We talk about podcasts a good deal around here. But given that only 12% of internet users have ever downloaded a podcast, and only 1% does so daily (see this Pew Research Center study), we wanted to provide an overview of podcasts and how to use them. In a few minutes, we want to get you up and running and exploring our rich collections of educational and cultural materials.
What is a podcast?
Here’s the basic answer. Podcasts are essentially radio shows available for download over the Internet, and you can listen to them on your iPod, other portable mp3 players, and computer. Instead of being broadcast over the airwaves and eventually lost, as happens with traditional radio shows, podcasts can be stored and played at the user’s convenience. Think of it as a TIVO in audio.
How do I download and listen to podcasts? The iTunes Way
Given the prevalence of Apple’s iPod/iPhone, discussing the Apple way of downloading podcasts is unavoidable.
To access podcasts through iTunes (download for free here), you have several options:
- Open iTunes,
- Click on “iTunes store” on the left side of the screen,
- Next click on “Podcasts” within the area called “iTunes Store,”
- Search and find the podcast you want,
- Then either click “Get Episode” to get an individual podcast that interests you, or click “Subscribe” to automatically receive each new installment within the podcast series.
- Find a podcast that you’d like to explore. (You may encounter them while surfing the web),
- Locate the podcast’s rss feed, which sites usually advertise on their homepage, and are often accompanied by this symbol,
- Click on the “Advanced” drop-down menu along the top of the screen,
- Next select “Subscribe to podcast,”
- And then paste the feed link (for example, http://www.abc.net.au/rn/podcast/feeds/mind.xml) into the box and click “Ok.”
NOTE: This option works well when you find a podcast that’s not already listed on iTunes.
- Sometimes when you’re surfing the web, you’ll find a podcast that you like, and you’ll have the option to subscribe directly to the podcast on iTunes from the web page. (On Open Culture, we give you this option whenever we see a link that says “iTunes.”)
- Click on the link and it will help you launch iTunes, and from there you’ll be given the option either to subscribe to the ongoing podcast, or to download individual episodes.
Listening to the Podcasts
Finally, when you sync your iPod, your podcasts will be automatically downloaded onto your iPod. And you can listen to them by:
- Turning on your iPod,
- Clicking on “Music” at the main menu.
- Scrolling the wheel down to “Podcasts,”
- And then selecting the individual podcasts that you want to play.
Are there alternatives to iTunes?
Yes. And you have a couple of options here.
If you own another kind of mp3 player (e.g. ones by Microsoft, SanDisk, or Creative), it will come with software that performs essentially the same functions as iTunes. And you’ll want to follow the same basic directions that we outlined in Step 2 above. That is, find the rss feed (which we always try to provide) and use it to subscribe to the podcast. Then sync and listen.
And then there is an interesting second option: Lifehacker recently recommended a free software called “MyPodder” (download here). It is a cross platform software for downloading podcasts directly to your MP3 player, no matter what kind you have.
Can I Make My Own Podcasts?
Sure, check out our previous feature that directs you to good resources.