Podcast Tutorial

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:

Option 1:

  • 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.

Option 2:

  • 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.

Option 3:

  • 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.

Podcasts from Top American Law Schools


  • American University – Washington College of Law iTunes Feed Web Site
    • An eclectic collection of legal podcasts.
  • Georgetown University – Georgetown Law iTunes Feed Web Site
    • One of the richer collections.
  • George Mason University
    • The Law and Economics Podcast iTunes Feed Web Site
      • Produced by the Journal of Law, Economics, and Policy.
  • Harvard Law School
    • MediaBerkman by The Berkman Center for Internet & Society iTunes Feed Web Site
      • MediaBerkman “features conversations with and talks by leading cyber-scholars, entrepreneurs, activists, and policymakers as they explore topics such as the factors that influence knowledge creation and dissemination in the digital age; the character of power as the worlds of governance, business, citizenship and the media meet the internet; and the opportunities, role and limitations of new technologies in learning.”
  • Stanford University Law School
    • Center for Internet and Society iTunes Web Site
      • These technology-focused lectures are given by a diverse group of faculty, many from universities other than Stanford.
    • Program in Law, Science & Technology iTunes Web Site
      • This program focuses on the role that science and technology play in the national and global arenas. The issues discussed in these podcasts will interest students, legal professionals, businesspeople, government officials, and the public at large.
    • The American Constitution Society for Law and Policy iTunes Feed Web Site
      • The American Constitution Society for Law and Policy is a national organization comprised of lawyers, law students, scholars, judges, policymakers, and other concerned individuals working to ensure that fundamental principles of human dignity, individual rights and liberties, genuine equality, and access to justice enjoy their rightful, central place in American law.
  • University of Chicago Law School Faculty iTunes Feed Web Site
    • A little bit of legal brain candy presented by the U Chicago law faculty.
  • Yale Law School Feed Web Site
    • Podcasts from one of America’s finest law schools. Often features speeches by visiting speakers.

Stay tuned — this page will be under continual and active development. It will grow as more law schools develop new podcasts.

Weekly Wrap Up – March 16

Here’s a quick summary of our recent pieces:

If you like what we’re doing, email your friends and tell them about Open

Has Stephen Hawking Been Wrong For The Last 30 Years?

With his cutting-edge research on black holes in the 1970s, Stephen Hawking emerged as a major player in the physics world. Then, with the 1988 publication of the bestseller, A Brief History of Time, Hawking achieved international celebrity status.

As this BBC presentation shows, Hawking’s fame might rest on weaker foundations than most could have imagined. Several important physicists, including Leonard Susskind here at Stanford (see our previous references to him), zeroed in on Hawking’s major contention that, when black holes disappear, they take along with them all information that ever existed inside them, which leads to the logical conclusion that there are clear limits to what scientists could ever know about black holes. After 20 years of debate, the Susskind camp seems to have won out, leaving Hawking’s legacy in question. This BBC web page will give you the backstory in brief, but you may want to go straight to this 50 minute video.

My Trip to Al Qaeda: A New Yorker Video

You don’t see web video like this too often… On The New Yorker web site, you can now catch a video excerpt of a one-man play being staged in NYC by magazine staff writer, Lawrence Wright.  (Click here to watch.)

The New Yorker prefaces the video with this:

"This week, the New Yorker staff writer Lawrence Wright opened his one-man show, “My Trip to Al-Qaeda,” at the Culture Project, in New York City. Since September 11th, Wright has covered Al Qaeda for the magazine; last year, he published the book “The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11.” In the course of his work on the roots and the rise of Islamic terrorism, Wright has conducted more than six hundred interviews and travelled to Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and much of Western Europe. The play, which he wrote and performs, is a first-person account of his experiences, and examines, among other themes, the tension between his roles as journalist and citizen."

Smart Links

Here are a few good finds that we’ve recently stumbled upon:

  • 60 Minutes Streamed on Yahoo: A nice addition
    to Yahoo’s lineup, but it makes you realize how far behind Yahoo has
    fallen in the web video space, and this was amazingly the one area that Yahoo had decided to
    focus on while it let Google slip away with the search space. It’s rather stunning that Yahoo’s CEO, Terry Semel, remains in his job. By the way, you can also get 60 Minutes segments on iTunes. (iTunesFeed)
  • Loading Clips from YouTube and Google Video onto your Ipod: We talk a lot around here about podcasts and web video. The links below will make it so that you can load not only podcasts, but also video from YouTube and Google Video, onto your iPod. It’s a great way to centralize things. (Also this article from the always helpful Lifehacker talks some more about this general issue.)
  • MediaShift’s Podcast Guide: This blog affiliated with PBS recently issued a primer on podcasting. It covers the following items: What are Podcasts? What is the History of Podcasting? Where to Find Podcasts? (Why they didn’t include Open Culture’s podcast library here, I don’t know.) How to Become a Podcaster? How to Make Money with Podcasts?
  • Psychology Podcast Collection: A list of upwards to 20 podcasts dealing with various aspects of psychology.
  • Mozart’s Life and Music: A free lecture from The Teaching Company.
  • Self Made Scholar: It’s a little uneven, but there are some good educational resources in the mix.

See Open Culture’s Podcast Collections:

Arts & CultureAudio BooksForeign Language LessonsNews & InformationScienceTechnologyUniversity (General)University (B-School)

BondCast (AKA a James Bond Podcast)

Jamesbond_1Casino Royale, which gave the James Bond franchise a good shot in the arm, is being released this week on

DVD, and so why not mention a new James Bond podcast.

Cinematical has issued its first Bondcast that’s filled with news, rumors, speculations, stories and general minutiae about all things Bond. They”ll have a new episode every two weeks, and, reader be warned, the hosts are fairly over the top in their idolization of Bond. And you may need to be as reverential to enjoy the ride.

The Problem with GooTube (and Inside Iran)

With YouTube and Google Video now sitting under the same happy corporate umbrella, you can rest assured that the world will receive only a steadier stream of home-brewed videos of guitar riffs, treadmill dances, dorm room antics, and pet playtimes, the very stuff that makes up YouTube’s all-time list of favorites. Lucky us. But somewhere within these vast troves of videos reside some valuable cultural and educational content. And although it will assuredly lose the popularity contest that determines relevance within the world of Web 2.0, it’s there nonetheless, and we’re happy to point it out, especially since GooTube doesn’t do much to help on that front. Here’s a good example of what we’re talking about.If you take seriously the recent political talk, the Bush Administration looks to be on a collision course with Iran. And should things come to a head, you can guarantee that Americans will have next to no sense of what Iran is really like as a country, other than what the administration has to say about it. The GooTube video below is a good corrective to that. This 90-minute lively program produced by the BBC takes an inside look at “one of the most misunderstood countries in the world, looking at the country through the eyes of people rarely heard – ordinary Iranians.” And as it goes on to explain things, “it took a year of wrangling to get permission to film inside Iran but the result is an amazing portrayal of an energetic and vibrant country that is completely different to the usual images seen in the media.” Take a look:

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.