A podcast (or netcast) is a digital medium consisting of an episodic series of audio, video, PDF, or ePub files subscribed to and downloaded through web syndication or streamed online to a computer or mobile device. The word is a neologism and portmanteau derived from “broadcast” and “pod” from the success of the iPod, as audio podcasts are often listened to on portable media players.
Podcast producers create content that can be downloaded, usually for free, and enjoyed at your leisure. Because the podcast episodes are downloaded to your computer and/or smart device, the content can be consumed at any time (ie in your car, while exercising, while walking the dog, etc) – a concept called time-shifting. You don’t have to “tune in” when the show is on the air – you can listen whenever you like.
The true magic of the podcast is that you can “subscribe” to them. Episodes, or “shows”, will be pushed to your computer/smart device whenever new content is published. So you don’t have to constantly check in to see if new content is available – Its like magic – it just shows up in your podcast queue. You can subscribe to as many, or as few, podcasts as you prefer.
How do you get access to all this free goodness? The most common method is to subscribe to podcasts via iTunes. Simply go to the iTunes application on your computer, open the iTunes Store (on the left panel) and click on the “podcasts” tab on the top right. Then just browse away.
Me? I subscribe to several different podcasts. The ED-based medical podcasts I recommend include Scott’s amazing Emcrit podcast, Cliff Reid’s Resus.ME, Rob Orman’s popular ER Cast, Matt & Mike’s Ultrasound Podcast, and David Newman’s Smart EM, just to name a few. I’d also recommend Minh Le Cong’s PHARM (pre-hospital and retrieval medicine) podcast – which has a nice pre-hospital take on things.
But it isn’t all M’Education! There is a TON of high quality content out there: entertainment, motivational stuff, inspiration, sports, “ebooks,” productivity, and all kinds of other stuff. Browse away. Hell, its all free!
How do they all do it? Well, the big names in podcasting are able to advertise and work with sponsors, but much of the content is produced purely out of passion for the subject matter. Since you can “consume” the content of podcasts when you want, how you want…and where you want, podcasts are bypassing terrestrial radio, internet radio, and audio recordings insofar as how media is being appreciated nowadays.
To better explain how this process works I put together a short video on navigating iTunes and subscribing to podcasts: