VoloMedia, a podcast analytics, advertising, and distribution company, just received a patent for "providing episodic media," including podcasts. According to the company, which filed for the patent in November 2003, U.S. Patent 7,568,213 covers all episodic media downloads, not just the RSS-dependent downloads that power today's podcasts. VoloMedia CEO Murgesh Navar says that the company doesn't plan to go after individual podcasters, but that the company plans to "work collaboratively with key participants in the industry." We do wonder, however, if VoloMedia can really claim to have invented podcasting in 2003, given that the concept was already under development by Dave Winer and others in late 2000 and early 2001.
The only company mentioned specifically in the announcement is Hulu (as an example for a content platform that might one day offer episodic, downloadable content), but in an interview with NewTeeVee's Chris Albrecht, Navar also revealed that the company is already in talks with Apple and a number of TV networks.
While the patent was filed in November 2003, it is not clear when exactly VoloMedia argues to have invented podcasts. In his blog post, however, Navar argues that this was "almost a year before the start of podcasting." We have wondered about this timeline, however. Using enclosures in RSS feeds was first publicly written about by Dave Winer in January 2001. Indeed, the system for downloading and distributing podcasts in Winer's "Payloads for RSS" from 2001 looks quite similar to VoloMedia's patent. When we spoke to Winer earlier today, he also pointed us to an early podcast by Chris Lydon from July 2003.
The podcasting movement only really picked up steam in 2004, when moving downloaded files to iPods (which were also just coming of age) and other MP3 players became a lot easier thanks to numerous developers who wrote the first podcast clients.
Looking at the patent, it quickly becomes clear that VoloMedia laid out the fundamentals of podcasting in great detail, including how to synchronize content between mobile devices and PCs. Navar argues that in November 2003, it wasn't obvious that users would start to download episodic content. Given that Dave Winer first met with Adam Curry to discuss the concept in December 2000, however, we really have to wonder if this claim would hold up under greater scrutiny. We asked VoloMedia for a statement and will update this post once we hear back from them.
More to Come
For VoloMedia, which just switched gears towards a stronger focus on serving ads after it fired its sales team, this patent obviously comes at a good time. With some luck, the company will either be bought by another podcasting company interested in the company's intellectual property (and Navar says that more patents are in the pipeline), or it will receive a nice influx of cash based on licensing deals with other companies in the podcasting business. That is, of course, if the patent really holds up...