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Podcasting is a relatively new type of audio broadcasting that has only really been around in its current form since October 2004. It is a set of technologies that let individuals record, publish, find, subscribe and listen to audio over the internet on whatever audio player they have available (it does not require an iPod ).

The "Podfathers" - the guys who first put the pieces together - were Dave Winer and Adam Curry. Dave is a software developer, who has been heavily involved with creating the software that powers weblogs for many years. He is also one of the people responsible for the RSS content syndication technology, which is used as the broadcast mechanism for podcasting. Adam was one of the first VJs on MTV USA. He's been involved with radio and TV broadcasting for almost 2 decades, and is currently one of the most famous podcasters. He broadcasts from his house ("the cottage") in England, to over 10,000 subscribers around the world.

The abilility to download audio files from the internet for playback on portable audio players is not new. However, the combination of various technologies which essentially automate the process is what gives Podcasting its power.

Individuals are now able to publish their own audio programming on the internet, without the need for expensive audio studios, broadcast spectrum licensing, or distribution deals with the companies that manage the traditional broadcast marketplace.

Individuals are also able to find podcasters, and subscribe directly to the source of the audio, with no intermediation. If they lose interest in the subscription, they can simply unsubscribe without affecting anyone else.

Links to more information about Podcasting

How to tune in

First, you'll need podcasting client -- a program known as an "RSS aggregator" - podcasting clients are nothing more than RSS aggregators capable of downloading enclosures (like attachments in email). Once you have your aggregator, you can go to a podcast directory like iPodder.org, and start subscribing to various audio programs (or "feeds"). As audio is published into these feeds, your aggregator will automatically download it to your computer, and tell your audio management application (like iTunes or Music Match) to store it. Then, if you have a portable audio device, you can automatically copy these audio files onto it for listening wherever you need it.

Podcasting Client Applications

Portable Audio Players

  • iPod iPod Shuffle, iPod mini, iPod, iPod photo
  • iRiver
  • Creative Zen, MuVo
  • Rio Rio Carbon (allows bookmarking of mp3 files)

How to publish your own Podcast

All you need to record and publish a podcast is available absolutely free of charge. Many people use the open source audio recording/editing application Audacity - it lets you record digital audio from any available input source (including the microphone built into almost all laptop computers).

There are two schools of thought on how you should record the audio. On the one side, you have the "seat of the pants-ers", who attempt to record the whole thing in one take, and leave in the "ums" and "uhs" and dogs barking at the mailman. On the other side, you have the perfectionists, who painstakingly edit the audio to remove gaffes and bloopers until they have a commercial quality recording. The technique that works best for you depends on your style, and the amount of time you have to dedicate to the recording/editing process. Both techniques can produce extremely interesting recordings - it comes down to your own comfort level.

After recording some audio, you need to compress so that it can be published on the internet. Most podcasts are published in MP3 format, and you will need to play around with the compression settings until you find what works best with your audio, without creating a file that is too large to effectively download.

Once you have a compressed MP3 file, you simply copy that to a webserver, and note the public URL of that file. Then, you typically create a new blog post that refers to that URL. Many weblog applications will automatically detect the podcast, and will insert a reference to it in your RSS file for your subscribers.

How to Record/Publish a Podcast

Podcast Recording Applications

  • Gabcast.com - Podcast by phone or VoIP (Calgary-based company, FREE accounts)
  • Lionhardt Technologies - WebPod Studio (Commercial)
  • Audioblog.com - web based
  • GarageBand (MacOSX, commercial, bundled with new Macs and iLife)
  • Audacity (cross platform, open source, free)
  • Odeo (website, cross platform, free - can record from a telephone or website)

Podcast Feed Creation Applications

Podcast Hosting Applications

There are many fully-featured Content Management Systems that now offer podcast hosting/serving functionality either directly out of the box, or through the addition of plugins/modules/addons.

Why is it so hard?

There are a LOT of steps to get a podcast from microphone to iPod. It is getting simpler, as the tools mature (remember, the concept is only 6 months old). There are some tools available like Audioblogs.com, Podcast Wizard and Liberated Syndication and the tools are going to mature over the next year.

There's also a great section at Transom.org that, while geared towards radio production, will tell you more than you ever need to know about recording equipment and digital processing.

Who is podcasting?

Podcasting at the University of Calgary

On March 3, 2006, a press release announced that the U of C "will introduce podcasting in four courses that involve about 700 students: iCOMS 201, Introduction to Communications Studies, summer 06; iENGL 231, Introduction to Fiction, winter 07; iCHEM 351, Organic Chemistry I, Fall 06; and iSOCI 201, Introduction to Sociology, Fall 06."