What is a podcast?

What is a podcast?

An audio or video file downloaded from the internet which you can listen to or watch on your computer or a portable player.

That’s a simple technical explanation but it’s like explaining chocolate as:

… A food or flavoring made from the seeds of the cacao or chocolate tree. Chocolate is rich in flavinoids, compounds that act as antioxidants. Flavinoids may also lower blood pressure and improve blood flow, by regulating the synthesis of nitric oxide, which dilates blood vessels. Flavinoids, like aspirin, help keep platelets from aggregating on vessel walls…

Yummy! Chocolate is more than ‘flavonoids’ and a podcast is more than just an audio file you can download from the internet.

A true web 2.0 phenomena, podcasting is at the heart of the new media revolution. You don’t need much to create a podcast – a computer, an internet connection, a microphone and something to say. You don’t need much to listen to podcast – a computer (not always – smartphones and game consoles work), an internet connection and to get the most benefit from the portability of a podcast – a playback device such as an iPod or mp3 player. That and an eagerness and curiosity to go beyond what traditional media delivers to us via radio, TV and print.


The content of a podcast varies and that’s what makes it such a versatile medium. Music, speech, news, social issues, entertainment, educational content, opinion, comedy, drama, audio books, religious sermons, marketing messages,  studio recordings, rebroadcast of radio or TV segments and live events are just some of the varied content available through podcasting. Elementary school children are creating podcasts along with international media giants like CNN and CBC. English is the most common language used but non-English podcasts are available as well.

For your information, the word ‘podcast’ has little to do with the Apple iPod. Personal On Demand narrow CASTing is one of the early roots of the word PODCAST:

  • Personal – listen to what you want – not what’s just on TV or radio;
  • On Demand – listen when and where and how many times you want to;
  • narrow CASTingversus BROADcasting. Narrow casting comes from the web and the conent of the ‘cast can be niche, unique and focused versus a message containing a broader audience interest.

Why do I like podcasts so much?

  • Variety of the content – no matter what the subject matter there are lots of podcasts to listen to.
  • Portability – I can listen while I commute to work, while working in the yard, while walking the dog or even just leaning back in my easy chair. Content I get to choose – nothing good on TV? I listen to a podcast.
  • Scheduling convenience – if I miss the CBC radio’s ‘Q’ show because I’m doing something else, I just catch the ‘Q’ podcast later.
  • Relistening – if I missed something in the podcast or want to hear it again, I just rewind and give it another listen. Since most podcasts are supported by ‘show links’ or blog pages, I can go there to get the links to some of the topics they talked about.

My favourite podcasts are audio. I especially like the ones that recreate the early days of radio through the use of sound effects and descriptive narrative – a theatre of the mind. Video podcasts that show me how to do something or how to use a particular product are also my favourites.

Let me know what you like about podcasts. If you don’t listen to them – check them out. There are many podcast directories that publish podcasts and here are a few you might want to start with:

Is podcasting dead? I don’t think so.

(BTW: I’m listening to a podcast and eating chocolate while I write this – yummy!)


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