Friday, October 21, 2005

What is Podcasting

There is a lot of buzz circulating these days about podcasting. I have yet to see a decent definition and description of podcasting that correctly describes podcasting in its entirety. So in this article I will lay out what podcasting is and how it works

The term podcasting refers to audio files produced for distribution and to a method of delivering audio files, typically in MP3 format to the MP3 player of your choice. When podcasts are mentioned in the popular press they usually referenced as the content you receive not the method by which you receive them.

The podcasting mechanism was devised to enable delivery of audio files to your MP3 player with out a significant effort on you part, in effect simulating a broadcast to MP3 players, hence the “casting” part of podcasting. The podcast files are listed in a special file called a podcast feed. The feed file is updated every time a new podcast file is made available for download. To receive these specialized broadcasts, you typically run a specialized piece of software on your computer. The software is variously known as a podcasting client or a podcatcher. For the podcatcher to receive files you have to tell the podcatcher the address of the podcast feed. These addresses are usually found on the web site associated with the podcast you are interested in.

Once you have given your podcatcher the feed address, the podcatcher will download the feed and look for all the podcast files listed in it. It will present you with a list of files and generally download only the newest podcast file in the feed. The podcatcher will remember that is has downloaded this particular podcast file and not download it again. The podcatcher will regularly download the feed file and check it to see if any new podcast files have been added. When if finds new ones, it downloads those and adds them to the list of podcasts already downloaded so they won’t be downloaded again.

The podcatcher downloads the podcast MP3 files to a directory structure starting with the directory you told the podcatcher to receive downloads to. This is typically done when you install the podcatcher software. Below the podcast receive directory the podcatcher will create a new directory named according to the name of the podcast you are receiving. Into the directory with the podcast’s name will go all the MP3 files that are downloaded by the podcatcher.

Where do you find podcast feeds. Take a look at your podcatching software. Many have directories of podcasts built in to help you find podcasts on topics of interest to you. You can also do an Internet search for Podcast Directories to find sites that list podcast feeds.

Now that you have these MP3 files on your computer you can listen to them on the computer or copy them to your portable MP3 player to listen to away from the computer. The process of transferring files to your music player varies based on what MP3 player you have. With some players the process is tied into the synchronization of files between your MP3 player software running on your computer and the MP3 player, itself. In other cases it is a manual process where you start your MP3 player software on your computer and then manually transfer the files from your computer to the MP3 player.

If this article has been helpful or you would like to see subsequent articles with more details and resources, leave me a comment or drop an email to johniac52+pod at

I don't need anyone to drive me crazy... I'm already within walking distance.

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