Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin : October 2006

|

 TECHNOLOGY TALK:

BY JOHN ANDERSON  

What is Podcasting?

Below is a definition of podcasting (pulled from Wikipedia.org) that provides information about podcasting. It might seem a bit dry, but hang in there it gets better.

Podcasting is a term that describes the technology used to push audio content from websites down to consumers of that content, who typically listen to it on their iPod (hence the "pod") or other audio player that supports the mp3 music format. The term podcasting is meant to rhyme with broadcasting and is a derivative of the iPod platform. While not directly associated with Apple's iPod device or iTunes music service, the company did contribute both the desire and the technology for this capability. Note, however, that this technology can be used to push any kind of file, including software updates, pictures and videos.

This is where it gets technical. Podcasting uses a technology called Really Simple Syndication, or RSS. Content publishers describe new content in an RSS file, which includes dates, titles, descriptions and links to MP3 files. This auto-generated file is called an RSS feed.

What makes podcasting special is that it allows individuals to publish (podcast) radio shows, to which interested listeners can subscribe. 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.

Listeners can retain audio archives to listen to at their leisure. While blogs have turned many bloggers into journalists, podcasting has the potential to turn podcasters into radio personalities.

Similar to a radio talk show, podcasts can also take the format of an interview. Topics range from business to hobbies; even rants and obsessions. Lengths vary, but a typical podcast will run anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes (though I have seen some longer). So far, there are not many music podcasts due to the red tape and cost of music licensing, although musicians and/or small record labels bypass that issue by utilizing their own recordings.

Podcasting can be used for self-guided walking tours, music, entertainment shows, organizational news, training and story telling. Or, as the "Ask a Ninja" video podcast summarizes, "Podcasting is a factory that produces apple pies for whales." (You will understand after you visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=OEmss2lg-ug.)

Although podcasting is new, it is well on its way to becoming a mainstream communication medium. This emerging method of audio-file distribution has opened an array of marketing and communication opportunities to businesses. Currently, most that are familiar with podcasting are technically savvy, but it is clear that podcasting will be more than a passing fad as businesses adopt podcasting and employ it in powerful ways.

Podcasts usually publish descriptive information about each audio file. This allows listeners to make a determination of which audio items are of interest. Listeners will automatically receive updates in their feed-reader software when a new podcast exists for a feed to which they have subscribed.

Unlike traditional radio, with podcasting, the subscriber decides what content he/she receives. Podcasting is extremely useful to the subscriber because the user can easily receive information he/she would like, and listen to it when they want. The material, once downloaded, can be listened to and viewed on wireless handhelds, allowing subscribers to utilize time on the road.

Topic-specific radio talk shows with commentaries, interviews and debates can now be heard at a time and place of the listener's choosing. The fate of podcasting is in the hands of the subscribers. The subscriber can easily delete podcast feeds that do not satisfy their needs with the single tap of a button. Ultimately, the subscriber maintains control and determines what podcasts are deemed successful.

How Do You Podcast?

If you want to start your own podcast, it is relatively cheap and easy to do so. The first thing you will need to do is find some good audio-recording software for your computer. Many packages are available free-of-charge, such as Audacity (audacity.sourceforge.net).

Next, you are going to want to rehearse your material. Remember, most podcasts are about 10-20 minutes in length. If you've never attempted something like this before, you should first subscribe to other podcasts to see how long they run and how they organize their information.

Once you've recorded your material in electronic format you will need a place to store the files. Sites such as Switchpod (www.switchpod.com)  offer free hosting and generous storage space. If you want to upgrade your service, the rate plans are very reasonable. Once the audio files are posted, you will have a page people can visit to download the files and subscribe to future episodes. Sites such as these also offer a wealth of information and optional extras to help make your Podcast a success.

There are also tools to help you spread the word about your new show. When you create your Podcast, you can add keywords and descriptions that will attract interested listeners. This information is then posted to the Google of podcasting, iTunes (www.itunes.com), as well as a number of other podcast directories.

With podcasting so affordable, it is a powerful marketing tool whose application is only limited by your imagination. The podcast revolution is still growing as new people begin using the technology and existing users search for new and interesting content.

previous

next

Publications : Bar Bulletin: October 2006