The blog, that Web medium for unfiltered, unsanctioned personal comment, has been adopted by automakers looking for tools to connect them with customers and others in new ways. So it was only a matter of time before someone discovered the blog's new spoken-word cousin.
Welcome to the podcast.
A podcast is like a radio broadcast - without the radio. Instead, podcasting is done on the Internet, with the broadcast available for downloading to an iPod or MP3 player.
All you need is a high-speed Internet connection, iPodder software, computer and an iPod or similar device. With the software, any time another audio file becomes available on the Internet, it is sent to you. So, like a blog, you can collect file after file on topics that are of interest.
General Motors () has taken notice.
At the Chicago Auto Show in February, GM recorded a five-minute presentation by North America President Gary Cowger introducing the 2006 Cadillac DTS and Buick Lucerne sedans. Cowger's presentation, taken from video at the event, was distributed through podcasting.
Since then, GM has logged about 10,000 downloads of the podcast from its FastLane Blog (). Michael Wiley, GM's director of new media, calls the response "amazing." He admits that the Cowger podcast was an experiment and was released in more or less raw form.
Now GM is looking at producing a regular podcast with radio broadcast quality. As for topics, Wiley is thinking about brief, behind-the-scenes stories for enthusiasts. That could include interviewing designers of the Pontiac Solstice roadster or picking up an item that might appeal to Corvette owners.
Podcasting, he says, "is an interesting way to connect with niche audiences."
That was the thinking behind the creation of GM's Smallblock Engine Blog () in October to coincide with the 50th anniversary of its small-block V-8. The blog was created to give enthusiasts history, interviews with engineers and a place to share their comments.
But GM's Chicago podcast generated a few postings - made public on the FastLane Blog - from people upset that such a large corporation would adopt a technology supposedly designed to be an alternative to what many listen to on the airwaves.
Wiley dismisses such talk. He even has gone on public blogs to answer critics. He sees podcasting simply as an inexpensive and useful tool to reach affinity groups.
As for any threat of corporations influencing podcasting, he sees just the opposite. The technology will be democratic, he says, allowing people who otherwise could not afford to broadcast audio content, to now do so. And the audience is in control.
"If you don't want to listen to it, don't," he says.
Corporate sponsorship of podcasts may be a sign that the technology is set to be adopted more widely in the auto industry.
Volvo has sponsored two podcasts on , an enthusiast site that has used the technology to interview auto executives - including Wiley - and an editor for a consumer auto magazine.
While a corporate presence on blogs and podcasts may upset some who prefer that parts of the Internet remain free of commercials, that's not true for all.
Wiley says he's getting e-mails now from podcasters wondering if GM would be interested in sponsoring them.