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Podcasting 101

Part 1: A look at the subscription process By Stephen Schleicher

Within the last two months, podcasting has become the fastest adopted new technology.  Until a recently, podcasting was only known to the audiophiles, bloggers, and Adam Curry fans.  But what is it, and more importantly how can you do it?  In this first installment Stephen Schleicher pulls aside the curtain.

Do you have iTunes, Windows Media Player, or portable digital music player?  If so, then you have the ability to access audio programs that cover everything from technology to news, from comic books to cooking.  Here is the first big secret of podcasts; they are nothing more than downloadable MP3 files.

The element that sets podcasts apart from your everyday MP3 is the ability to subscribe to your favorite show and have future episodes downloaded to your computer automatically.  The benefit is you do not need to remember to return to a website each week to download the next show.  The subscription feed is done through a RSS or XML script.  Well look at how to make your own feed link in Part 3 of this series.


For now, lets take a look at how to find and subscribe to a podcast.

iTunes
We can credit iTunes for making podcasts mainstream.  With the release of version 4.9, iTunes now gives you the ability to search a growing number of shows from around the world.

From the Music Store menu, click on the Podcast link.

From this page you can search for any topic that might interest you.  For example, if you want to find a podcast covering cool technology, simply enter the keywords in the search window.

If you click on the arrow next to the podcast tile, you can read a detailed description about the show, find out what episodes are available, and the subscription link.  All iTunes podcasts are free.  You simply click on the link and the RSS feed is added to your iTunes library.

When you click on the Podcast link in the source column of your iTunes player, you will find all the shows you have subscribed to.  You can have iTunes automatically download shows to your computer, then transfer those shows to your portable music device the next time you sync your device to your computer.

Podcast.net
If you dont have iTunes, another popular directory for finding shows is Podcast.net.  One of the largest and oldest podcast directories, Podcast.net allows you to search for thousands of shows based on title or keyword. 

On Podcast.net you dont need a stand alone music player.  When you click on an episode, a popup player will launch and play in a new window.  This website does not permanently download the MP3 file to your hard drive, rather it buffers the file on your computer until you are done listening to it.

Stand alone readers
Short of iTunes or visiting Podcast.net, the next best way of subscribing to podcast feeds is by installing a stand alone reader.

iPodder  is a Podcasting news aggregator that allows users to capture and listen to Internet audio programs anytime, anywhere.

With iPodder, you use the application to select and download shows to your portable music device or computer automatically.  You might think of this as a combination of iTunes subscription power with the Podcast.net directory.

If you subscribe to blogs, you may already have RSS Reader .  This simple application allows you to subscribe to webpages to receive notices of when the site has changed.  If you subscribe to the Digital Media Net feeds, you know how this program works.  However, RSS Reader can also notify you of when a podcast has been updated.  The embedded link will take you either to the website where the show is hosted, or allows you to open the file in the browser window.

Podcasting is here for now.  In order for it to survive, two things need to happen.  The first is getting people to listen and subscribe to your show.  The second is to create programming with enough quality content to get repeat listeners.

In Part 2, Ill take a look at some of the methods for capturing and recording your own podcast, and even how to use a popular VoIP program to do interviews with anyone in the world.


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Stephen Schleicher has crossed the country several times over the last couple of years going from Kansas to Atlanta , Georgia, and Southern California. In his time traveling, he has worked as an editor, graphic designer, videographer, director, and producer on a variety of video productions ranging from small internal pieces, to large multimedia
corporate events.

Currently, Stephen shares his knowledge with students at Fort Hays State University who are studying media and web development in the Information Networking and Telecommunications department. When he is not shaping the minds of university students, Stephen continues to work on video and independent projects for State and local agencies and organizations as well as his own ongoing works.

He is also a regular contributor to Digital Producer, Creative Mac, Digital Webcast, Digital Animators, and the DV Format websites, part of the Digital Media Online network of communities (www.digitalmedianet.com), where he writes about the latest technologies, and gives tips and tricks on everything from Adobe After Effects, to Appleā??s Final Cut Pro, LightWave 3D, to shooting and lighting video.

He has a Masters Degree in Communication from Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas. As a forward thinker, he wrote his Thesis on how Information Islands and e-commerce would play a major role in keeping smaller communities alive. This of course was when 28.8 dialup was king and people hadnā??t even invented the word e-commerce.

And, he spends what little free time he has biking, reading, traveling around the country, and contemplating the future of digital video and its impact on our culture. You can reach him at schleicher@mindspring.com

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