Podcasting is the latest method of distributing multimedia files, such as audio programs or videos, over the Internet for playback on personal computers or on portable music players. These broadcasts are rapidly becoming very popular on the Internet. What began as a way of broadcasting music to iPod devices (hence the term "podcast") has grown to include many kinds recordings that anyone can enjoy from any computer connected to the internet. It's now easy and cheap enough that people like you and I can add recordings to our own web sites or to the web site of our local genealogical society, historical society, or museum.
I recently added some podcasts to this newsletter's web site, which I made by conducting audio interviews with genealogy experts and industry leaders. Even though podcasting is just a couple years old, other podcasters produce audio broadcasts about a variety of topics today.
Unlike radio, you can listen to podcasts at your convenience. Podcasts are available on demand to anyone with an Internet connection. Hi-fi music and video podcasts work best on broadband connections. However, audio podcasts of human voices, such as the interviews I publish on www.eogn.com, work well even on 56K dial-up connections.
You can receive the podcast programming you want and listen to it whenever and wherever you want. You can listen to podcasts directly through your computer or download a podcast to enjoy off-line, or even transfer downloaded audio to a portable player (such as an Apple iPod) so that you can listen while jogging, walking the dog, or riding the commuter train, or at any other time of your convenience. Despite the name of "podcasts," an Apple iPod is not required. In fact, most people listen to podcasts on their computers, not on iPod music players.
As long as you listen to podcasts only on your computer, you don't need any special software other than audio player software. Most computer owners will find Windows Media Player or RealPlayer or some similar audio playback software is already installed on the computer. That is sufficient to listen to 99% of the podcasts available today.
If you want to listen to podcasts on an Apple iPod when you are away from your computer, you will need iTunes, a free download from www.apple.com/itunes/download. Other portable MP3 players will use different methods to download podcasts and store them on the player. Check the MP3 player's documentation for details.
Once you start listening to podcasts, you will discover that podcasting has numerous advantages over printed text on a web page, at least for some types of material. If someone is actually talking to you, you have to listen. Unlike text or even television, it is difficult to ignore spoken words or to quickly skim over the material. Podcasts are much more personal because you're listening to another human being's voice.
After listening to a few podcasts, you may become interested in adding similar audio feeds to your own web site or to the web site of your local genealogical society, historical society, or museum. In fact, museum "walking tours" conducted by podcast are very effective. Does your genealogy society feature guest speakers or lecturers? Ask them if you can record their talks and then place the audio on the web for the benefit of those who could not attend in person. (You can expect some speakers will decline.)
You may be pleasantly surprised to discover how easy it is to create podcasts.
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