NOTE: You can listen to an audio (podcast) version of this article by clicking on the PLAY icon on the left of the "Podcasts Explained" link just above this line.
Podcasting is the ability to listen to audio files on the Internet. You can listen on your Windows computer, a Macintosh, an MP3 player (such as the Apple iPod), an iPhone, or most any other device capable of listening to audio files. In most cases, listening to a podcast is similar to listening to a radio program: a podcast might be all music or it may be a talk show or even a mixture of both.
The term podcasting comes from the word "iPod" and "broadcasting."
Podcasting has several unique features:
- Podcasts are not plagued by static or other atmospheric noises in the manner of radio broadcasts.
- Podcasts are stored online, and you can listen to them whenever you want. Unlike radio, you do not need to check a “station schedule” and be prepared at a certain date or time. Podcasts are available whenever YOU want them.
- By creating podcasts, one can reach listeners all over the world. Unlike radio stations that typically cover a limited geographic area, anyone can create podcasts that will attract listeners worldwide. For instance, I live in the northeastern part of the United States, and I have created podcasts. I later received comments from listeners in Australia, New Zealand, England, Germany, Sweden, Hong Kong, and Saudi Arabia.
You can find genealogy podcasts from The Genealogy Guys Podcast at http://genealogyguys.com, the Family Tree Magazine Podcast at http://www.familytreemagazine.com/podcast, Family History: Genealogy Made Easy by Lisa Louise Cooke at http://www.genealogygems.com, and Irish Roots Cafe On the Air by Michael C. O'Laughlin at http://www.irishroots.com/content/view/103/156/. I also recorded a number of podcasts which are available at http://blog.eogn.com/eastmans_online_genealogy/podcasts.
You can listen to any of the above podcasts right now on your computer, assuming you have sound capability. Simply click on any of the above links to see what podcasting is all about.
While the word “podcasting” is partially derived from the word “iPod,” you do not need an Apple iPod to listen. You can also download MP3 and other audio files and save them on your hard drive or simply stream the audio broadcasts right through your web browser. If you have a music player other than an iPod, you can download the audio file using any computer and then copy the file to your music player.
If you do have an iPod, an iPhone, or an iPad, you can also listen to any of these podcasts on that device. If iTunes doesn't detect the podcast automatically, you can copy & paste the RSS Feed URL into your podcast software by following these instructions:
- Find a podcast in which you would like to subscribe. Many podcasts, on individual's Web sites, are labeled with small orange buttons that read "RSS" or "XML." However, a podcast link can be any text or object that can be hyperlinked.
- Right-click on the podcast button and select "copy shortcut."
- Open iTunes and click once on "podcasts" on the menu to the left.
- Click "Advanced" on the menu along the top and select "Subscribe to Podcast."
- Look for the "Subscribe to Podcast" popup window. Right-click in the box below "URL:" and select "Paste."
- Click "OK" and wait while the most recent episode from your podcast downloads to your computer.
You can even listen to high quality audio on slow dial-up connections. To do so, download the file first, even at slow speed, and then listen to it later, after the entire file has been saved on your hard drive. You will enjoy nearly high-fidelity audio.
One of the more exciting things about podcasts and podcasting is the low cost of creating the “shows.” You do not need a fancy recording studio or a radio station with a 200-foot tower in the back yard. Anyone can have an online radio show and easily share their thoughts, insights, and opinions about virtually any topic under the sun. The online WORLD is now your audience. That's literally “the world.” Others can listen to your broadcasts even if they are in Australia, Russia, South Africa, or Tahiti. Try doing THAT with a 200-foot tower in the back yard!
NOTE: I speak from experience. I am a ham radio operator, although my tower is a lot shorter than 200 feet. However, I have never managed to make static-free transmissions to the far corners of the world by using short-wave radio. Yet I find it easy to do so for a lot less money by creating podcasts.
To make crystal clear, static-free podcast transmissions to the far corners of the world or even up the street, all you need is a computer (even an old one), a microphone, and an Internet connection. Some people have even recorded and broadcast complete podcasts with nothing more than a telephone. All you need to do is dial a special telephone number that records whatever you say, packages it into a podcast-compatible format, and makes it available on a web server.
Podcasters can now create an audience in any niche market that is of interest to them, such as genealogy. You can even create a show about Irish genealogy or Italian genealogy or your favorite genealogy software. The excitement comes from opening this technology to the world. Big media radio stations are even embracing podcasts because independent podcasters are turning the radio world on its head. From a listener's perspective, you now have thousands of podcasts that you can listen to. Chances are that you can find many podcasts that interest you.
Many people wonder how much it costs to listen to podcasts. The answer is: nothing. Podcasts are free. (It is theoretically possible to charge for a podcast, but that is rare.)
Creating podcasts (broadcasting) is also free or very low cost, assuming one already has a computer, a microphone, and an Internet connection. You do need to store your audio files somewhere on a web server. This might be a web server that you already own or use, or it might be on a dedicated podcast hosting service. Some of the hosting services are available free of charge although the free ones may insert their own advertisements. Probably the most expensive podcast hosting services charge $10 a month or so.
Why would you want to create your own online podcasting show?
I suspect there are thousands of individual reasons. You might want to voice your thoughts and opinions, to speak to a new market online, or to deliver a message to potential and current clients, to deliver educational lessons, or to simply broadcast the latest news. You also have the opportunity to attain some level of fame online and become known as an expert in your field of expertise or become famous because your show is drop dead funny or very informative. You should be thinking "why shouldn't I be podcasting?" instead of "why should I be podcasting?" You can deliver audio content in an easy way that listeners will be drawn to... let your imagination run wild with all of the possibilities. Your potential audience is worldwide.
What types of things do people podcast about?
Sports, news, opinions, product reviews, training, church news, business, humor, lifestyle, websites, college life, dating, politics, poetry, eBay, and, yes, genealogy. The list is in the thousands. You will be amazed at how many people are be interested in hearing your podcast with your thoughts, insights, opinions, etc. Podcast on any topic that you have an interest in.
Who will listen to my podcast?
Anyone with a computer CAN listen to your podcast, but the number of people who actually will listen depends upon the quality of your “online show” and how well you publicize it. If you simply start podcasting with no announcements or advertising of any sort, you probably will not attract many listeners! As in any other form of information delivery, you do need to “get the word out.” You can do so by placing announcements on your own web site, on Facebook, in online mailing lists, and by email announcements to your friends.
How do I start my own podcast radio show?
You need a program that will record audio onto your hard drive, preferably in MP3 format or in a format that can later be converted to MP3. If you do not already have such a program, I'd suggest that you investigate Audacity, a FREE recording and audio editing program for Windows, Macintosh, and Linux. Audacity is very powerful and capable of creating high-quality podcasts. You can even mix in music. (Watch the copyright laws! Do you have a legal right to use that music?) Take a look at http://audacity.sourceforge.net.
The WORLD is your audience. Millions of people are listening to podcasts every day, and the number is growing fast. People will find your podcast if you publicize it. They will come back again and again to listen to future podcasts if they find your broadcasts to be informative and interesting. Podcasting is spreading like wildfire, and now is your opportunity to start reaching out to people today.