Social Enterprise

Cheat Sheet: Podcasting

Pod is a DJ
Podcasting, then. All sounds a bit A Space Odyssey to me.
Can't argue with you there. If you haven't guessed, it gets its name from the ubiquitous Apple iPod.

So what is it actually?
Unlike a number of its rivals, the iPod doesn't come with a radio built-in - podcasting is a way of getting around that. It refers to downloading radio shows or other audio content, such as audio blogs, so you can listen to it later. Technically you could download this content and listen to it with any hardware MP3 player, though.

What's the technology behind it, then?
Audio files are published to the internet using RSS feeds, with subscribers using aggregating software such as iPodder to snaffle the broadcasts up.

OK. Are people actually doing this?
It seems so. According to research from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, one third of US iPod users are already downloading and playing podcasts.

And a separate report from the Diffusion Group predicts that by 2010, 60 million Americans will be podcasting.

I bet Apple are mad keen on this podcasting malarkey then?
Apparently Steve Jobs is rather warming to the concept, recently describing it as "the hottest thing in radio". The next version of iTunes, 4.9, will include a new set of features designed to support podcasting, as well as enable would-be podcasters to create content more easily. The new podcasting-friendly iTunes, which will enable one-click subscriptions to podcasting services, will be around this summer.

Any of the other tech firms leaping on the bandwagon?
Yup - the Mozilla Foundation (the group behind the Firefox browser) recently announced it will be putting podcasting support in the next iteration of its Thunderbird email client.

Who does podcasting then?
A lot of wannabe DJs, for one, as well as well-known radio stations which make whole shows or edited highlights of popular shows available for download. The BBC and Virgin Radio are already on board, while London station XFM is planning to podcast DJ Ricky Gervais' shows. Bloggers are also fond of the podcasting medium.

Like most interesting grassroots media phenomena, big business has seized on the opportunities podcasting presents and is busy trying to exploit it in pursuit of a free advertising opportunity as best they can. Corporate behemoths General Motors and Pepsi are already podcasting.

Politicians haven't been so slack with it either. The Liberal Democrat party, for instance, podcast key speeches in the run up to this year's election. Podcasting has also snapped up some unlikely converts - including an Australian church, which makes its sermons available for download.

About

Jo Best has been covering IT for the best part of a decade for publications including silicon.com, Guardian Government Computing and ZDNet in both London and Sydney.

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