Podcasts are digital media files (most often audio, but they can be video as well), which are produced in a series. You can subscribe to a series of files, or podcast, by using a piece of software called a podcatcher. Once you subscribe, your podcatcher periodically checks to see if any new files have been published, and if so, automatically downloads them onto your computer or portable music player for you to listen to or watch, whenever you wish.
Why Do People Tune In?
Podcasting attracts people who want the ability to choose their own content (much like using the Internet), instead of the TV and radio model of broadcast where you tune in and select from one of the programs playing. It shares common ground with other time shifting technologies like TIVO, which allow you to download programs and watch whenever you want. Many people like the convenience of always having fresh material loaded on their iPods or personal music players, and listen to their podcasts throughout the day.
Many consider podcasting an alternative to commercial radio and TV, because the low cost of producing a podcast allows more voices and viewpoints to be heard. Also, unlike TV and radio, which produce programs for mass consumption, podcasts are “narrowcasts,” where only those interested in a certain topic seek out programs and sign up to listen. There are thousands of podcasts which target very specific niche interests, producing communities around topics which are too obscure for traditional broadcasting to cover.
Why Do People Make Podcasts?
Podcasting is an easy and powerful way to communicate your ideas and messages. You can potentially reach anyone with a broadband connection who is searching for podcasts and subscribes to your show. People who start podcasts usually want to deliver their content in a series, stretched out over a period of time. There are minimal equipment and start up costs if you already own a computer, and so this allows anyone who ever dreamed of owning a radio station (and some who didn't) the chance to transmit their ideas far beyond the reach of a radio transmitter.
Podcasters often start shows with the intention of building online communities, and often solicit comments and feedback on their programs. People use web blogs, groups, and forums to communicate with other listeners and the show's producers. Businesses are beginning to realize that podcasting is a cheap way to advertise to groups with very specific interests. Many large companies are starting to produce podcasts, both to communicate with their customers, and also with their own employees.