Friday, January 16, 2009

So You Got an iPod for Christmas

Did you get an iPod or other mp3 type player for Christmas? If you did you might have already put a lot of music on it but there is so much more that you can put on your iPod or mp3 player. Maybe you might want to give podcasts a try.

Wikipedia defines podcasts as "a series of audio or video digital media files which is distributed over the Internet by synicated download, through Web feed, to portable media players and peronsal computers. Though the same content may also be made available by direct download or streaming, a podcast is distinguished from most other digital media formats by its ability to be syndicated, subscribed to, and downloaded automatically when new content is added. Like the term broadcast, podcast can refer either to the series of content itself or to the method by which it is syndicated; the latter is also called podcasting." The variety and number of podcasts that are available out there is absolutely amazing. If you can think up a subject or topic, chances are that someone has done a podcast series or sing episode about it. Podcasts can often be like a radio broadcast with the added advantage that you can listen to it when you want and how you want. You can listen to them in your car, at the gym, going for a walk/run, or however you choose. I've seen podcasts about politics, IT (information technolgy), humor, old time radio classics, music, book dramitisations, and the list goes on and on.

There are several great sites which offer a variety of podcasts that you can choose from. If you've already installed iTunes on your computer, you might not have noticed that they have a lot of podcasts there. I really enjoy Podcast Alley, they have thousands of podcasts and searching is pretty easy. The have a listening of Top Ten podcasts as voted on by their users and at is updated througout the month. If you like NPR (National Public Radio), you might want to have a look at the podcasts directory they have. If you like the BBC, you can check out their podcast directory as well. In addition many companies and traditional print magazines have gotten into podcasting and you can find podcasts at many of these sites as well.

Once you've found a podcast that you'd like to hear you'll want to download it. How this is done will vary from site to site and device to device to device. Some sites will stream the podcasts so if you click on it you'll start to hear the podcast. If downloading options are very clear, you might try right-clicking on the link that looks like it is the podcast. This file will often have an extension ending in ",mp3", this is the most common format, since there are also video podcasts, you'll want to make sure that the format is something that will play on your computer or iPod/mp3 player. If you like the podcast you can ofte "subscribe" to it, which will automatically download new versions of that podcast or notify you when there is a new version. Many sites will allow you to subscribe to their podcast via iTunes. This is a handy feature because everytime you start up iTunes it looks to see if there are any new podcasts from your subscriptions.

There are a lot of people that are doing podcasts for the sheer enjoyment of it and there are a lot of good ones out there but like anything else there are many that aren't so entertaining or enjoyable, so you might want to do some experimenting. Many of the podcasts offered are available to download for free, but the people producing them will often accept donations. Producing podcasts does require work on the part of the podcaster and whoever might help them produce it, in addition to their preparation time, and hosting charges (which can get expensive if a lot of people are downloading their podcasts), so if you like a podcast don't be affraid to donate to the podcaster.

I hope that you'll give the world of podcasts a try, I'm sure that you'll find something that you like. Is there a site that you like to use to find podcasts, feel free to include it in the comments section.

Photo credit: Apple iPod Video courtesy of abbyyy
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