09 March 2006


Podcasting - Click for details and orders at Amazon.co.ukPodcasting is the latest technology to go mainstream. This happened in June 2005 when Apple released iTunes 4.9 — the first version of the program that provided fully integrated podcast support. What this means is that you can now listen to, record, and broadcast your own recordings from a device which will fit in your top pocket. This equally small scale reference guide shows you how to do it. The first part is dedicated to finding, subscribing to, and listening to podcasts. The second part shows you how to record and edit your own. And the third is a selection of recommended podcasts to get you started in this rapidly expanding new medium.

You should keep in mind as a point of reference the radio broadcast. Nobody would dream of having their own radio station. Broadcasting is so expensive and so tightly regulated, you couldn't afford it and couldn't broadcast what you wanted, even if you had the money. Now with the advent of this web-based medium, you can say whatever you wish to whoever wishes to listen - and it's all for free.

The iPod (or other device) lets you download podcasts, store them and listen to them when it's convenient, and transfer them to your desktop. There are thousands to choose from, and iTunes displays what's on offer in the same way as it does downloadable music - so the interface will be familiar to many people.

Most podcasts work on a subscription basis. This guide shows you how to subscribe, unsubscribe, and manage your downloads so that you don't end up with a hard disk choked with unwanted material. There are plenty of screenshots, so you can see what it all looks like.

Podcasts can also be smartly bookmarked, so you can start listening where you left off. And enhanced podcasts are also divided into 'chapters' and can even contain illustrative graphics.

Although the main focus of attention here is on Apple's iPod, the authors also point you towards plenty of alternative podcasting platforms such as iPodderX, PodNova, and Doppler.

When it comes to making your own programs, they reckon you can start podcasting within an hour. All you need is a microphone and some free downloadable software. When you've recorded your podcast, you can edit it to iron out any flaws. Then you place the saved MP3 files on a blog or a web site. It's as simple as that.

Next comes advice on the artistic side of podcasting - choosing the best format for your programme. That is, how to arrange its parts to make it interesting. A great deal can be learned from the structure of radio programmes.

They take you through all the available recording software (one of the best programs - Audacity - is free) and show you how to edit your work and produce special sonic effects.

The last part of the book is their listings of thirty great podcasts. These describe the amazing variety of programme types - from chat shows, interviews, and on-the-road documentaries, to history lectures, how-to-do-it technology tips, and reviews of the latest mashups.

If you want study any of these topics in greater detail, try the same authors' Podcasting Hacks, but there's enough here to get any would-be podcaster under way.

Kirk McElhearn et al, Podcasting: Pocket Guide, Sebastopol: CA, O'Reilly, 2005, pp.99, ISBN 0596102305

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yankunian said...

One of the guys I know from VT is in this book - his name is Bill Simmons and he does Friday coffee blog podcast, dist. on his blog http://www.candleboy.com/candleblog/.

I've been meaning to get the book and try my hand as I just got a new digital recorder and bill has suggested a US-UK exchange (The Friday Teablogs???) but I haven't managed to yet.

Roy said...

Well I have to say I really enjoyed reading and reviewing it - and I also confess it gave me the urge to go down the Podcasting route.

I would pass the book on to you, but I left it in Spain. If you're serious about podcasting, could I suggest "Podcasting Hacks" - also from O'Reilly, and written by some of the same people.