What’s a Podcast


October 1st, 2007

What is a Podcast?

A podcast is like a radio show that you download to your computer.

Once on your computer, you can play podcasts directly or transfer them to an mp3 player, such as an iPod.

Like radio shows, podcasts can cover any subject or genre of music and are available free. The difference is that with podcasting you can listen to shows from across the whole world, and, because you download them, you can listen whenever and wherever you want.

What makes podcasts really special is that they are grouped into channels (just like radio shows appear on a radio station’s channel).

It’s easy to subscribe to podcast channels and once subscribed, your computer will begin automatically check back to see if new podcasts are available and download them for you if they are. No need to keep checking back to see if updates are available.

Do I need an iPod To Listen To Podcasts?

No. Any software, portable audio player, mobile phone or other gadget capable of playing mp3 audio files can also play podcasts.

The name “Podcasting” is a combination of “iPod” and “broadcasting”, from the fact that the Apple iPod is a popular player for the mp3 audio files used in podcasting. However this is misleading as an iPod is not necessary and no actual broadcasting takes place. Some people prefer the terms “Blogcasting” or “Audio Blogging” instead.

How do you know if a website contains a Podcast?

You may have seen small orange buttons with “RSS” or “XML” on them on some websites. These are called chicklets and act as links to newsfeeds or podcasts (newsfeeds are subscribable text channels, podcasts are subscribable audio channels). Clicking on one of these brings up the information that your podcatcher (or news reader in the case of newsfeeds) uses to process a subscription to that site.

Here’s some some typical chicklets:

Don’t worry if you can’t make sense of the page that appears when you click one of these chicklet buttons. They’re really for your computer to read when it’s checking to see if any new podcasts are available to download. All you need is the address of from the address bar at the top of your browser.

How to subscribe

First you’ll need a podcatcher. This is the programme that does the downloading and automatic checking for updates. Most people use iTunes but there are lots of other options available.

Then you then need to add the channel’s information to your podcatcher. You get this from a site’s chicklet. Either right click (Apple click on Macs) and copy the link location, then paste it into your podcatcher, or click the chicklet and copy the link from the address bar into your podcatcher.

Where you paste the link depends on your podcatcher. Juice users should go to Tools » Add A Feed, while in iTunes, go to Advanced » Subscribe To Podcast.

That’s it. Your subscribed. New podcasts will automatically appear on your computer as they become available.

Podcatchers

The following podcatchers are all free: iTunes, Juice, Nimiq.

Recommendations: Juice is simple to use, runs on even slow computers and allows you to play your downloaded podcasts in whichever mp3 software you like (such as Windows Media Player, WinAmp or even iTunes) Or, for a fully integrated media player and podcatcher, we recommend iTunes from Apple. Both are free and available for either Mac and PC.

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