What is Podcasting?

Category: Audio , Music , Video

Hey Bob, what's a podcast? Is this some kind of broadcast just for people with iPods?

what is podcasting?

Podcasting Defined

Let's break it down... a podcast is a series of broadcasts, in audio or video format, that is distributed by a web feed. Although the word has roots in Apple's iPod, a podcast doesn't have to be played on an iPod. That's because podcast files are really no different from any other audio or video files, so they can be played on other portable media players or even personal computers.

You can think of a podcast as an audio version of a magazine subscription, or a series of videos. The difference is that ANYONE can create a podcast -- not just corporate radio/tv behemoths. Podcasting transfers the power to broadcast from the media elite to the individual. And YOU control when the content is received -- like having the internet equivalent of a TiVo.

Podcasts are published via the RSS (Really Simple Syndication) protocol, so you'll need an RSS feed reader (sometimes called an aggregator) to manage and listen to (or view) the podcasts you wish to subscribe to. Since you don't need to enter your email address to subscribe to a podcast, you're not vulnerable to spamming, identity theft, phishing, etc. Users simply remove a feed from the list in order to unsubscribe. Juice is an excellent podcast receiver, but you can also use iTunes or even a web browser to manage and play your podcasts.

What's In a Podcast?

The content of a podcast can be news, film or book reviews, or commentary on almost any topic from tech to sex. Some popular podcasts are BBC Today, Science Friday and Ask a Ninja.

You can also search for podcasts that might be interesting to you. Check out the Podcasting News site to get a list of the top rated podcasts, or search by keyword and category. Another useful resource is Podcast Salad, a video podcast about video podcasting. You can find out what's new each week or check out their directory of more than 1000 video feeds.

Your Name in Lights?

Has all this talk about podcasting made you think of creating your own? If you've always dreamed of being Oprah or David Letterman, podcasts allow you to create your own version online talk show. If music is your forte, what better way to gain fans and publicize your talent. If you're a salesperson, replace cold-calling with a simple recording of your most prized sales pitch. Generally speaking, if you have a series messages you would like to communicate, podcasting is for you.

If podcasting is a road you want to travel, here's how to get started. The necessary equipment is a computer (Windows or Mac) with internet access, a microphone, audio recording software, and the ability to upload files to the web. The actual steps are:

  1. Record your audio and save it as an MP3 file (I recommend AUDACITY for Windows or GARAGEBAND for Mac users.)
  2. Create/update your RSS feed file with the proper XML code (See this page for do-it-yourself help.).
  3. Upload the RSS feed and your MP3 file to the web.
  4. Validate the feed by going to http://rss.scripting.com

If that sounds excessively geeky, there are websites that make it very easy. SwitchPod.com lets you create a podcast, upload it to the web, and be podcasting to the world in a matter of minutes. SwitchPod provides free hosting for both audio and video content, but ads will be inserted in your podcasts unless you upgrade to a paid account.

If you want more control over the creation and hosting of your podcasts, you can use software on your own computer to produce and upload to your own website. Check out FeedForAll (Windows/Mac) or Feeder (Mac).

Got comments about podcasting? Post your thoughts below...

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Most recent comments on "What is Podcasting?"

Posted by:

Howard Traxler
02 Mar 2007

You explain the rest quite well, but under the heading

"Your Name in Lights" you fail to give any clues about how to create your RSS feed file. Where can I learn about this one?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Sorry for the omission. Added a link there...

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