Podcast. It's a word that seems to elicit two reactions: either a questioning glance or a knowing smile. It's one of those buzzwords that a lot of people are talking about, but not too many people are able to describe.
A few years ago, everyone was raving over the invention of the mp3, a computer file that can store high-quality sound in a small amount of space. Napster, a computer program famous for letting people share and download mp3s, firmly planted the term in our vocabulary. An mp3 could be a song, a recorded radio show, or even your favorite author reading his or her book aloud. However, it's just a sound file.
Podcasts are nothing more than mp3 files. They are recordings that people create and post on the Internet. When you hear that someone is 'podcasting,' it means that he or she is creating mp3s and putting them out on the Internet.
That's really all there is to it.
But how do you listen to them? First and foremost, you do not need an iPod to listen to a podcast. Yep, that's right—no iPod is needed. If you have a computer with an Internet connection that is DSL, cable/broadband or higher, you can easily listen to podcasts.
The quickest way to hear your first podcast is to load iTunes on your computer. It's free at itunes.com, easy to install and, best of all, has a huge directory of podcasts that you can search through. If you already have it, all you need to do is go into the iTunes music store. Click on the 'Podcasts' link on the main page and you'll be taken to the podcast directory.
Try searching for the word 'mavrik' in the iTunes music store. You should get a few items back, one of which will be WindyCityQueercast—our Windy City Media Group podcast. When you click on the name, you'll see a short description of our podcast and the magical subscribe button will appear. Go ahead and click it.
Subscribing is the other secret of podcasts that you should know about. It's like a free magazine subscription; when a new issue is published, it is sent to you. Once you have subscribed to a podcast, iTunes checks your subscriptions to see if there is a new mp3, and downloads it.
Some people produce their podcasts every day. Some produce them weekly, and others do it monthly. Everyone is different, but I suggest letting your iTunes check your subscriptions daily to see if there are new episodes to download.
You'll find your subscriptions in the Podcasts section of your iTunes; look in the Source column on the left side to find it. Sometimes you'll see old episodes that have 'get' buttons next to them. If you want to listen to them, just click 'get' and iTunes will download them for you.
That really is all there is to podcasts. They are sound files that you can download and enjoy. Our podcast, The Windy City Queercast, will be growing quite a bit over the next few months. Next week I'll talk more about our show as well as the growing community of GLBT podcasters on the Internet.
You can find some podcasts we like on windycityqueercast.com .