- Comic Books
- Site Information
- Star Wars
- Video Games
In 2005 I started Star Wars Action News, the first podcast focused solely on Star Wars collecting. Our first podcasts were rough, but from that first episode I was focused on improving, both in terms of content and in terms of technology. We focused on improving our audio quality, and our photography, eventually setting up a photo studio and going from consumer grade to professional DSLR cameras.
But by 2008 listeners started telling us about a new podcast format offered by Apple – the enhanced M4A file. This new podcast type allowed broadcasters to insert chapter markers in our shows, and to have a constantly updating slideshow. For a show focused on collecting this seemed like a must-have, but there was a barrier: this was Apple only. To make an enhanced podcast required a Mac computer, and then the enhanced podcast could only be viewed on an iPod, iPhone, or in Quicktime software.
Still, thanks to the help of our staff, specifically Kevin Gawthrope who enhanced our show every week for the first year, and then Berent Lawton who has tirelessly enhanced our shows for five years–four of which he was the only enhancer.
The result was an instant success–the enhanced podcast was downloaded 10-times more than the audio-only MP3, and one listener, Fernanda, actually crashed her car due to the detailed images included in our enhanced podcast review of Master Replicas’ Millennium Falcon. We were the first enhanced Star Wars podcast, and in the years since while podcasts about Star Wars toys have proliferated only one other to my knowledge offers an enhanced podcast.
Then in 2010 we added to the roster including an enhanced podcast version of Marvelicious Toys, offering listeners the only enhanced podcast dedicated completely to Marvel toy collecting. For collecting shows it seems that having images synched with the audio would be required, but in my experience only one other podcast that even discusses Marvel toys (and it is only a small portion of their content) is enhanced.
But now I do imagine the number of enhanced podcasts will actually decrease rather than increase, for in the past 5 years Apple has started to deprecate the M4A format. Early versions of the iPad would not show enhanced images. Then in iTunes 11 Apple buried the ability to view the enhanced images. Finally, in GarageBand version 10 chapter settings were removed that made enhancing podcasts a reality.
The writing was on the wall–the Apple enhanced M4A will eventually disappear completely. These changes to Apple’s software has already led many listeners to think our enhanced podcasts were discontinued, all due to Apple’s software “upgrades.”
But our desire at Venganza Media to continue to improve, both in content and technology, has continued. Firstly, we do not want to be caught unprepared when the M4A file dies completely. But equally important, at the same time as Apple slowly kills the enhanced podcast format listeners are also moving away from Apple. Our site statistics show a significant increase in listeners coming in through Android and Windows phones and tablets, such as the Samsung Galaxy, the HTC One, and Microsoft Surface.
Why should Apple users have all the fun?
So starting today, January 1, 2014, the team at Venganza Media is converting all our enhanced podcasts to video podcasts. That’s right, each week Venganza Media will now be putting out at least 1 hour of video content, delivered in 720p HD!
We have worked for weeks to find the perfect MP4 encoding that works on Apple, Windows, and Android devices. These video shows will continue to have chapter markers for the devices which support that technology. Additionally, these shows will enable us to have dynamic, moving pictures and, when the item warrants it, video recordings adding a totally new, dynamic element to our shows. We do know that with any change are some trade-offs–these video podcasts will be about twice the size of our normal enhanced podcast resulting in a longer download time and a bit more use of space on your phone or tablet, but we hope that our listeners will agree these are minor downsides compared to the ability to offer HD video. Additionally, for those who cannot view HD video or do not want the additional file size, audio-only copies will continue to be available (as they always have been for non-Apple users).
None of this would be possible without the effort of the podcast enhancing/video editing team of Berent, Andrew Harrison, Shane Rossman, and Daryl Whitlow. Supporting this effort also is Marvelicious Toys graphic designer Justin Kozisek and Star Wars Action News graphic designer Chris Klink, who will be redesigning our logos for the new HD format.
As with any new technology we fully anticipate a learning curve, and we appreciate you sticking with us as we adopt this new technology. Know that we do it to provide you with a more entertaining and informative show to help you collect better!
The first video podcast is now available, Marvelicious Toys Episode 106. You can view that now at marvelicioustoys.com
Thank you for listening to our show, and we look forward to brining you great audio and video content in 2014! We are very excited by what this will mean for our coverage of New York Toy Fair in February, 2014–just don’t watch it while driving!