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What is a Podcast?

By Yaro Starak
42 Comments

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.

Definitions

iPodThe 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 – Entrepreneurs-Journey 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.

Still Confused?

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 Entrepreneurs-Journey.

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

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 Entrepreneur’s Journey Podcast

As I mentioned previously I produce a podcast show for this blog titled the Entrepreneurs-Journey 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 -

How To Conduct A Quality Podcast Interview In 7 Steps

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.

Yaro Starak
Podcaster

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42 Comments

  • Wow Yaro! An excellent feature there today! So informative, I may consider unsubscribing from the technology magazine I’m so engrossed in! What you say here is very exciting, and is no doubt true – I think the idea of the digital home is a very interesting and exciting idea to hold, and I’m sure that convergence between media devices will become more and more prominent in today’s techno-world. Just take a look at the (fairly new) Windows Media Center for a start! You prompted a creative juice in this post too – I may set up a website/blog with podcasts on learning German language – when I get good enough to do so! I’m sure the info. you provided about advertising and generating revenue will surely help keep me focused on this task too. So… maybe I’ll do that! Thanks Yaro! Ben :D

  • I would like to see a text version as well.

    I have heard that digital radio will also offer much the same as podcasting, but received just like normal radio – but with the ability to select programs, rewind etc. Of course, not for the masses, only those with radio licences.

    see also this post about a Pricewaterhousecoopers report on the imapct of ‘new media’

  • Yaro … a realy good overview of podcasting – one that I’ll be linking to in the future.

    I think as with everything else, to become the next “internet star” requires you to develop credibility. Maybe more so with podcasting.

    The reason being is that real podcasting as you write is about utilising the syndication possibilities with RSS.

    Now seeing that most podcasts are anywhere from 5Mb to 50Mb I would hate to be downloading such massive files to find poor quality podcasts.

    That’s where learning production values, setting a routine (daily, weekly, monthly etc.,) focusing and developing a “voice” is a must if you want to be podcasting for the long-term, and more so, if you mwant to make money from it – something I can see happening sooner rather than later.

  • Yes Martin I agree. I think depending on the genre – podcasts need to be hard-hitting, packed with information or view. No time for being verbose – “I have had to download this thing – get on with it!”
    The difference between pocast and reading an article is you can (in my view) abandon an article more easily (having downloaded it you feel inclinded to listen to the end). Overall, I have not found what is offered via podcasts offering the extra value they could ( even from “Aunty” here in OZ)

  • I am writing to say a big thanks to entrepreneurs journey for this article on podcasting. I didnt know what a podcast was and after reading this article I went to my local radio station website and downloaded a podcast entitled “weekly highlights”. Basically it is a best of podcast and it is a fantastic feature.

    Thanks for the info guys.

  • Yaro,

    this article about Podcasting explained the whole concept well. I was just thinking of creating my own podcast without any knowledge of of what i need.

    Thx for this.

    James W

  • I’m glad you found the article helpful James. Podcasting is a lot of fun but it takes a bit of work to get them finished and uploaded.

  • I like the article and post. I sent it to a freiend that is new to the ipod podcast era and hope she can get more info if she needs it. Thanks again.

    Suzie
    http://www.performers-world.com
    suzie@performers-world.com

  • Joy

    Thanks a lot I have been looking for a simple (HA!) explaination on how to podcast. I have enough of an idea now to try it myself – I did not realize it was this simple.

  • I was a radio personality for 27 years and now looking to create a web presence with my voice and podcast recording services. I believe that a professional voice adds value to a podcast. I am currently offering free health podcasts to my customers at BestHealthfoodStore.net, and am ready to offer my podcast recording services to everyone. I’m not real sure what rate to set so that small business owners will pay for such a service. Any ideas? By the way, my voice demos are at http://www.VoiceCreation.com if anyone is interested in hiring a pro.

  • Yaro – thanks for a great overview of Podcasting – I think I’ve skipped straight to Videocasting because I found it much easier. – Cyndee Haydon

    • Really interesting. Thanks for all of the time that you’ve put in to clarify a subject that was baffling me

  • Niall

    Yaro, I seem to be having trouble finding your podcast in itunes. I’m doing a search and I still can’t find it. Are you still on there? I just want to download your podcasts to my ipod. Can you help? Thanks.

  • Yaro, thanks for the great post. I’m currently trying to add a podcast section to my blog. Your information is always very helpful.

    Thanks,
    Ryan

  • I appreciate the detailed information Yaro. I signed up for your blog traffic tips newsletter cause I gotta have more info like this.

    Thanks again!

    Justin

  • Before podcasting you could of course record a radio show and put it on your website, but now people can automatically receive new shows, without having to go to a specific site and download it from there. I think this will change the way people look at the internet because they will soon realize that the net is an essential part of life

  • I just started using Ubercaster for the Mac which works well. Thanks for your info, you got me started!

