A podcast is an audio or video broadcast that is distributed over the Internet. It usually has a format similar to a radio or television show. Because little equipment is needed to record a podcast and the Internet is used as the distribution medium, virtually anyone can create one and distribute their thoughts and opinions to the world.
Although the presence of the word "pod" in "podcast" might lead some to assume that an iPod is required to watch or listen to podcasts, this is not the case. Many portable media players have built-in support for podcasts. You can also enjoy podcasts on your computer. The word "podcast" is a generic term for any audio or video broadcast that people can subscribe to over the Web. Generally, podcast creators use advertising to provide financial support; it costs nothing to subscribe to most podcasts.
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Types of Podcasts
Because it costs nothing to produce a podcast if you already own a microphone – and syndication through iTunes and file hosting on Archive.org are free – you can find a podcast for nearly any topic. There are podcasts for general subjects such as computers and pop culture, and niche podcasts for subjects such as the enjoyment of wine or the discussion of video and computer games as art forms.
The iTunes Music Store is one of the largest online directories of podcasts. To find a podcast, simply type a term that interests you in the search field, such as "computers." When you find a podcast that you would like to watch or listen to, click "Subscribe." You can also find podcast networks on the Web, such as TWiT.tv, Revision3 and Mevio. Each of these networks host several different audio and/or video podcasts.
You can download podcasts manually through your Web browser. However, one of the features of podcasts is that software designed to manage podcast subscriptions can automatically detect when a new episode is available and download it for you. iTunes is a free program for Mac and Windows computers that has native support for podcasts. Other free programs for managing podcast subscriptions include Juice (Mac and Windows) and gPodder (Linux and Windows). After downloading a podcast, you can enjoy it in your favorite audio or video application or on your portable media player.
Making a Podcast
A quality vocal microphone is helpful for achieving acceptable audio quality for an audio podcast, but you can use any microphone and any audio recording software you like. Likewise, you can use any camera you like to create a video podcast – including your computer's webcam – but you are likely to get superior results from a high-quality digital camcorder. Once you are happy with your recording, the next step is to distribute it. You may do this by starting a website and allowing visitors to download podcasts directly from it, or by uploading your files to a third-party website such as Archive.org. Update your own website each time you post a new podcast episode, or sign up with iTunes to syndicate your podcast for free.