Winter 2004-2005

by Andrew Baoill and Brian Russell

There has been quite a bit of media coverage recently of  “podcasting.” According to Wikepedia: “The term podcasting plays upon the terms broadcasting and webcasting and is derived from the name of the iPod portable music player, the playback device of choice of many early podcast listeners…In short, podcasting involves the recording of internet radio or similar internet audio programs. These recordings are then made available for download to portable digital audio device. You can listen to the podcast internet radio program while you are away from your computer or at a different time than the original program was broadcast.”

Facilitated by a group of software tools (for more details, see “How-To: Podcasting”), the practice allows producers to “push” content to subscribers, who can then listen to it at their leisure. Each of the tools is relatively prosaic, but the combination of them opens up interesting possibilities for alternative content providers. The first element involves the now-common RSS 2.0 syndication feed, incorporated into many weblog and content management software packages. When a link to an audio or other multimedia file is included in an RSS feed, a program such as iPodder at the client end can find and download the file and transfer it to the client's audio library. Top lists of podcast programs can be found at the listing of its last 100 podcasts as well as its directory, and at Loudpocket, the “podcasting portal.”

The technology is still nascent but community producers might adopt it to good effect. Short or occasional content could be easily syndicated, for example, or new audiences reached. While the approach seems of limited benefit to locally-focused programming, more general interest content may benefit.

Andrew Ó Baoill is a PhD student at the Institute of Communications Research of the University of Illinois. Read Andrew's weblog. Brian Russell is a CTC VISTA serving at the Durham Literacy Center in North Carolina. Hear Brian's podcasts on

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