Podcasts: The Sound of Bloggers

Podcasts are digital media, usually audio, that are transferred via syndication feeds such as RSS (Really Simple Syndication). Once downloaded, podcasts can be listened to on computers and portable media players. The term ‘podcast’ is a play on the words ‘broadcast’ and ‘iPod’ – broadcast, to highlight the qualities that it shares with other broadcast media and iPod to acknowledge this particular Apple media player’s major contribution in the creation and proliferation of this type of social media.

Blogging in Stereo

As it became easier to record and manipulate sounds on the computer, more and more people wanted to try creating their own audio media. This resulted in what were almost like radio shows – people talking and discussing a particular topic or set of topics that just needed to be broadcast. Some, to an extent, were able to do so by posting their individual audio files – known to podcasters as episodes – on their own sites. Later on, web syndication – technology that lets one select websites, receive real-time updates about any changes on these sites and even automatically download new content – allowed people to automatically get their episodes as soon as they came out. This led to podcast being likened to ‘internet radio.’

Listeners to podcasts simply have to look for the feed with the topic they prefer – tens of thousands now exist in Apple’s iTunes listing alone – and then subscribe to this feed. A program, usually a web browser or audio software, will then begin checking that feed for updates and automatically download new files.

Opening New Possibilities

Podcasting has opened up many opportunities for podcasters. For example, professionals and enthusiasts could share their knowledge or discuss developments in their respective fields and then broadcast them out to listeners, just like any other radio show. Podcasting also made it possible for ordinary Joes and Janes to play at being newscasters who report current events; some even do so from the scene. Amateur musicians and DJs are also into podcasting because it allows them to relay their music to listeners and then get feedback through emails or comments on their site.

Many listeners prefer podcasts to traditional internet radio broadcasts because podcast software allow them to pick exactly the programs they want. This has resulted in customized programming – programming that is perfectly tailored to the listener’s preferences. There are no ads, just content. Podcasts also allow people on the go to listen through their handheld media players.

Multipurpose Podcasts

Podcast technology has already been used for many purposes. Newspapers have integrated podcasts into their range of services by providing up-to-date, audio versions of many of the news items that they print. Podcasts have also earned their place in the field of education where professors and teachers record their lectures among other audio content for podcasting to their students. Interviews with experts and professionals on a wide range of topics have also found a larger listener base with the use of podcasts.

Podcasts are a great example of how the power to create and distribute digital media has now been acquired by ordinary people. A type of content that has previously been the monopoly of big radio stations with big studios and licensed frequencies has now become common productions of average individuals in their living rooms with personal computers and internet access.