Written for Benoni City Times
This is a sample of an article written about podcasting for an audience who are not very technically oriented.
TONE: Approachable, not overly technical, friendly.
It’s been 2 years since the New Oxford American Dictionary selected “podcast” as word of the year. The phrase was coined even before then, probably first emerging as a concept in 2000. Like other Web 2.0 phenomena such as blogging and social networking, podcasting has exploded into popular Internet culture, allowing anyone connected to the Web to not only absorb audio information, but also to broadcast it themselves. Gone are the days when your local TV or radio station had a monopoly on what you view and hear.
A podcast is an audio track or programme available over the Internet. This shouldn’t be confused with online music, although the format is similar. The difference between a podcast and other forms of digital sound is that you can subscribe to a podcast and automatically download the latest episode of a podcast feed to your computer or MP3 player. Podcasting is a type of “push” technology because the message is automatically sent to the listener by the creator of the podcast (the podcaster), without the listener having to go looking for it. Podcasting is like sitting in your car listening to the radio, except you have a MUCH greater choice of what to listen to. A podcast can include only talking, only music, or an entertaining combination of both.
For example, if you were interested in gardening, you could search an online podcast directory for gardening shows, and you would find a huge variety of podcasts dedicated to this topic. In a typical gardening podcast you would hear enthusiasts giving their gardening tips, interviews with gardening experts and news about upcoming gardening shows and events. A podcast could last from as short as two minutes to as long as two hours, and naturally the longer the podcast, the bigger the file you would need to download. A podcast of an hour’s length could be about 25 to 35 megabytes in size, and you would need a relatively fast Internet connection to download it, such as ADSL or iBurst. There are of course no rules when it comes to podcasting, and because anyone with an Internet connection and a microphone can put a podcast episode together, the quality of podcasts differs (just like the thoughts and ideas you will hear in different conversations with people). Podcast directories usually have a ranking of their most popular podcasts according to most listened to or voted for, and these are usually the better quality ones.
Podcast Alley (www.podcastalley.com) is a great website directory of a massive variety of podcasts featuring any topic under the sun. You’ll also find a host of interesting podcasts at www.podcast.net, www.podcastdirectory.com and podcasts.yahoo.com. In fact, if you do a search for any topic, followed by the word podcast, you’ll be able to find what you’re looking for.
If you’d like to become a podcast junkie like millions of other happy Internet users, you don’t need to have a degree in rocket science or any technical skill at all. There are a variety of tools available for free on the Internet that will get you listening to your favourite podcast feeds in no time. The most well known is Apple’s iTunes, which can be downloaded for free from www.itunes.com. Check out the easy help function on the iTunes website to get you started, or click on the podcast button. You could also try alternative podcast aggregators (think of a podcast aggregator as a radio that will play channels of your favourite music at any time) including: Doppler, Juice, iPodder, Podget or any number of others. Most of these have great help pages that will take you through the easy steps of setting up your podcast player.
The great thing about most podcasts is that they’re wonderfully entertaining and at the same time completely free and legal to download. Some podcasts contain advertising, and some podcasters charge a nominal subscription fee, but the majority are free and you’ll only have to pay whatever your Internet Service Provider is charging you for bandwidth (as well as the usual Telkom costs).
I don’t remember the last time I actually listened to the radio in my car – sitting in traffic I find myself listening to my favourite podcasts on my MP3 player instead. It’s a great way to deal with a long commute in outrageous traffic, and can be both educational and fun at the same time. What next, I wonder – perhaps I’ll be starting my own podcast soon? Hmmm…