NORMAL - It began innocently as a book. A price guide to antiques and collectibles.
Now, thanks to podcasting, people can see Shawnee cookie jars, Coca-Cola clocks and Marx windup toys featured at Don and Carol Raycraft's Third Sunday Market in Bloomington all the way from San Jose to Sri Lanka.
The Raycrafts have written about 50 books together over the course of 18 years of owning the 450-vendor antique and flea market that occupies the Interstate Center from May through October. But the Raycrafts' "Americana Price Guide" marks a unique venture between Raycraft and his son, R.C., a film producer.
"Originally, I filmed Third Sunday Market for a television show that I'm marketing. It's about the dealers, what they sell and what to look for when buying and selling collectibles. It's more 'Sanford and Son' than the Antique Road Show," said R.C. Raycraft, owner of Raycraft Productions International. "The book comes with a DVD, so initially we thought we would just tell about the book online. Now we're using a podcast to sell the book."
Podcasting starts with video film, which gets condensed into digital files. The files can be downloaded to a computer, iPod or even a video cell phone.
R.C. first presented the antique book in podcast form on a Web site he created at raycraftsamericana.com the day after Thanksgiving. He's had 44,902 hits on the podcast that features 13 episodes running four to seven minutes.
Podcasting remains in its infancy.
The Pantagraph plans to begin podcasting audio programs in the next three to six months, said Michael Freimann, Pantagraph online editor. Details of podcast content are still being finalized, but Freimann said one idea would involve columnists reading their work.
"I couldn't tie my shoes until the fourth grade," joked Don Raycraft. "I am so unsophisticated that I only understand a small fraction of the process. We each bring special skills to the equation. He did most of the pictures for the book and I did the majority of the text."
Podcasting can be an expensive venture for companies that must pay several thousand dollars just to maintain a Web site, R.C. noted. Then the business would have to employ a company like Raycraft Productions International to film a product or service to be digitized.
R.C. accomplished his podcast in his north Normal office with an Apple computer purchased at Connecting Point in Bloomington. The ability to produce the film and podcast in-house kept costs affordable, Don added. R.C. admitted the process involves a combination of art and science.
"Podcasting is the integration of TV and the Internet. It's a science of compression. I work with 1.5 terabytes of video. The average three-minute video is 1 gigabyte. I take it to 30 megabytes without quality loss," said R.C., who produced The Learning Channel program, "Protect and Serve," a police reality television show.
R.C. also has Web design experience. He managed a Web site for the rock band, The Eagles, during their 1994 Hell Freezes Over Tour.
With the antique podcast successfully under his belt, R.C. launched a podcast of clips from "Protect and Serve" the day after Christmas. Titled Security Guard Theater, the podcast has received 88,131 hits. Recently, he allowed a Sri Lankan Web site called MetaCafe to use three clips of Security Guard. Within 10 hours, 2,524 people visited the site.
In March, Raycrafts' Auction Field Guide authored by the father-son team will be released in book form and later as a podcast.
Internet users typically find podcasts on video.google.com, podcastalley.com or Ifilm.com. Podcasters like R.C. can make money by licensing their films with an Internet site and sometimes sharing advertising attached to each film. Ultimately, R.C. thinks viewers will pay subscriptions to access podcasts.
"I've been talking to Google. It would be a package deal. I would sell 'Americana' and Security Guard together. They would be able to view some of my podcasts and then link to our site for more podcasts. They would pay a subscription of $4.95 per month to my Web site," said R.C., who also is a consultant to the Office of International Criminal Justice.