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Podcasting FAQ

Note: This FAQ is published under a Creative Commons license. This means that you're free to reproduce it or publish information from it at your site, if you'd rather not reinvent the wheel. See details at the end of the FAQ. If you have questions you'd like to see added, or other comments, please contact us.

Q: What's podcasting?

A: According to Wikipedia, "Podcasting is the practice of making audio files available online in a way that allows software to automatically detect new files and download them." Technically, this is accomplished using RSS 2.0 news feeds to provide information about a collection of audio files in MP3 format. In common use, podcasting is often used to refer to independent audio shows that can be downloaded from the Internet.

Q: What's cool about podcasting?

A: Podcasting lets anybody with a microphone, a computer and an Internet connection publish audio shows that can be listened to by people anywhere in the world. Because the barriers to entry are very low, podcasting is rapidly becoming a popular way for people share audio shows. Podcasts are free and can be automatically downloaded to portable media players, so you can listen to them whenever it's convenient.

Coolest of all is that if you've got a great idea for a podcast, you can probably do it!

Q: What sort of shows are available as podcasts?

A: There are already many types of podcasts, including audio books, music shows, news, humor and sports. Most podcasts are created by amateurs, but there are also commercial podcasts and independently produced podcasts. There are podcasts in Dutch, French, German, Icelandic, Italian, Mohawk, Spanish, and many other languages.

Q: Do I need to have an iPod to listen to podcasts?

A: No. The first podcast clients were designed to subscribe to audio shows, automatically download them and sync them to iPods. As podcasting has evolved, podcast clients have become available that work with most portable digital audio players. Many podcast sites support downloading shows directly from the site, and many directories support playing podcasts directly.

Q: Do I need special software to listen to podcasts?

A: No. Many podcasters and directories let you listen to podcasts as streaming media, directly from the site. Podcasting clients are used to streamline downloading podcasts and copying them to portable media players.

Q: Where can I find podcasts?

A: The most popular places for finding podcasts are the directories at iPodder.org, PodcastAlley and Podcasting News. There are many other podcast directory sites. Many podcast applications also include a list or directory of podcasts.

Q: Who invented podcasting?

A: Podcasting is based on capabilities built into the RSS 2.0 specification, which was developed by Dave Winer. Adam Curry catalyzed the podcasting concept in September of 2004, when he released a script that automatically downloaded audio files referenced in RSS files.

While there are many precedents for Curry and Winer's work, they put the pieces together and popularized the idea of podcasting. Because of this, they are generally considered the "podfathers" of the podcasting community.

Q: Do I need to use a Mac?

A: No. You can create and listen to podcasts using Windows, Mac OS X and Linux podcasting software.

Q: What are some of the top podcasts?

A: There are several ways to rank podcasts, and depending on how you rank them, different podcasts come out on top.

Measuring activity: One way to rank podcasts is by the amount of click activity that they receive at popular podcast directories. Podcasting News' Top 25 Podcasts are ranked in this way. This is an effective way to look at what podcast listeners are interested in, to the extent that site visitors reflect the podcasting community as a whole. It doesn't measure actual downloads of a podcast.

Measuring downloads: Another approach is to compare the number of downloads that various podcasts get. Because accurate data on downloads is not available for all podcasts, it's not currently possible to rank podcasts in terms of actual downloads or listens.

Voting/ranking - Another approach is to have users vote on or rate podcasts. This approach provides a measure of a podcast's ability to motivate listeners to vote, but doesn't measure interest in podcasts or actual downloads. Examples of this approach are Podcasting News' Top 25 Rated Podcasts and Podcast Alley's Top 10 list.

Reviews: There are also several sites that review podcasts. As reviewers become established, they may become an effective way to learn about new podcasts.

What is RSS?

RSS files are text files that contain information about things available on the Internet. For podcasting, RSS files are used to syndicate information about a podcast "channel" (the show as a whole), and also individual podcast episodes. The article Understanding RSS News Feeds discusses how to use them for podcasting.

Q: What can you do with a podcast?

A: A browse through a podcast directory shows the variety of podcasts that are available. Here are just a few things podcasting can be used for:

On-demand versions of radio shows

Personal audio blogs

Audio books

Music shows

Audio tour guides

Educational content that depends on audio (language, music, etc)

Marketing for musicians

Distributing sermons and other religious content


Sports coverage

Distributing/synchronizing audio and video files for business.

Q: I've got a show that features top 40 hits. Do I need to worry about copyrights and stuff like that?

A: Yes. The best advice, for now, is to feature independent or Creative Commons licensed music in your podcast. Podcasts are downloads. When people access your podcast, they are copying an audio file from your server to their computer. If your podcast has traditionally copyrighted music in it, you're probably infringing on somebody's copyright.

So check out some independent or Creative Commons music. It's a little more work, but a lot more rewarding for everybody involved!

Q: I'm planning on podcasting some audio books. What software and microphone will I need?

A: Two of the most important things for this are the quality of your microphone and the acoustics of the room you record in. At a minimum, you'll want to have a good mic that you can plug into your computer's input & a pair of headphones. You can record directly onto the computer with Audacity on Windows & Mac, and Garageband is a popular choice on the Mac. Podcasting News has a list of podcasting software.

For more advanced setups, check out the Podcasting News article on setting up a home podcasting studio.

No matter what your setup, the environment you record in can have a big effect on the sound. In general, you'll want a quiet location that is relatively "dead", meaning that it absorbs sound instead of bouncing it back at you. A room with a sofa & a carpet will be a lot less "live" than a room with tile.

Experiment with how close you speak to your microphone, too. If you place the mic further away, you'll get more room noise/sound. If you place the mic closer, you'll get less room sound. If you get very close, though, you may notice that the mic overemphasizes the bass in the speaker's voice.

Q: I want to listen to the my favorite radio show on my iPod. How do I get this as a podcast?

A: Podcasts are published by show creators. If they are not publishing the show as a podcast, there may be legal issues that prevent them from doing so, or they may not see a need for it. You may want to give them feedback via their website, so that they know that there is interest in a podcast version of the show.

You may also want to look into time-shifting radio recording software. An example is Replay Radio. This type of software is designed to let users record radio shows and put them on portable media players.


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thats pretty cool theres a canadian rapper called Classified that i have an e-mail address to he spits true hiphop maby i can ask him if he would let us use his songs on the podcast?

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