching RSS and audio for some time, writing Content Syndication with RSS for O’Reilly Media, published in March 2003. In chapter 4.2 of this book, he discussed enclosures in RSS 0.92, and gave an example of an RSS feed with a number of linked audio MP3s.

He was interviewed on Rob and Dana Greenlee’s syndicated Web Talk Radio show on Dec 20, 2003, including a chat about RSS:

In The Guardian, Hammersley turned his attention to the growing use of RSS for the use of audio and radio content, and wrote on Feb 12, 2004:

What to call it? Audioblogging? Podcasting? GuerillaMedia?

He spoke about this piece in a BBC documentary (“Podcasting - The First Ten Years”, Trevor Dann for BBC Radio 4):

That was the first time the word 'podcasting’ had been seen in print, alongside two other potential words for the medium. In the same piece, Hammersley interviewed Christopher Lydon, who, with Dave Winer, had been producing audio referenced by an enclosure tag in an RSS feed.

Hammersley told Podnews in an email: “It’s a dumb thing I made up in about 5 seconds while trying to pad that article out to make it fit the page, very close to deadline”; but it was the first time 'podcasting’ had been seen in print: in a national British newspaper with a circulation of 383,000, and one that, later that year, was claimed to be reaching 2.5m US readers alone.

The word didn’t appear to instantly catch on, however. After Hammersley’s initial article, the “podcasting”, or any derivative of it, was not mentioned anywhere else in the media or in blogs for five months.

Get the free Podnews newsletter for more like this.
Our privacy policy keeps your data safe.
(Fill this in now; you won’t lose your place!)

The community takes notice

The next time it was mentioned at all was on Sep 16 2004, when Dannie J Gregoire wrote on the ipodder-dev mailing list:

I can see there being the desire of users in some instances to be able to easily subscribe and get older posts/episodes/shows (what are we calling these things anyway? How about pode or sode for short?) that no longer appear on the rss feed. Right now if for example someone wanted to listen to all the Daily Source Codes back to sode #1, they would have to manually go through the archives and download any sodes not automagically received, somewhat defeating the purpose of an ipodder. Not too much of a problem now but…

…adding…

I guess one could argue that this is simply an rss/server side issue, and that the “podcaster” (yes, I like making up new words) should be responsible enough to offer a page of seperate feeds of old sodes by month/year/season/etc.

Gregoire is credited by Dave Winer, speaking in Guy Kawasaki’s podcast Remarkable People:

Adam had the initial idea for why this made sense at that particular point in time. This was the first meeting that we had, and this goes back to 2000.

He saw me do it, and then he started doing it. And then, I don’t know, by September of 2004, there were twenty or thirty people doing [it], and we needed a name. And so we had a mail list and I asked people, “What should we call this?” And a guy named Dannie Gregoire said, just call it “podcasting.”

And Adam and I were doing a podcast called Trade Secrets, and on that we discussed it. So let’s just go with podcasting, and that’s it.

Guy Kawasaki: That’s how podcasting got named?!

Dave Winer: What did you think? We hired some kind of a market research firm and they did a focus groups and shit? Come on! That wasn’t how it worked!

and by Adam Curry, in Joe Rogan #1436 in March 2020:

And this just kept building and building, and other people started doing these and we call them soliloquies, and little bundles of joy, and all kinds of really dumb names. And Dannie Gregoire, a guy who was just listening, said “Oh, this is a podcast”, and the name stuck.

Now - Ben Hammersley from The Guardian years earlier had actually use the term 'podcast’ somewhere in an article which - there was no podcasting at the time, but he envisioned that, and called it 'podcasts’, so…

Joe Rogan: Oh, wow, so he’s the guy - he’s the guy who named it.

Curry: (sigh) He used the term, but I would say Dannie Gregoire really named what we were doing at the time.

While, as can be seen here, Curry’s recollection of the timeline is not accurate - it is fifteen years after the fact, after all - it certainly appears that Gregoire, backed by Curry and Winer, kick-started the term’s popularity.

Gregoire, a blogger, was registering a number of domain names, and registered podcaster.net. According to the WHOIS history of that domain name, he created it, via GoDaddy using his nameservers, on Sep 16 2004.

"domainName": "podcaster.net",
"domainType": "added",
"createdDateRaw": "2004-09-16 15:58:58 UTC",
"nameServers": [
    "NS1.DGREGOIRE.COM",
    "NS2.DGREGOIRE.COM"
],
"registrarName": "GoDaddy.com, LLC"

The first use of 'podcast’ in a podcast

On Sep 18 2004, Dave Slusher is said to have been the first to have used the word “podcast” in a podcast, Evil Genius Chronicles, and credited (un-named) Gregoire:

Somebody has registered podcasting.net, and I saw podcaster, or podcaster.net and I saw podcaster hitting as a user agent hitting my RSS feed and I went and looked at it and right now it’s just a coming soon page but I’m going to pay attention to that. I want to see who’s got that and what they’re doing but that term, I think they’ve coined the term. So “iPod platform” just doesn’t spring from the tongue but what I’m doing right here, and what Adam [Curry]'s doing, and what Dave Winer’s doing, and what IT Conversations are doing, that’s podcasting. I think that is the term. I am using that from here on out. Y’know, so I am a podcaster, and they are podcasters, and I am podcasting right now, and you listen to my podcast. Fuckin’ A! I’d like to know who this is, because you are one brilliant bastard! Goddamn that’s a good term!

The word catches on

The term was quickly taken up. Adam Curry mentioned podcasting on his blog for the first time on Sep 21 2004; Dave Winer blogged 'what is podcasting?' on Sep 24 2004, by Doc Searls, who blogged about podcasts on Sep 28 2004, and Dan Gillmor on Sep 28 2004.

A number of podcast-related websites began to go live in early October, including PodcastAlley.com, live on Oct 7 2004, and the original podcaster.net seems to forward through to podcast.net, which was already live on Oct 9 2004.

As an example that the term was already well-embedded, Todd Cochrane posted the first “Geek News Central Podcast” on Oct 9 2004; and, on the same day, Rob Greenlee posted a comment announcing the new name on the Web Talk Radio Show website. Evo Terra followed on Oct 13, 2004.

The first time the word “podcast” appeared in print (alongside “podcasting”) was on Oct 14 2004 in The Los Angeles Times.

It was then swiftly taken up by The New York Times, on Oct 28 2004; Matt Webb, then working at the BBC as a software developer, used it in an informal announcement on Nov 11 2004; Newsweek used “podcasts” on Dec 2 2004; The UK’s Independent newspaper on Dec 8 2004; Dublin’s Sunday Tribune on Dec 12 2004 (p39, “Radio Head”); and the BBC on Dec 30 2004.

As for Hammersley, on Nov 14, 2004 he released “RadioPod”, a piece of software that recorded radio streams, converted the audio into MP3, and produced an RSS feed for a… podcast.

So, who invented the term?

Ben Hammersley was the first to use the term in print, in a widely-read publication.

Dannie J Gregoire was the person to make the term popular in the community: and it’s very possible that without Gregoire’s use of the term in Sep 2004 - and its enthusiastic use by Adam Curry and Dave Winer - we’d be calling audio referenced by an enclosure tag in an RSS feed something quite different.

James CridlandJames Cridland is the Editor of Podnews, a keynote speaker and consultant. He wrote his first podcast RSS feed in January 2005; and also launched the first live radio streaming app for mobile phones in the same year. He's worked in the audio industry since 1989.

Readers and supporters

Gold supporters

Silver supporters

Support Podnews, and our industry

Get a global view on podcasting and on-demand with our daily news briefing

Subscribe to our daily newsletter by email, free