Broadcasting directly to you iPods
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights
When I was a freshman, I used to wander around campus on Friday afternoons handing out my underground hip-hop mix-tapes to friends and random passersby. When I was a sophomore, I started DJing at WZBC 90.3 FM so that I could reach more listeners, but you still had to live in Boston and be awake at 1 a.m. in order to hear my show.
Senior year, I made the jump to global distribution by starting my own podcast. There's a good reason why "podcast" beat out "reggaeton" and "sudoku" to be selected as 2005's Word of the Year. Everyone from Barack Obama to the Boston University hockey team has a podcast - why shouldn't you have one too?
What is a podcast?
Podcasts are like mp3 radio programs that broadcast directly to your iTunes, which you can then transfer to your iPod or burn to a CD. Once you subscribe to a podcast, new episodes will automatically arrive in your iTunes like stocking stuffers delivered while you sleep. Since podcasts are MP3 files that save directly to your computer, you can listen to them anytime, like TiVo for the radio.
Some of the most popular podcasts include the BBC's daily five-minute news synopsis and MTV's weekly new music mix. There are also plenty of amateur podcasters who produce shows from their bedrooms about the stock market, international hip-hop, Buddhism, and every other imaginable topic.
The best part is that all podcasts are free, free, free. You don't need to sign up for an account or enter your credit card information in order to subscribe, just one click of the mouse.
How do I subscribe to a podcast?
iTunes makes downloading podcasts as easy as buying songs from the iTunes Music Store, but a lot cheaper. Browse through thousands of free podcasts organized by genre in the iTunes podcast directory and then click "Subscribe" to immediately get the newest episode and eventually receive subsequent releases.
If you don't have iTunes you will need another RSS feed aggregator (or "podcatcher") such as Odeo or Juice, both free. Google Reader is another great free tool for subscribing to podcasts and other RSS feeds such as blogs.
You can find more podcasts at http://www.podcastdirectory.com. If you find a podcast that is not available in the iTunes podcast directory, you can still manually subscribe in iTunes by clicking "Advanced" in the iTunes menu and selecting "Subscribe to podcast." You then paste the podcast's unique RSS feed, such as http://www.gnawledge.com/podcast.xml, which will direct iTunes to your desired podcast.
Most podcasts are hosted on Web sites that offer a direct link that will open iTunes and automatically subscribe you. For example, you can subscribe to my international hip-hop podcast at http://www.gnawledge.com. On some computer configurations, you might have to subscribe manually as shown above.
How do I start my own podcast?
Anyone with a microphone and an Internet connection can start their very own podcast and spread their voice around the world. First you will need some music software such as GarageBand or Adobe Audition, which will allow you to record and edit your mp3 radio program.
In order to turn this mp3 into a podcast, you will need to create your unique RSS feed. This can be a bit complicated, but there are numerous programs available at www.podcastingnews.com that automate this process and require you only to fill in the blanks. If you don't have a Web site, you will need someone to host your podcasts for you. Odeo offers a simple, all-in-one podcasting package that includes Web hosting and RSS feed support.
What's the future of podcasting?
Most podcasters today are unpaid amateurs who do it for nothing more than the simple joy of connecting with listeners of similar interests, but with 10 million people currently listening to podcasts, big businesses are starting to take notice. Advertisers are projected to spend $80 million on podcast advertisements in 2006 and record companies are looking toward podcasting as an effective means of new media marketing. Radio Disney even plans to offer free, ad-supported podcasts that target 6- to 14-year-old children.
As video iPods become more popular, video podcasts are going to become a means for distributing music videos, Internet TV shows, and shorts films. And when that iPod cell phone eventually comes out �