Friday, September 14, 2007

Podcast Review – Introduction

My ever-loyal reader (I don’t know if there is still more than one of you. If there are more, let me know!). I may have mentioned a few times before that I have become enamoured with the phenomenon of podcasting. In the past few months I have discovered and subscribed to a number of podcasts on a variety of topics that interest me. If you’re reading this, then you’re probably interested in at least some of those topics as well.

So, as a service to you, I’m going to begin a series of posts dedicated to reviewing the podcasts I listen to. I only listen to podcasts I enjoy, so if a particular show is reviewed, it’s already passed that test. If I’m critical of a podcast, it is in comparison to the other ones I listen to. So even if I’m harsh, it shouldn’t be taken too negatively.

In case you don’t already know what a podcast is, I’m going to use this introduction to explain the basics of podcasting.

A podcast is essentially a radio show that can be downloaded from the Internet and listened to at your leisure. Some podcasts are recordings of actual radio shows that can be listened to later (in case you missed the live show), but it seems that most of them are recorded specifically for distribution as a podcast.

Most podcasts are downloaded as an MP3 audio file, which can be consumed either straight on your PC, or with the aid of your portable MP3 player (such as an iPod… hence the name). If you’re savvy enough to handle an MP3 file, you’ll know what other ways it can be used. I leave that to you.

In order to obtain the podcast file, you will usually be able to download it directly from the podcast’s website. This is a little cumbersome, as it means you have to go back to the site regularly to look for updates. If you have an iPod, you’ll be able to download many podcasts through iTunes. If you’re not an Apple fan, there are other options: you’ll need some sort of “podcatching” software.

Podcatchers are programs that allow you to subscribe to an RSS feed (which most podcast sites use). The software will usually automatically download any new podcasts that are published. If you already use an RSS feed reader (like Google Reader), you can use that for your podcast feeds as well. Feed readers usually don’t download the file automatically, but some people (like me) prefer it that way.

When I start reviewing individual podcasts, I’ll give you the RSS feed URL so you can subscribe to it with your reader or podcatcher of choice and give it a listen for yourself.

Right, now you know what I’m talking about. Let’s get started!