Help! What’s a PODCAST?

My friend Doc Wu at the Buffalo Live! Music Podcast graciously agreed to let me use this guide about podcasts. I have adapted it slightly for my own pages.According to Wikipedia,

Podcasting is a term coined when the use of RSS and other syndication technologies became popular for distributing audio content for mobile devices. Today podcasting is a more generic term that is evolving as people understand what it means.

A podcast is simply a web feed of audio files (although increasingly people are applying the term to video and other media) that is placed on the Internet for anyone to download. It’s usually possible to download the files directly from the website, just as one would normally do; however, special programs called podcatchers exist that let users subscribe to podcasts in order to automatically download and store the media files for later playback.

That about covers it. If you have ever played an online radio station, streaming audio, or Shoutcast, Real Audio or similar content, then a podcast will be simple. All you need to start is your computer with sound and an internet connection.

That’s the minimum. However, some things will make it easier and more enjoyable to listen to podcasts regularily.
no_ipod_sm.jpgNo ipod needed!
Of course, if you have one, go ahead and use it!

The first thing is a broadband connection. If you are still on dial-up, it will seem painfully slow to download podcasts and you will probably want to limit yourself to just those you really want to hear. You’ll also want to steer clear of those two-hour long shows!

You can listen to this, and many other podcasts, right from the web page. My blog which powers the podcast, uses WordPress and an mp3 player plug-in, which puts a blue triangle play button right in each podcast article. If you click on the blue triangle, you can listen right on the page. However, it will stop playing if you go to a different page. To download the file to your computer, click on the text beside the blue triangle.

Try listening or downloading with Uncle Seth’s song –

      You Don’t Need An iPod

But, if you get into podcasts and start listening to them regularily, you will want a podcatcher or feed-aggregator. This is a program that lets you create subscriptions to your favorite podcasts. Often, it is also a RSS feed reader that will let you read your favorite blogs. The main difference between them is a podcatcher downloads automatically once subscribed, where the feed aggregator may require you to initiate the download. Some examples are FeedDemon, Juice, Transistr (formerly IpodderX), Winpodder and others. You can even subscribe to podcasts in Itunes. For a comprehensive list see the Podcasting News list.

It also helps the podcast if you subscribe using either a feedreader or web based service like Yahoo/iTunes/Odeo/etc. They register as a subscription in the sites that track the podcast. That gives us feedback to let us know how many people are repeat listeners, rether then just raw download numbers. This will be important as the podcast grows.

It’s FREE! While we talk about subscriptions, that’s just a term meaning you’ve elected to receive a podcast automatically. There is no charge for this and most podcasts. Actually, subscription is a bad term to describe it. You don’t even sign up for anything, except in the program on your own computer that fetches the information for each podcast. Your privacy is safe. All we see is that someone downloads the file. We can tell what program was used (iTunes, web browser, web client, etc.) but no personal data at all. To subscribe to my podcast use the feed at

But you don’t need all that to just try podcasts. Simply download the podcast, save it on your computer and play it back with your favorite media player, Winamp, Foobar2000, Windows Media Player, MusicMatch Jukebox, ITunes, Quicktime, etc. Podcasts are almost all MP3 files, the most common audio file format on the internet. It’s also the most common format to use in your portable media player, such as an IPod, or any MP3 Player. Use your software that comes with the player to put the files on the player.

But wait, there’s more!

You can listen to podcasts even more ways. If you don’t have a MP3 player, you can still hear a podcast if you have a CD burner. Simply burn the podcast to a blank CDR disk and listen to it on your stereo CD player, Walkman CD, or even in your car stereo. Remember to use your CD burning software to create an audio CD. You can fit up to 80 minutes on an audio CD, so most (but not all) podcasts will fit on one disc. If you have a player that will play MP3 format audio, you’re even luckier. You’ll be able to fit several podcasts per disc.

And you don’t need an iPod. Almost any portable MP3 player from any manufacturer will play MP3 podcasts. But they’re addictive – you’ll fill up a flash based player in no time. The 20 Gb and up models are best.

Several web based podcast services also offer to let you collect your favorite podcasts on them in your personal account. Yahoo Podcasts, Google, Newsgator and others will show all your favorite podcasts in one page and many let you play them directly from the web page. If you have an internet appliance like the Roku Soundbridge, you may even be able to play them through it.

Recommended podcast clients

Download Juice, the cross-platform podcast receiver



To subscribe to my podcasts, enter the following feeds into your podcatcher.

For the Sake of the Song– Conversations with Song:

My songwriting podcast featuring conversations about creating music and the musicians who make it.


White Trash Land:

In the fall and winter of 2005/2006, my brother-in-law wrote a novel and posted it chapter by chapter to his blog. For a surprise Christmas gift I recorded the novel for Andrew in the fall of 2006. It is now available as a podcast novel at or you can subscribe to it with this feed:


Librivox Community Podcast

Librivox is a world-wide project with over 1000 volunteers dedicated to recording all public domain literature and releasing it on the Internet as free audio books. Since August 2005, we have released almost 600 works. I record chapters and books for Librivox, and I am a regular host and contributor to the Librivox Community Podcast, a podcast by, for and about the community of volunteers engaged in this noble project.

You can subscribe to the Librivox Community Podcast at