Online Audio – Podcasts

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Unlike online video and photos, online audio comes in a few different forms. We’ll look at each of them in the next few weeks of Learning for Life Online.

What Is It?

Podcasts are audio broadcasts used to spread the word across the social web. Podcasts are created by professionals, amateurs or anyone with access to a computer and a microphone, and can be on any topic under the sun.

What makes podcasts different is that new podcasts usually come out daily or weekly, with a changing topic or guest speaker. You can subscribe to podcasts through a service like iTunes or through your RSS feed reader, or listen to the cast directly at its site.

As a note, podcasts are different than streaming audio or internet radio. Podcasts have distinct starting and ending points, while streaming audio flows like a river of sound. Our next post will discuss streaming audio online.

How Is It Useful?

Podcasts are a great way to get news updates, to listen to a weekly show, and keep your music updated and fresh. Most importantly, once you’ve subscribed to a podcast, it comes to you automatically as it comes out – you don’t need to keep going and getting the latest episode yourself.

One of the most natural podcast sources is radio. NPR’s podcast directory is a testament to the continuing appeal of well-created audio-only news and entertainment. Find other sources of radio podcasts at PublicRadioFan.com or using your favorite search engine.

Speaking of radio, have you ever heard of live radio dramas? Before television, these terrifying or hysterically funny shows were audio-only entertainment on radio stations around the world, full of special sound effects and live music. Thanks to the internet, they’ve made a comeback in the form of podcasts. Local to Boston, the Post Meridian Radio Players bring live radio drama to the air with its science fiction series The Mask of Inanna and its stage and studio horror performances of Tomes of Terror and p.m..

Other podcasts from traditional media include Nature magazine, the New York Times, PodMed (the Johns Hopkins Medicine News Roundup), C-Span, BusinessWeek and Sesame Street!

If you enjoy running for exercise or for fun, check out the Podrunner podcats from DJ Steve Boyett. These weekly podcasts feature free music mixes for an hour of workout time, either for running or interval training. You can subscribe to Podrunner directly through iTunes or another service, or use the new iPhone/iTouch app to get to the music directly.

Try It Out

How do you find all of these podcasts?

  • Ask friends, family or coworkers to recommend podcasts about topics you have in common.
  • See if your favorite news/entertainment/educational station has podcasts available on its website.
  • If you use iTunes, just click on the Podcasts tab in the iTunes Store to find thousands of possibilities.
  • Search a podcast directory site such as Podcast Alley, Podcast Bunker or Podcast.com to look for podcasts on particular subjects.
  • If all that fails, use your favorite search engine to look for “a subject of your choice” AND “podcast” and you’ll turn up more results than you’d thought possible. For instance, check out a podcast on hockey, knitting or travel.

Help & Resources

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