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Podcasting Primer PDF Print E-mail
Written by Snapper Morgan   
Tuesday, 22 March 2005
So, you've heard a lot about Podcasting on the radio or maybe you've read about it in your local newspaper. Just what the hell is it? Sounds vaguely alien-like, akin to some sort of possession or perhaps fly-fishing for extra-terrestrials. It's really very simple. Podcasting is the automatic downloading of your favorite internet broadcasts in the form of MP3 files.

To understand Podcasting, we need to go back a ways and talk about RSS. For a very detailed and succinct history of RSS, go here. In brief, RSS is a way of syndicating news items froma websites such as Wired, Yahoo, MSNBC, etc. Basically, all the headlines can be gathered from these news sites and shown with an RSS Aggregator, which is just a fancy term for an application that downloads and shows the headlines from these news sites. The data is downloaded via a URL, or an RSS “feed”. This is merely a text file that can be parsed and have its headlines and accompanying URL imported into your favorite RSS Aggregator. Periodocally throughout the day, you RSS application will check the URL and see if there are any new headlines and show then if there is an update. This allows you to see at a glance what is on your favorite news site without having to actually visit the site each time to check up on the latest news. Click on the headline in your RSS application and your web browser will take you to that page.

Okay, with me so far? RSS downloads headlines throughout the day and clicking on them takes you to the appropriate web site. Now, what's up with Podcasting? What if the headlines didn't take you to a web page, but instead downloaded an MP3 file? That is what Podcasting is. Let's say you are a fan of Bob and Doug's Meal Time Gourmet Cooking Show. You listen to every episode they post on their web site. But just like your favorite RSS aggregator, you want a simpler way to check for updated episodes without having to visit their page every day. Plus, you want to download Bob and Doug's show to your computer and then have it automatically transferred to your iPod (get the name now? “Podcasting”?). In order to do this, Adam Curry and friends set about writing this type of software. It turns out it's very simple software. Give it the URL of the RSS feed for Bob and Doug's cooking show broadcasts, tell the software where you want to store the files, either locally or on your portable mp3 player, and then set a schedule to check for updates. Turn on, tune out. Keep you iPod plugged in every night, and in the morning you have a slew of original programming waiting for you on your commute to work.

There are some other sites that might explain it a little better than I do. Here is one on Wikipedia, and here is the history of how it all started, straight from the horse's mouth on iPodder.org. Come back and I will give a tutorial on how you can start creating your own podcasts and join the podcasting personality world!

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