I used to have a problem, but a friend of mine helped me with it. He didn’t know he was helping me; in fact, he wasn’t even my friend when this problem first cropped up. So, to clarify: he’s a new friend who helped me solve an old problem.
My problem was this: I often record interviews on an Olympus digital recorder, and then download those files to my computer. But I generally don’t transcribe my own interviews anymore, so now I would need to get that digital file onto my research assistant’s computer so she could transcribe it. Unfortunately, even a 60-minute digital audio file is way too big to e-mail. This meant I had to burn a CD or put the file on a flash drive; either way, my researcher had to physically get the data from me. This wasn’t a big deal until she moved to Minnesota for a few months (long story). I resorted to FedEx’ing CD’s to her, which worked okay but was an expense and a hassle.
Enter Robert Levitan. He is a good friend of a good friend of mine, and I met Robert when he offered to help me think through the future of Freakonomics.com (another long story). He is a web guy of long standing and good repute, one of the founders of both iVillage and Flooz.com. His current venture is called Pando. “What,” I asked him when we first spoke, “is Pando?”
Pando, as it turns out, is a pretty simple program that lets you send and receive really large data files via your e-mail — either video, audio, data, any kind of media that lives on a computer. (Poof: my problem with the digital audio files was instantly solved.) But what’s more interesting is that Pando may represent the future of media distribution. This week, the company launched a new version that not only lets you send and receive large files personally, but also lets you subscribe to RSS video and audio feeds.
Pando is now in talks with networks and other content suppliers. So imagine a world where, instead of visiting different content destinations — NBC TV, for instance, or NBC.com, or NPR or whomever — in order to pull down the specific content you want, you program your computer to receive whatever content you regularly want from whatever content providers make it, and it comes to you. (It’s kind of like a Google Reader for video and audio content.) And once you have the file, you can move it around wherever you want. In a perfect world, Pando would let me get media from anywhere and share it with anyone — and I wouldn’t have to let every media company on the planet put a piece of distribution software on my computer.
As the TV networks, movie studios, and other content providers face the digital future with trepidation, I wonder if Pando may have a hand in solving their problems as well.