Published in the December 2006 Issue (#11) Podcast User Magazine (Download)
Facing a blank word processing screen each month is no fun, especially when you have no idea of what you want to write about. So after scraping the inside of my brain, I ended up with a big fat nothing. Then the trees cleared and I could see the wood again. Podcast User Magazine is all about informing and enlightening both seasoned podcast users and also new users who have never subscribed to a podcast before. Iâ€™ve run a sort of â€˜podcast 101â€™ before, but I thought it would be useful to go over some of these points again for people who are still a little tech shy, or for new readers who are looking to find out how to try the latest podcasts.
A recent study apparently showed that podcasts are still taking a while to find popularity. I think the main thing that still seems to scare people off is the jargon and the mistaken belief that you need to pay for the podcasts you subscribe to. Yes, there are some podcasts that are only available for a fee, but these are few and far between.
So what is a podcast? Simply put, a podcast is an audio file that is available by subscription, using RSS. Real Simple Syndication (RSS) is simply a text file that is formatted to include all the vital information on each episode of a podcast. You do not need to know anything about RSS to make full use of podcasts. In fact, you donâ€™t really need to know anything about RSS to start your own podcasts, but for podcast creation it does help to have some rudimentary knowledge. To subscribe to a podcast you need to use a â€˜podcast aggregatorâ€™. This is just a fancy word for a piece of software that handles your subscriptions and regularly checks for new shows and downloads them. Some of the most popular podcast aggregators are iTunes, WinPodder, Juice, Doppler and my current favorite, Google Reader. So youâ€™ve got your podcast aggregator and installed it; now you just need some shows to add to it.
Depending on the podcast aggregator, subscribing to a podcast can be as easy as clicking the â€˜subscribeâ€™ button. For some, however, it can be slightly more complicated, but relatively straightforward once you know how. If you are viewing a podcastâ€™s web page with a â€˜subscribeâ€™ link and finding that when you press it you get a page full of gobbledygook, this gobbledygook is in fact the RSS file we talked about earlier. You can either select the address that appears in the address bar of your web browser and copy this to the clipboard by either pressing [CTRL] +[C] on the PC or [Apple]+[C] on the Mac, or hit the back button and instead of pressing the subscribe, right click on subscribe and select the â€˜Copy Link Locationâ€™ in Firefox or â€˜Copy Shortcutâ€™ on Internet Explorer. Then go to your podcast aggregator, hit the â€˜subscribeâ€™ button and click in the box thatâ€™s prompting you for the address, then press [CTRL]+[V] on the PC or [Apple]+[V] on the Mac. You should now see a the address you copied, pasted in the web address box. Just confirm this address by pressing the [OK] button, or whatever button you need to click to confirm this on your podcast aggregator, and you should now see the podcast is now part of your subscribed list. You can then either load your podcast aggregator each day and check for new podcasts, or where available have the podcast aggregator check for new podcasts at intervals you set. This is how I used to use the Juice aggregator, having it check for new podcasts every six hours.
So that, in essence, is all there is to subscribing to podcasts. A basic level of understanding is often the main barrier to entry when it comes to new technologies. I hope this has helped you to get over that initial hump.
There really is a wealth of podcasts available for every conceivable subject under the sun. The next hurdle is finding them. As mentioned before, iTunes is the 800-pound gorilla when it comes to podcast directories. The reason for this is itâ€™s so easy to get up and running with no prior knowledge. This really shows when it comes to my own podcastâ€™s stats. Approximately 95% of subscribers to Indie Launchpad subscribe using iTunes. This doesnâ€™t include users who just download the latest episode from the web, of which there are also a quite sizable proportion. Although iTunes is the daddy, it can still be difficult to find what you are after. For this reason itâ€™s good to have a few other resources to hand. Two of the most popular are Podcast Pickle and Podcast Alley, which provide a wealth of ways to search for podcasts in their respective directories. One problem, however, can be the amount of entries that are apparently no longer valid. Podcast User Magazine uses Podcast Alley to select the podcasts used in the podcast roulette feature. We do this by using a spreadsheet that selects podcasts at random. Unfortunately many times a podcast selected does not seem to have recent shows. That being said, between those two directories and directories such as Odeo, Yahoo Podcasts and Podcast.Net, thereâ€™s still a whole ton of great podcasts to be found. Letâ€™s not forget one of my favorite methods of find podcasts, Google. Just enter a subject and add â€˜podcastâ€™ to it and youâ€™ll be amazed at what you can find.
I hope that if youâ€™ve been wary of dipping your toes into podcasts, this has helped. Also remember, never be afraid to send us your questions. If we get enough people asking about the same thing, weâ€™ll try our best to answer your questions in the magazine. Happy podcast listening.