MP3 players have changed the way we organise and enjoy our music: the key is that many of us have now integrated our music collections with our home computers – and with the all important internet. As a result, the new possibilities are endless and it’s the world of Podcasting that’s leading the way forward.

Radio shows, TV, short film clips and personal audio and video blogs are all instantly accessible at the press of a button, to be downloaded and listened to whenever you want, on your computer or on a portable player.And anyone with a computer and the right software can run their own podcast, available to listeners all over the world.

So what is Podcasting?

The word itself is a combination of ‘iPod’ and ‘broadcast’, although there’s nothing about podcasting that’s exclusive to Apple or its iconic little portable. So what does the word this word actually mean?

Firstly, podcasting refers to something more than just a downloadable radio show. In fact, a podcast doesn’t have to be an audio recording at all. In short, the word ‘podcast’ refers to any ‘show’ or ‘clip’ thus audio, video or both together that is made available on the internet using an RSS feed. This means that you, the user, ‘subscribe’ to a podcast, so that whenever the relevant podcaster posts a new ‘episode’, it will be automatically downloaded onto your computer by whatever software you use to organise your podcasts (for example iTunes if you’re an iPod user.

The latest version of iTunes includes a comprehensive, smooth-running Podcast section, with an extensive directory of podcasts for you to subscribe to, including Virgin Radio and Disney, as well as a huge number of comedy podcasts, short films andsport punditry.

So what do I need?

In order to start subscribing to and listening to podcasts (incidentally, the word ‘subscribe’ doesn’t mean you have to pay for it as most podcastings are free), you’ll need to download some software like iTunes but there are alternatives. The most popular softwares are Juice and Doppler, and there is an increasing number of software applications designed to be used with specific MP3 players.

Podcast it yourself?

Podcasting is a two-way thing, and software such as BlogMatrix Sparks or EasyPodcast from easypodcast.com enables you to create and publish your own podcasts easily. An audio-only podcast is, in effect, a very simple thing to produce. There are three basic stages:

  • Use some form of audio recording/editing software to create your audio ‘show’. For simple-to-use software, PC users should look at Cool Edit Pro, while Mac users can use GarageBand, which comes free with Macs as part of the iLife software package.
  • Turn your finished audio recording into an MP3 file. Once you’ve finished editing your podcast, save it as an MP3 file using your media player such as iTunes or Windows Media Player.
  • Use a hosting site to ‘host’ your podcasts. These will store the actual data, and provide you with a web address and the RSS feed so anyone around the world can easily subscribe to your podcast.

And that’s all you need to become a podcaster yourself. For more tips, check out ipodder.org or the podcasting section of the iTunes music store.