What is a podcast?
A podcast usually refers to an audio file you can subscribe to and download over the Internet for playback on mobile devices and personal computers. A podcast can be created, shared, downloaded and listened to.
Sometimes it refers to video, too — videos you can subscribe to and watch. The term podcast, like radio, can mean both the content and the method of delivery. The creator of a podcast is a podcaster.
How does it differ from Webcasting or Internet radio?
Webcasting, where music or audio is streamed, is not podcasting if the file isn’t made available for downloading to a device. In podcasting, you can subscribe to a show or channel and have all new shows automatically delivered to your computer as they are published. If you have an MP3 player, the next time you sync your device you’ll have the episodes available for listening on the go. (Podcasting takes its unfortunate name from the iPod, but you don’t need an iPod to create or listen to a podcast.)
Some people refer to podcasting as “Internet radio.” But blogger Doc Searls has written persuasively that podcasting should not be equated with radio — mostly for political and public policy reasons. Radio is mass media. It generally caters to least common denominator programming. It’s delivered on the programmers’ schedule. Its content is regulated by the federal government.
Podcasting is personal media. It caters to individuals. Its most salient feature is that you can download podcasts to listen to on your schedule. And it is utterly unregulatable. When you enter the realm of podcasting, you’re accessing a new form of media that gives voice to anyone with something to say.
When did podcasting start?
Podcasting was born in late 2004 and has taken off since then, with thousands of podcasts and millions of subscriptions on services like Apple’s iTunes. Adam Curry and Dave Winer were two of its early pioneers.
Why would I want to create one?
Podcasting is one of the most powerful new forms of personal media. Commercial radio stations are now controlled by a handful of media monopolies, stifling choice. Podcasting is an unapologetically democratic medium, giving voice to anyone with something to say.
The technology is simple enough that virtually anybody can produce audio programs. Podcasters tackle hundreds of subjects, with topics ranging from politics, sports and technology to movies, music, books and bass fishing.