A podcast is a digital media file, or a related collection of such files, which is distributed over the Internet using syndication feeds for playback on portable media players and personal computers. The term, like “radio”, can refer either to the content itself or to the method by which it is syndicated; the latter is also termed podcasting. The host or author of a podcast is often called a podcaster.
That’s pretty cold terminology for such a beautiful gift. You might still be having trouble with the concept, depending on just how tech-savvy you are, so allow me to explain in layman’s terms.
A podcast is like a radio show that you download. You can listen to it on your computer, transfer it to your iPod (or other MP3 player), or even burn it to a cd (for whatever god-awful reason you can come up with).
The cool thing is that podcasts can be downloaded automatically. I’m not sure about the other clients that are available, but I use what I believe to be the simplest: iTunes. Sure, I’m a die-hard Mac user, so I’m naturally going to lean towards the Apple program, but you Windows users can take advantage of it as well. Besides, iTunes is the program that brought podcasting to the masses, and it has the widest selection.
Just open iTunes, go to the iTunes Store, click on Podcasts, and start searching for things that you’re interested it. There is quite a bit of variety (and quality, for that matter), so it might take a while to find something you like, but by making sure you have the popularity filter onscreen, you can tell which podcasts are the most popular. Once you’ve found what you want, you can click “subscribe,” and every new episode will be automatically downloaded to your iTunes, ready to be sent to your iPod. Did I mention that podcasts are FREE?
You might not know where to begin, but you’ll eventually find something to suit your personal tastes. A podcast is most beneficial, in my humble opinion, when you find a podcasts with people who discuss something to which your friends may not express an interest. For instance, I enjoy listening to ESPN Soccernet Extra. It’s not exactly like talking to people about soccer, but it’s the closest thing that I’m going to get in the States. I don’t have any fellow soccer fans in my local circle of friends, especially not of the Premiership variety.
To which podcasts am I currently subscribed?
1. Creative Pastors Blog and Podcast: Ed Young is getting old to me, and I’m not listening as much, but it’s a good place to get ideas from time to time.
2. Digital Photography Tips from the Top Floor: This podcast is run by a German professional photographer who has helped me a LOT with basic and intermediate photography. Highly recommended.
3. Learn Spanish with Coffee Break Spanish: This one’s okay. That’s all I have to say.
4. MacBreak Weekly: Mac fans, subscribe to this podcast. They discuss all things Apple. It’s part of the TWiT radio network. Good stuff.
5. North Point Ministries w/ Andy Stanley: See Ed Young, except less tiresome after several months.
6. This Week in Tech (otherwise known as TWiT): The flagship series for Leo Laporte’s TWiT radio network. Good stuff, although John Dvorak is a chump.
7. Windows Weekly with Paul Thurrott: Paul Thurrott’s SuperSite for Windows is a place I go to on a consistent basis to find new reasons to make fun of Microsoft. He’s a Windows guy (obviously), but has good things to say about the Mac (most of the time). He’s a major iPhone basher, however, and some of the criticism seems a bit unfounded. Still a good podcast.
I’ve subscribed and unsubscribed to several others. My favorite used to be The Beautiful Game podcast, but it shut down this summer, unfortunately.
I’d recommend that anyone with an iPod, or even those who don’t own one, should give podcasts a try. Between podcasts and audiobooks (from Audible.com), I listen to music only about 20% of the time. They’re a great way to pass time on the road, while exercising, or just laying silently in bed on those nights you can’t seem to fall asleep.