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A podcast is a digital file or set of files that can contain voices, music, sound effects, and sometimes video, and that can be downloaded by listeners who subscribe to the RSS feed with software such as iTunes. The term podcast comes from the combination of the popular MP3 playing device, iPod, and the term broadcasting. The person who creates the podcast is known as a podcaster. When a podcaster creates and uploads a new episode of the podcast, the listener receives the latest show automatically.

Podcasts widely range in topic. Chances are, if you're interested in a particular topic, there is a podcast about that topic. Visit a site like Podcast.net to browse the variety of topics available.

Listening to a podcast

Downloading and then listening to a podcast is as easy as having a computer that's connected to the internet and having any software that can subscribe to RSS feeds. Software such as iTunes does this automatically by allowing listeners to browse a catalog of free podcasts without the need of any technical knowledge.

Once the listener finds a podcast of interest, they can easily subscribe to it and then listen to it on their computer or take it on the road with their portable MP3 player. The iTunes software synchronizes automatically with Apple iPods, making it easy to listen to the podcast anywhere.

Take a listen to some podcasts from National Public Radio.  Or take a listen to some podcasts from the BBC (click on the +PODCAST buttons to get a listing for each show). Also take a look at the offerings from MyPodcast.com for a wide array of topics. You can listen to any of these podcasts from this computer!

Creating a podcast

After listening to existing podcasts, many people are interested in creating a podcast of their own. Luckily, this is easy to do using a simple microphone and easy-to-use software.

Creating a podcast used to require quite a bit of technical knowledge, but today the only requirements are an inexpensive microphone, some simple to use free software, and some imagination!

A microphone - In order to get your voice into the computer, you’ll need some kind of microphone. Many types exist, including simple web microphones that plug into your computer’s microphone input, a more sophisticated and better sounding microphone with a USB cord, or a professional microphone connected to a dedicated sound card and then to your computer. Although going high end might seem appealing, even the most basic web microphone will generate decent results.

Recording software – To record your voice onto your computer, you need software that allows you to record and edit audio. No matter what type of computer you use, you probably already have some kind of basic voice recording software already installed. For more control over the finished product, you’ll probably want to get additional software to record your voice. Several options exist, including Audacity, a free program that is available from the web for both Mac and PC.

Web server space - Once you have your podcast episode completed, you need to upload it to the web. We recommend using web server space from the free site Podbean.com. This site offers free web space and easy ways to upload and distribute your podcast.

If you have an Apple Macintosh computer, you may already have everything necessary to create your own podcast. Most Macs come with a microphone and webcam already installed, making it easy to record your podcast using the built-in Garage Band software. Apple even makes it easy to upload your podcast by offering their own web server space called .Mac, making it quick and easy to add your podcast to iTunes.