Audio and Video Podcasts

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Podcasting is a means of publishing audio and video content on the web as a series of episodes with a common theme. These episodes are accompanied by a file called a “feed” that allows listeners to subscribe to the series and receive new episodes automatically. Some people use the term “podcast” to refer to any distribution of audio/video content on the Web, but technically speaking, the feed and subscription model of file delivery is what differentiates podcasting from simply posting files on the Web. Think of podcasting like setting up an automatic bank draft to pay bills. For expenses that occur regularly over a prolonged period of time, like utility bills, the initial work of setting up a bank draft is worthwhile because it saves time and effort in the long run. If the expense occurs with less regularity, it is probably easier to just write a check. Setting up a podcast is similar. For content that is published on a regular basis, like weekly homework reviews, the initial steps to create a podcast are worthwhile because they save students some effort in the long run. But for content that will only be published a few times during the semester, it probably makes more sense to simply post the files on a course web site—without the extra effort of setting up the feed and having students subscribe. There are three general categories of activities and equipment involved in podcasting: file production, podcast publication, and delivery and playback. File production Generating appropriate and compelling content for a podcast is typically the most time- and labor-intensive part of the process. This step includes planning, writing, and recording content, as well as audio/video editing and file compression. Production requires recording hardware, like digital microphones and digital cameras, and software for editing audio and/or video segments. In addition to the relevant audio/video files, the creator must generate an RSS feed. A feed is a simple XML file that lists the location of podcast episodes. It also includes information about the podcast, such as publish dates, titles, and descriptions of the series and of each episode. The podcast creator can write the feed manually, or use software that generates the feed file. A list of useful resources for creating podcasts appears in the Appendix. Podcast publication The audio/video file and RSS feed are then posted to a Web server. For the first podcast in a series, and for ongoing series that are always open to new subscribers, the podcast creator must notify the audience of the existence of the podcast by publicizing the location of the RSS feed. Many podcasters post a link to the RSS feed on their blogs, Web sites, or other public Web spaces. The podcast creator can also list information about the podcast in one of many directories that categorize podcasts alphabetically or by topic.
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