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What is a Podcast and How Does it Work?

What is a Podcast and How Does it Work?

Podcasting, made popular by Apple, has now become an everyday term. With all of us leading busy lives, podcasting serves what we demand on a platter without requiring us to do anything. Are you wondering how is this possible? Let's find out.
Bindu swetha
Did You Know?
In 2005, iTunes 4.9 was released with a native podcast support. After the release, Apple issued Cease and Desist orders to all the independent podcast developers for using "iPod" or "Pod" in their products!
Podcasts are nothing but media files that can be listened to, watched, and even downloaded in your portable devices. This means you can download any audio or video file and burn it on your portable device. The podcasts will be automatically delivered to your target device (if it is synced to your computer) without you having to download it on your portable players. Confused? Here's the catch that makes podcasting different from the regular media file downloading services. This Techspirited write-up explains the working of such podcasting services.
What is a Podcast?
Podcast is a program (as of music or talk) made available in digital format for automatic download over the Internet. - Merriam-Webster

Simply put, podcasting allows you to download media files from the podcasting website and upload the same on your portable devices. The name of this service is a portmanteau from iPod and broadcast terms. Though the term is mostly associated with Apple, it doesn't imply that you can avail this service only if you are an iPod user. You just need to have an Mp3 player for using this service.

If downloading the media files is what podcasting is all about, then why should you use it over the free downloading services available on the Internet? The reason you should go in for podcasting is because unlike the other services, podcasting allows you to subscribe to the podcast via an RSS feed, and the media content will be downloaded to your portable devices automatically. You can subscribe to services that you are interested in, like video, audio, newsfeeds, etc., and all this will be downloaded on your computer.
Podcast Variants
As mentioned earlier, podcasting is associated with media content. However, this media content can be audio, video, or literary material. On the basis of the type of media, the variants of the podcast are defined.
Audio Podcast
As the name suggests, the media file is nothing but an Mp3 (sometimes AAC or WMA formats are also available) audio file. This is the most common form of podcast and is widely used. The audio files can be subscribed, and they will be downloaded onto your portable Mp3 players. The file size in such downloads is less - about 10MB, but the content is limited to audio files only.
Video Podcast
The video clips or video series in the .m4v or mp4 H.264 formats are termed as video podcast. Video podcast has gained popularity since the airing of television shows on the Internet started. Episodes of these series can be viewed on the podcast, and if you have missed the previous episodes of the series, you can find it in the podcast stores. Also, videocasts are a great source for video bloggers, artists, and filmmakers to share their videos online.
Enhanced Podcast
The more customized form of audio podcast is the enhanced podcast. The enhanced podcasts have images that are displayed simultaneously with the audio files. These images are mostly displayed in the form of slideshows, which may include hyperlinks that contain relevant information about the image. Enhanced podcasts currently play only in iTunes and not in Windows Media Player.
Podcast Novels
Just like the traditional novel, the podcast novel is also a series of literary work; however, the same is delivered online in the form of a series wherein each chapter is delivered individually. The entire novel can also be downloaded and loaded into a media player to listen. The novel is similar to an audiobook and allows novelists to reach out to the audience.
How Does Podcasting Work?
The podcasts are fed to the Internet through RSS (Rich Site Summary) feeds. These media content, i.e., audio and video files, are uploaded to the podcasting website via the feeds, and the RSS will have the web address of the media file. Whenever a user wishes to listen to the feed, they can subscribe for the same on the website. There are various software available for subscribing to the podcast, like podcast aggregator or podcatcher. Upon subscription, you will be able to get updates about the latest podcasts on these websites.
How to Download and Listen to a Podcast
Listening to the podcasts that are available on websites can be done in three simple steps. (i) Go to the podcasting website; (ii) Click on the podcast of your choice, and you can listen to it directly or save it on your computer; (iii) You can load the podcast on your portable device and also subscribe to the RSS feed for future podcasts. Here are the detailed steps if you are an Android or iOS user.
For Android
  1. First you need to choose the podcast of your choice from the podcasting website.
  2. Save the podcast on the computer's local drive.
  3. Connect your phone to the computer and select the "mass storage" option.
  4. Copy-paste or drag and drop the file to the phone's internal storage.
  5. Disconnect the phone and listen to the podcast!
There are dedicated apps for listening to podcasts on the move on your Android phone. You can try out OneCast, Podkicker, or Stitcher Radio.
For iOS
  1. Go to the iTunes store, and select the podcasts of your choice.
  2. You can subscribe or download this podcast on your computer.
  3. Connect your phone via USB or Wi-Fi.
  4. Now, select your phone from the Device list and select the Podcast menu.
  5. You can select the podcasts you want to download, and then hit the sync button. Your podcast will be loaded onto your device.
The dedicated apps for podcasting are iCatcher, Downcast, Instacast, etc.
How to Create a Podcast
Podcasting is not only about listening to the already uploaded podcasts, but it is also about creating your own. iTunes is the medium through which you can upload your podcasts.
Create Podcast
  1. First plug a microphone to your computer/laptop.
  2. Make sure you have audio recorders and also editing software installed in your computer.
  3. Now, create the audio file and save it on your computer's local drive.
  4. Your podcast is ready to be uploaded.
The next step is to create the RSS feed for your podcast. There are different types of software available for the creating RSS feeds, like FeedForAll, etc. Once you have created the RSS feed, the next step is to submit the podcast on iTunes.
Submit Podcast
  1. Go to iTunes, and open the iTunes store.
  2. In the top navigation bar, click on Podcasts.
  3. You will be directed to the podcasts' page. Check the quick links on the right side and click on the "Submit a Podcast" option.
  4. Then follow the instructions on this page to submit your podcast.
Your podcast will be submitted to iTunes and will be available for download and subscription.
Popular Podcast Downloads
With podcasts being so regularly subscribed, there are some favorites that you must add to your collection. Here are some of the popular podcasts:

* Click on the link to download the podcast.
This American Life
Freakonomics Radio 
Friday Night Comedy from BBC Radio 4
Topics with Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter
Comedy Central Stand-Up
Tiƫsto`s Club Life Podcast
Hardwell On Air Official Podcast
History in Five Minutes Podcast
NPR: Car Talk Podcast
Though podcasting has been made popular by iPod, the technology itself has its roots in the 1980s. With digital technology gaining popularity by the day, enthusiasts are creating podcasts that can help people in more ways than one. So, go get yourself a podcast, and enter the amazing world of podcasting.