  • Thanks for the clear and simple overview of podcasts. I had zero idea what these things were about — I thought they were videos!

  • [...] ago, World was unaware about such terms as Social Media, new media, Web 2.0, SMO, Blogs, Vlogs, Podcast, Micro Blogging service, Social Bookmarking, Social Networking. Internet was just a place where you [...]

  • Joyce Decker

    I want to subscribe to some websites for their podcast. I have figured out how to do this but I don’t have an ipod. Can I download the podcast to a cd so that my husband can listen to it. He won’t have anything to do with the computer.

  • patricia gabarra

    Thank you for such a clear overview.
    Unfortunately, the link to what is RSS pointed to a different article on Ads on Google…
    :-(
    Thanks – PG

  • I recently just found out about using podcasts. I signed up with Talkr, but to be honest, I have some misgivings about it because if the computer voice that is used. I wonder who would want to listen to that? I will have to look into the option of using my own voice. There is always something new to research…lol

  • [...] the basics for setting up a Social Media strategy including the use of blogs, RSS feeds and podcasts, as well as providing reference case studies and tutorials. It is informative and provides a sound [...]

  • Thank you for such a clear overview.
    Unfortunately, the link to what is RSS pointed to a different article on Ads on Google

  • Kat

    Thanks for this article! One thing I don’t understand though, is it best to upload to your media centre via WP dashboard or is there another way of doing it?

    Also, would you advise using a distribution channel ie Traffic Geyser or something of the sort?

    kat

  • Thanks Yaro, I was confused about podcast and all this stuffs but after reading your article about podcast I am totally clear about podcast.

    Thanks

  • Thank you for such a clear overview.
    Unfortunately, the link to what is RSS pointed to a different article on Ads on Google…

  • I can only say that your podcast inspired me to do my own… Working out how to get on iTunes etc was a nightmare for me, as I am not too technical, but actually it is quite fun and motovating.

  • [...] online and users can download it to their computer which can then be added to a mobile device. Here is a good blog which explains all things related to podcasts which you may find [...]

  • Working out how to get on iTunes etc was a nightmare for me, as I am not too technical, but actually it is quite fun and motovating.

  • I have not put them on my Ipod yet. Usually I get a bunch and download them and transfer it to CD to listen to in the car. I guess I could avoid doing it that way, but I know which ones to hold on to.

  • [...] definition (and I know some of your nit-pickers do), here a longer explanation of podcasting from Entrepeneur’s Journey (who explains it so much better than I): The word “podcasting” is a portmanteau combining the [...]

  • Hello there,

    I found your article on Podcasts very informative.

    I myself am interested in adding a podcast to my blog page that people can subscribe to, but this article seems geared more toward showing people how to use them, not how to create them. Still, I know much more now than I did before.

    I am very interested in reading your article on RSS and how to use it, as I would like the handful (literally) of readers I have to be able to subscribe to my blog via RSS, but I have no idea how to add that feature to my blog.

    Could you please provide a link to your article on RSS? The links above actually took me to an article regarding google AdSense.

  • Hey Yaro,

    I really liked your post! I am working on developing podcasts for the museum I work for and I found your article really clear, easy to read and UNDERSTANDABLE!(which is hard to get with technical articles sometimes, lol!)

    What I find most interesting and intriguing about podcasts is the applications of this medium in different settings. Like in museums and libraries…I think that podcasts can become an innovative and dynamic way for these types of institutions to bring information to their audiences. I recently listened to an interview about the National Library of Québec (BAnQ) and podcast use. A really cool example of how podcasting can be an educational tool, especially for remote audiences! I also read this interesting article about making museum podcasts that I am currently using as well.

    Thanks again for the post,

    Emma

  • Yarok,
    Thanks for sharing the definition of pod cast.I have a better understanding after reading this article,Initially,I didn’t really know what podcast was and how it works.Now I have understood the term “podcast” .Once again,thanks for sharing.

  • Thanks, Yaro.

    A very informative article. I am busy with my Graphic Design assignment on Social Media and was able to get a clear definition of Podcasts.

  • Hey Yaro, your description of podcasting is the best I found so far, which is surprising since this post is pretty old. Thanks for this, I hope you will update the post with more details on what have changed in the past 8 years or so.

    • Hi Amanda, Thanks for the feedback. I’ve actually been thinking of going back and updating these posts so they can do better in search engines. If only I had 50 hours in a day!

  • […] For those adorable few of you who have absolutely no idea what a Podcast is, here’s an article that’ll enlighten you: http://www.entrepreneurs-journey.com/230/what-is-a-podcast/ […]

  • Linda

    Can anyone tell me what is a spider, crawler and knowbot??

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