Every Friday morning from their house near Jerusalem, comedian Charley Warady and his wife Carol sit in front of their home computer to talk about their week. Their half-hour conversation, which is available on line and is known as a Podcast, then becomes available to hundreds, if not thousands, of virtual listeners who tune it every week for a dose of comedy and quirkiness from the Holy Land.
Indeed, Podcast - one of the latest revolutions in online media - has made its way to Israel, where it's become an increasingly popular medium among technologically savvy English-speakers who also have what to say.
The Waradys' "Israelisms" show was the firs to debut from Israel, but they were soon followed by "The View from Here," another English-language talk show about life from Israel hosted by a young married couple, originally from the U.S., who now live in Modi'in. Another political talk show broadcast here in English has been launched recently as well, as has a Hebrew show with a more limited audience.
"It gives ordinary people a chance to really express themselves," Carol Warady said recently of her newfound hobby. "Sometimes I'll see a famous person on TV talking about politics and everyone listens to him. I end up complaining, because I have an opinion too, and now I have a chance for people to hear it."
Free and easy
Podcasts, as a medium, were introduced last year and enable listeners to download talk shows or other audio material automatically to their iPod and similar compact listening devices. The system is free and is basically an audio version of the now familiar blog phenomenon. Unlike radio programs, Podcasts are commercial free and can be handpicked to suit the interests of a specific listener. Some of the more popular U.S.-based programs, for example, touch on anything from shock humor to Catholic insight, and at the moment, an estimated 5,000 Podcast programs, mostly based in the U.S., are available for download.
Its growing popularity, meanwhile, can be attributed to the relatively undemanding list of technology needed to broadcast: a computer, microphone, and soundcard, which is often built into the computer itself. The latest numbers put the Podcast audience at some 8 million listeners, but fans believe this number will only grow.
"What we have now is just the tip of the iceberg," says Charley Warady, who estimates a few hundred downloads a week for his "Israelisms" program.
For Podcasters here who broadcast to an overwhelmingly Jewish listener-base outside of Israel, the half-hour venue every week is a perfect chance to show the "human side" of politics here.
"We get on the show and talk about our kids, the traffic, and what happens at the supermarket," Charley Warady says. "People read the news and must think `how can you live there?' But they listen to us and hear regular people who have regular lives and just have a good time.
"We bring the conflict to a human level and if we're talking about the disengagement, it will be in the context of people burning tires on the Ayalon and not being able to get to our destination," he adds.
By their own estimates, they have listeners from all over the world, including one from Switzerland who admitted to them in an e-mail that he was "addicted" to their program.
"People are very interested in Israel and Jewish life," adds Harry, who co-hosts "The View From Here" and whose program was recently ranked 34 on the Podcast search engine, Podcast Alley (www.podcastalley.com). "People are inundated all the time about politics from here, and as cliche as it sounds, we give them something beyond that."
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