What is a Podcast?

Podcast equipmentPodcasts are digital audio or video shows that are distributed via the Internet. They can be considered “on-demand” radio or TV shows you can listen to or watch whenever you like rather than at a scheduled broadcast time. The beauty of podcasts is that they harness the power of modern technology, allowing users to subscribe to their favorite shows and get updates automatically.

Comparison with Streaming Audio: The distinction between a podcast and streaming audio lies in the way content is delivered. You get a continuous live stream when you tune into a radio station online or a digital station. This is similar to traditional FM/AM radio; you have to listen when the content is being aired. This listening mode is called “linear” because it follows a set sequence or schedule.

On the other hand, podcasts operate on an “on-demand” model. Think of it like the difference between live TV and a DVR. With a DVR, you can record and watch shows whenever you want. Similarly, a podcast lets you listen to or watch episodes conveniently. If you miss an episode, no worries! You can just download or stream it later.

The Power of Subscription: One of the critical features of podcasts is the ability to follow or subscribe. Using software and apps such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and many others, listeners can automatically download new episodes to a mobile phone, computer, internet-connected TV, and more. So, instead of constantly checking for new content, your device does the work, ensuring you always have fresh content waiting.

How Do Podcasts Work Technically?

The backbone of podcast distribution is the RSS feed. This technology isn’t unique to podcasts; it’s also used for subscribing to blogs and news updates.

What Is An RSS Feed?

Really Simple Syndication (RSS) is a standardized format of XML used to distribute content across the Internet. For podcasts, this RSS feed contains information about the show, individual episode details, and links to audio or video files. When you “subscribe” to a podcast, you’re subscribing to its RSS feed. As new episodes are published, they’re added to the feed, and your podcast app will automatically download or notify you about the new content.

The orange RSS icon you might have seen on websites, blogs, or news portals is a symbol that there’s a feed available for subscription.

Exploring the World of Podcasts

If you’re new to podcasts, a good starting point is to explore a few to understand the vast range of topics, styles, and formats available. Many podcast hosting sites, such as Blubrry.com, allow you to listen to or watch episodes directly on the website without the need to subscribe, download, or sync. Whether you’re into storytelling, news, interviews, or educational content, there’s likely a podcast out there that matches your interests.

In Conclusion: Podcasts provide a flexible, on-demand listening experience, contrasting with the set schedule of linear audio streaming. Their rise in popularity can be attributed to the convenience they offer, allowing users to curate their own listening schedules and always have fresh, engaging content at their fingertips.

Next: Podcasting History