What do you need to listen to podcasts?
- A computer with a broadband internet connection
- Podcast client software
But what's also great about podcasts is, you can copy them onto MP3 players and take them with you. We'll talk a bit about MP3 players later.
Podcast client software
Podcasts are really nothing more than audio files embedded in RSS feeds. If you don't understand RSS feeds this explanation isn't going to help much. We will talk about RSS in a future posting - promise! But for now, you just need to know that like any RSS feed, you need to subscribe to it and you also need software that will go out to the internet and check when new content is available and download it to your computer. That's what differentiates a podcast from just downloading audio content. You subscribe and future content is downloaded automatically.
There are lots of options for free podcast client software. There's a long list available on Podcasting News. But I have to say, my favorite hands down is iTunes. You can download a copy of the software for free. It works on both Windows and Macs. Podcasts work on iPods and other MP3 players.
You can use the iTunes store to browse or search for podcasts of interest. If you find something you like on iTunes, you can generally just click on the Subscribe button and get the latest as well as a list of earlier programs from which you can select any you'd like to download and listen to in the future. My mother has macular degeneration and listens to a lot of audio content instead of reading. So, I download a number of podcasts for her every week on my computer, copy them onto a flash drive and then onto her computer. All she has to do is click on the file and it plays on her computer with Windows Media Player.
For my own use, I copy the podcasts onto an MP3 player. I have both flavors - Windows and an iPod Nano. While the Nano works really seamlessly with iTunes (you just drag files onto the iPod icon in iTunes), my SanDisk works with iTunes MP3 podcast files as well. There's just an extra step. I have to open Windows Explorer to copy files from my computer to MP3 player.
There are a lot of different non-iPod MP3 players out there. I don't have any specific recommendations. I think it's probably best to go into a store with a lot of different models and take a look at the controls and the feel and decide what features are important to you. Do you want to watch video, listen to the radio, record? But do keep in mind a couple of differences.
- Music bought from iTunes will only play on iPods (and your computer).
- Music bought from other online stores will not play on iPods.
- Downloaded audiobooks from services like Overdrive and Netlibrary will not play on iPods.
- MP3s without copy protection should play on any MP3 device.
There is a lot of new content being produced as podcasts all the time. I suspect there really is something for just about everyone out there. I'll share just a few of my favorites.
Radio programming - I'm an avid radio listener who doesn't have time to catch all my favorite programs so I'm thrilled that many are available as podcasts:
- News-related - fairly short shelf life -
NPR Fresh Air
NPR: Talk of the Nation
WBUR Here and Now
On the Media
- Entertainment -
This American Life
APM: A Prairie Home Companion's News from Lake Woebegon
- Books -
KUOW 94.9 The Beat Book Reviews with Nancy Pearl
Barnes & Noble's Meet the Writers Podcast
NYTimes Book Review
Times Online Books Podcast
TWiT netcast network. Leo Laporte is a Tech TV alum. Other former Tech TV folks have gone on form Revision 3. You'll hear about their video podcasts later.
- NPR: Technology
- NYTimes Tech Talk
- NYTimes David Pogue - this is actually a link to his blog but includes subscription information and links for podcast.
- SirsiDynix Institute - mostly library tech-related
- LibVibe: the library news podcast
- ALA has a number of podcasts available on various topics:
- OIF (Office for Intellectual Freedom)
- YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association)
- ALA Washington Office District Dispatch - the most recent podcast is dated 9/07
- ACRL (Association of College and Research Libraries) - there is a link to a podcast page for ACRL with no content at the moment. But there's also a podcast feed link that actually works.
- Some examples of how libraries are using podcasts:
Feel free to send me your favorite podcasts and I'll list them in a future posting.