Adam Curry is the brains behind iPodder, a tiny application that he believes has the power to challenge commercial radio. iPodder is the bastard offspring of the blog and the Apple MP3 player. It combines the hyperactive talkiness of blogs and the hipness of iPods into something utterly new: the podcast.

iPodder uses the blog syndication tool RSS to automatically download homebrew radio shows, podcasts, directly into a portable MP3 player.

Every new medium needs a celebrity, and Curry is happy to fill that role. After leaving MTV in 1994, he started an Internet marketing company that went public, starred in his own reality TV show, and learned to fly a helicopter. Now he’s ready to reinvent broadcasting. “Let me take you to my new studio!” he says excitedly. “I call it Studio A8.” He leads me to his “studio,” which is actually the front seat of his silver Audi A8, parked outside the Star­bucks where we’ve been talking.

Curry plugs his PowerBook into the cigarette lighter and loops two microphones over the shade visors: one for me and one for him. Audio runs through a sound processor with FireWire. In the distance are the lights of Guildford, the London suburb where Curry lives with his wife and daughter.

“Hey, everyboooody,” Curry croons, mock-jockey style. He starts interviewing me about my interview with him earlier that day. “You didn’t ask me any of the sex questions I expected,” Curry says petulantly. (My syndicated column, “Techsploitation,” often deals with the subject.) “How was sex with Michael Jackson?” I ask. His fanciful answer is interrupted every few minutes by the deluxe navigation system in his car, which is delivering regular traffic reports from the British Broadcasting Corporation. Over the next 36 hours, roughly 50,000 people download the show – and my Michael Jackson question is still in there, along with Curry’s answer and several updates on the state of the freeways around Surrey.

Welcome to podcasting, the medium that promises a future where anyone can make radio, instead of just listen to it. The biggest podcast audiences now number in the mere tens of thousands. Yet real radio, the kind with bona fide mass audiences, is starting to use the technology to make its shows available for download.

Several US public radio stations, as well as the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the BBC, are experimenting with the medium. Even beer megacorp Heineken is getting in on the action. The brewer has started making podcasts of popular DJs available on its Web site as part of a promotional campaign. Given that podcasting didn’t exist nine months ago, this adoption curve is impressive. Podcasting – unregulated, low-cost, on-demand radio – is heading for a tipping point.

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