Syndicating Krsna Katha


Jul 20, USA (SUN)— In 1964, Canadian professor and media pundit Marshal McLuhan published “Understanding Media”, one of the most important contemporary books on how media effects and permeates society and culture. McLuhan was a personalist, defining media as a technological extension of the individual’s body. He described media in terms of the ratio between the media and the physical senses. Before leaving his body several years ago, McLuhan became famous for the quote, “the medium is the message.”

Not surprisingly, McLuhan was fascinated with newspapers: how the public approached them, felt about them, learned from them, and interacted with them. He gave us a number of memorable quotes on the subject, including:

    “News, far more than art, is artifact.”

    “People don’t actually read newspapers. They step into them every morning like a hot bath.”

    “Only puny secrets need protection. Big discoveries are protected by public incredulity.”

One can only wonder what McLuhan might have had to say about the Internet media technologies that are finding their way into the mainstream today. Among them, syndication broadcasting - commonly known as “casting” - is certainly having some of the greatest impact off all new media tools.

What are these technologies, and how can they be employed to preach Krsna Consciousness?

The newly launched Sampradaya Sun was designed to take full advantage of online syndication, by ‘broad-casting’ various content streams. Syndication begins with content. Content can be anything passed across the Net, but generally, syndicated content is either text, audio, or video. Blogs are perhaps the most common example of syndicated text content, and thousands of individuals - including the devotees -- are bringing new Blogs online each days. The term “Podcasts”, made popular by the Apple iPod devices, is used to describe audio content being syndicated or made available for subscriber download. We can imagine the opportunity ISKCON has to broadcast Srila Prabhupada’s nectarian instructions out across the planet.

The mechanism for ‘casting’ is the Internet, which presents ‘cast’ information - just like it does a webpage - to all those who can find their way to the content. There are several independent mechanisms that enable ‘syndication’. The first is an RSS (real simple syndication) feed page, that’s similar to an HTML page, but written in a particular XML code format. Blogs were among the first web content to be popularly syndicated, and most Blog software today makes it easy to create an RSS feed page that allows others to subscribe to Blog content.

The RSS page simply describes the content being broadcast, or made available for syndication. The act of syndication takes place when others on the Internet pick-up and read an RSS file, and use those content identifiers to point the content to another venue. This is done in numerous ways. For example, RSS ‘readers’ like Bloglines are similar to a webmail client. You log-on, point the reader at a Blog or webpage offering an RSS feed, and ‘subscribe’ to the feed. From then on, you get a relatively real-time download of all content being streamed by that feed’s owners. This allows you to have a single page view of all the content streams you’re interested in, with new titles or headlines available at any given moment.

Another mechanism in the syndication chain are the aggregators, who are akin to web portals that gather together and provide links to a collection of diverse but related content feeds. These aggregators pick-up and organize many RSS feeds, group them categorically, and make it easy for a visitor to browse and subscribe to individual feeds of interest.

All of these technologies can be found in the Sampradaya Sun and elsewhere in the website. For example, both the Sun Blogs and the Krsna Blog are syndicated, as evidenced by the orange and gray RSS/XML logos at the bottom of each Blog’s page. RSS logos are used to identify webpages that have related RSS feed pages, meaning the page’s content can be syndicated, or ‘cast’.

Similarly, the Sun Blogs digest pages list individual Blogs (in either terse or verbose format) that can be subscribed to. And, the PodCasts page is syndicated, so reader’s can get a real-time feed of audio content being broadcast.

One of the fascinating aspects of syndicated content is the fact that the public availability of feeds eliminates barriers typically put in place by editorial control. For example, streamed content is placed in context with other content not by the choice of the original content creator, but rather by the choice of a ‘middleman’ content consumer, who aggregates and republishes the content by simply including a pointer to the RSS stream. This makes the environment of syndicated content a very porous space. While two content creators may not like or approve of one another’s material, and therefore would not typically choose to be presented in the same content venue, syndication means that an aggregator has the ability to place their material side-by-side. Of course, this doesn’t mean that there’s no control over syndicated content. RSS feeds can also point to content that is password protected, and accessible only to those end users who are validated by the content creator/owner.

We’re also syndicating the Sampradaya Sun’s front page, which means that our article headlines are broadcast out over hundreds of news feed aggregators and feed search engines around the world. Each headline in the Sun, along with a brief description and a link to the full article, is being pushed to other individuals who are subscribing to our Sun-casts.

We welcome submission to the Sun of our readers’ own or other Blog, headlines, or Podcast feeds available for syndication. We’ll pick them up (aggregate them), and stream them out as part of the overall Sun-cast.

Streaming the Sun Blogs

As the impact of syndicated web content is becoming understood, we can see the potency of the Sampradaya Sun format, which combines syndicated headline news with an article-specific Sun Blog that’s also casting out to the world. What makes this unique is that news, events and editorials are being published in a traditional online news format. Through the Sun Blogs, readers can instantly comment and dialogue with article writers. Typically this type of exchange is very limited, slow, or impossible in a news format venue. In the Sun, article writers are held to higher accountability because they can expect to receive instant - and multiple - reader comments. This dynamic places the Sun squarely in the sphere of “new media”.


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