A wealth of audio content.
After a decade or more of languishing, podcasting has had a serious comeback. There are more podcasts and podcast apps than we know what to do with, and certainly more content than there are hours in the day to listen.
Fine. But what is it?
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Podcasting uses the RSS file format to automate the delivery of audio files to podcast players on computers and mobile devices. Podcasts are generally ongoing series of audio content focusing on specific topics or genres. Anyone can produce a podcast, and you can listen to podcasts on your own schedule.
How podcasting works
Podcasting is a term coined by Adam Curry (of MTV VeeJay fame and one of the web’s modern pioneers) that boils down to this scenario:
- An on-line publisher produces audio content in the form of an mp3 file.
- That mp3 file is referenced as an enclosure in that publisher’s RSS feed.
- Folks who want to listen to that content subscribe to that RSS feed using a program designed for podcasts, sometimes referred to as a podcatcher.
- The program lists the mp3 in its user interface when it’s published, typically as a new episode of the podcast.
- The user can then listen to it or not at their leisure.
The term is a combination of the terms iPod, the device on which podcasting was first popularized, and broadcast.
To be pedantic, there’s no such thing as a “pod”, but I’ve seen it used in place of both “podcast” (the show or series to which you subscribe), or “podcast episode” (a single episode of a podcast).
Podcasting in use
There are literally thousands of podcasts, and the vast majority of them are completely free. Think of them as similar to old-time radio shows, except using modern devices.
There are many good podcasting apps these days. I happen to use PocketCasts, as it synchronizes my progress across all the devices I have it installed on. Spotify is a popular music-streaming app that’s making a play to be a podcast destination as well. And of course there’s Apple’s Podcasts app for their platforms.
I subscribe to several different podcasts. Most release new episodes each week, and I listen as time permits, often while driving somewhere.
Podcasts can be a recurring, ongoing series, but it’s also common to use it as a mechanism to deliver a fixed number of episodes on a particular topic.
I’ve been publishing a podcast for a long time. Originally, it was just me narrating my articles as they were released, and it has since morphed into the audio track taken from the videos I publish.
For a few years now, I’ve also been co-host of a more traditional podcast, the TEH Podcast, where we talk about what’s new and exciting in technology.
A final, somewhat editorial thought.
Way back when, one person I talked to was unconvinced that podcasting was going to be very interesting because the podcast he happened to catch was “boring”.
Certainly the technology used to deliver the content doesn’t make the content any better. Publishers still need to have something good to publish.
I enjoy podcasting both as a consumer and as a creator. I find it interesting because it puts me in control of what I listen to and when. If it’s boring, I won’t subscribe, and I’ll listen to something else. The challenge to podcasting is the same as any media: make it easy to consume, create engaging content, and listeners will follow.
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