Friday, May 2, 2008

Thing #21 : Finding & Listening to Podcasts

One of the greatest buzzwords in the Web 2.0 world is podcast. We've had quite a few podcasts for you to listen to throughout this challenge. But you may still be wondering, what is a podcast?

Podcasts are download-able audio programming that you can listen to on a variety of topics. They are created by your neighbor, your coworker or large media companies like ESPN, CBS and the New York Times. Best of all, the majority of podcasts are free.

When we said that anyone can create a podcast, we mean anyone. All you need is a microphone, a computer and some simple recording software to create a podcast. The number of podcasts grows daily and there are podcasts on virtually every subject. From sports to cooking to gardening to video games, you can probably find a podcast about anything you can imagine.

So how do you listen to a podcast?

The old way to get podcasts was to check the website of your favorite podcast frequently for updates. Once there was an announcement that a new podcast was available, you could then listen from the website or download it to your computer.

Web 2.0 made listening to podcasts easier. A few weeks ago you learned about RSS? Podcasters now use RSS feeds to distribute their podcasts. People use programs called podcatchers to subscribe to their favorite podcasts. Once they subscribe to a podcast, the podcatcher will automatically download new podcasts for you.

There are a variety of podcatcher programs available. The most popular is Apple’s iTunes. Below is a video that shows how simple it is to maintain your podcast subscriptions with iTunes. Most other podcatchers work similarly.

Doesn’t that look easy?

Once you have downloaded a podcast, you can listen to it on your computer or transfer it to your portable media device, like your iPod, Zune or other mp3 player.

With newer portable media devices like the iPod and Zune having video features and home digital video editing equipment becoming easier and more affordable, some podcasters have stepped up their game and gotten into video podcasting. It works just like regular podcasting, but instead of producing audio they are making video programming, or vodcasting.

To help promote their Ratatouille movie last summer, Pixar produced a series of vodcasts about the film. These “rat” casts were free and distributed through podcast listings.

Discovery resources
1. Uses of podcasting
2. Apple's iTunes FAQ on podcasts

Discovery Exercise
1. Explore a podcasting site like or Odeo.
2. Search for a podcast on a topic of your choice and listen to it. Post a link to the podcast and blog your reactions.

Advanced Optional Exercise
If you have an iPod, use your home computer to subscribe to a podcast. Blog about your experience.

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