This article is for people that have absolutely no idea what a podcast is, how they can use them and why they would want to bother at all.
Before you continue if you have no idea what RSS is I strongly suggest you read this article first – What is RSS and How Do I Use It?. RSS forms the distribution method for podcasts and you should have a basic understanding of RSS before you start to play with podcasts.
The word “podcasting” is a portmanteau combining the words “broadcasting” and “iPod.” In case you have had your head in the sand recently or don’t keep up with popular technology an iPod is a portable music player produced by Apple Computers. Apple was lucky/smart enough that their brand was wrapped into a term for a new technology much like the Sony Walkman becoming the popular name for a portable radio/cassette player or inline skates being called “rollerblades”, which is brand name for a company that produced inline skates.
The most popular format of a podcast is MP3. An MP3 is –
Wikipedia: MP3 is a popular digital audio encoding and lossy compression format. It was designed to greatly reduce the amount of data (10:1 compression is common) required to represent audio, yet still sound like a faithful reproduction of the original uncompressed audio to most listeners. In popular usage, MP3 also refers to files of sound or music recordings stored in the MP3 format on computers.
Ahh, right. Some of that definition is quite technical, but all you really need to know is that an MP3 is a popular audio file type for podcasts. There are other audio file types that are used for podcasting but in general as long as you have a music player on your computer you should be able to listen to a podcast file.
Podcasting is a form of audio broadcasting on the Internet. The reason it became linked with the iPod in name was because people download the broadcasts (audio shows) to listen to on their iPods. However you don’t have to listen to podcasts only on iPods; you can use your computer with some music software such as Windows built-in Media Player or iTunes for mac (which has a podcast library), or your smartphone, or even in your car. It really doesn’t matter, as long as you have some way to play music on your computer you will be able to listen to podcasts.
What Makes Podcasting Different?
When I first heard of podcasting I didn’t understand what made it different from simply searching and then downloading a music file and listening to it much like I had been doing for years with MP3 music tracks. I had a knowledge gap because I still didn’t understand RSS and content syndication.
After playing with RSS feed readers (which you should know about if you followed my instructions and read my primer article about RSS before reading this article) I understood the difference between searching and downloading music files and subscribing to podcasts. It’s all about having the files come to you through syndication instead of you going to the files through search.
You subscribe to podcasts much like you subscribe to blogs. In fact often podcasts are distributed through a blog and provided your feed reading software handles podcasts you should be able to either instruct your reader to download new podcasts whenever they become available or manually choose which podcasts you want to download by clicking a link to the audio file. These files can then be listened to on your computer or you can transfer them to your portable player to listen to later.
Some podcast feed reading software such as iTunes are configured to download and transfer the podcast directly to your portable player automatically so you can plug it in and walk away a few minutes later with your latest podcasts downloaded and ready to digest.
A Practical Example – The Yaro Podcast
This blog, the one you are reading now, has podcasts. You will find a podcast category in the tab at the top that leads to a listing of all the podcast shows I have created (more on creating podcasts later). Whenever I create a new entry to this blog that includes a podcast (distinguishable because it contains a link to an .mp3 file) podcast reading software will automatically download it or mark the podcast as including an enclosure, which is a method of signifying that a blog post contains some media content.
One of the most common podcast subscribing tools is iTunes. If you use iTunes and subscribe to this blog every time I release a new podcast audio show iTunes will download it for you automatically and if you have it synced to your iPod it will transfer it for you as well. This is what I would call true podcasting – automatic download of an audio file directly to a portable device.
If you are still scratching your head in confusion I suggest you try iTunes and subscribe to this blog – look in the business and marketing category in iTunes and you should find The Yaro Podcast.
ITunes will automatically download the files or you can click to download some of my past shows. Experiential learning is by far the best way to get a grasp of new technology so if you are interested in using podcasts get out there and have a go. It’s all free so you have no excuse.
Podcasting Killed the Radio Star
Podcasts usually contain talk back radio style content rather than music. This is mainly because of copyright law. If you broadcast music you don’t have the rights to use then you are taking a risk.
Consequently podcasting has seen the rise of the home-based radio-like personality rather than popstar, with individuals recording talk-back shows from home and distributing to people all over the world. The popular podcast hosts have audiences numbering in the millions.
An Internet podcast star can potentially reach a much larger audience than any traditional radio personality ever could. With potential numbers in the millions it’s easy to see why there is so much hype behind the technology and many business folk eager to get behind it. Podcasts and blogs are leading a new content distribution revolution.
Timeshifting is a new term that you might hear now and then associated with podcasts.
To time-shift is to consume content when and where you want to, as opposed to live events, for example television, which must be attended at specific times (although inventions like TiVo changed this).
Podcasts allow you to listen to audio content whenever it suits you, for example on the train to work. Podcasts are considered to be part of the beginnings of a timeshifting revolution that with digital convergence will see all forms of digital media entertainment available on demand and timeshiftable.
How I Create The Yaro Podcast
As I mentioned previously I produce a podcast show for this blog titled The Yaro Podcast.
You can read exactly how I create the podcast from a technical standpoint in terms of audio equipment and recording software, and how I conduct interviews with guests, in this blog post –
Podcasting and the Future
Podcasting is the start of a new media content revolution that is empowering individuals with the ability to globally distribute their ideas and create a following of like minded fans. It is impacting traditional industries such as journalism, education and entertainment allowing anyone to freely create and distribute news and media.
And this is only the beginning.
For today, have some fun, download a podcast or record your own and become the next Internet star.