What Is a Podcast? Podcasting Terminology Explained

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As you begin your career online or extend your outreach to a growing audience, you may be considering podcasting. This article discusses what podcasting is and explains some of the technology in terms that anyone can understand.

Several definitions for podcast are available by googling the term. The one I like best however, says the following. A podcast is a multimedia file able to be played on a computer, mobile device or media player. The file itself may consist of audio or video and is usually obtained by downloading it from a site (website) set up just for that purpose. Although the term podcast is sometimes associated with a popular vendor’s device, the term podcast came before the device and has been in use according to Wikipedia since around 2005.

Other terms that are used when describing a podcast are terms such as “RSS”, “podcast client”, “aggregator”, “blog”, “syndication” and “digital audio files”. Looking at the definition and use of these terms along with more descriptions of the use of podcast should help us to understand what the meaning of podcast is when it comes to using podcasts for broadcasting a message.

First, RSS is an acronym for Really Simple Syndication, defined as a web feed technology that automatically detects when content on one site is updated and through subscriber feeds and aggregators, distributes it to another site or to a digital content player. A web feed allows feed readers to access a site automatically looking for new content and then post updates about that new content to another site. This provides a way for users to keep up with the latest and newest information posted on different sites. A feed reader is a software package that enables you to read the code in which RSS feeds are written. This can give you a central place to read updates from news feeds, blogs, email etc. Feed readers are increasingly being included in browser software, or as part of personalized homepages.

A podcast client is the software used to access and download podcasts. Podcast clients are also known as media aggregators, programs designed to automatically access an online file, or feed, and download the audio or video file associated with it. An aggregator (also known as a feed reader) is a website or software program that gathers and displays web content such as news headlines, blogs, and podcasts from multiple website sources to a single website (location). It uses RSS or other types of feeds to find the content, and allows subscribing to feeds, allowing new content to be automatically downloaded when it is available.

Blog is a shortened version of the word weblog, material published by the owner of a website containing posts of all sorts of content, including images, texts, video, audio and even links to other sites. Often a blog will allow participation from readers through comments or guest posts. Syndication is the pulling of content from an RSS news feed into a web site making information on a website available (usually in digest form) for a wide range of uses, like RSS feeds. Syndication also allows news updates, blog entries and podcasts to be made immediately available to a Web audience.

Finally, digital audio files for our purpose refers to a file containing digital audio which is defined as follows. Analog audio signals are converted into digital samples, with each sample being assigned a value in a range of 65,536 possible values (16 bits). This converted analog signal is saved in file format and is able to played by many digital audio players such as in a cd audio player or if converted to the right format an MP3 player, media players, etc.

Now, with these basics about the podcasting world, you have a foundation to start looking into how podcasting can become useful for your needs.

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