Podcasting refers to a set of technologies that allow you to gather audio and video programs from around the web and listen to or watch them when, where, and how you want. In brief, here's how it works:

  • You find podcast content you want to listen to or watch
  • You install a "podcatching" application or sign up for an online service
  • You subscribe to a podcast content feed (or several)
  • Once your podcatching software or service is configured and running, it will automatically check for the latest content in the feeds you've subscribed to and download the audio or video files to your computer
  • And once the files are downloaded, you can listen or watch them on your computer, or you can transfer them to a portable player and enjoy them there

In other words, if you miss a broadcast of Dialogue or Dialogue For Kids, your podcasting application can download the (for now, audio-only version of the) episode to your computer, where you can listen to it at your leisure or transfer it to your portable MP3 player and listen to it while walking to work or working out or whenever. This is true media-on-demand — select Idaho Public Television shows, when you want, where you want, and how you want them.


It's easy to get started. Download and install a free program like iPodder (http://juicereceiver.sourceforge.net/index.php) or iTunes (http://www.apple.com/itunes/download/) (both have versions for Windows and Mac users).

You can also use an online service like Odeo (http://www.odeo.com/) to find and manage your subscriptions. The advantage of an online service is that your subscriptions are available from any computer connected to the internet. With a program like iPodder or iTunes, you're confined to the computer the software is installed on.

Your software client (generally) or online service will offer a directory of podcasts you can browse through and choose items to subscribe to. That's the quickest way to find and sample the exploding collection of available podcasts. But in your online surfing you may come across a podcast that isn't catalogued in a directory. In that case, you'll need to subscribe to the feed manually. It's easy: look for an image that says "XML", "RSS" or "POD" and looks something like this: Podcast icon   Either the image itself or text next to the image will contain a link to the podcast feed. Right-click on the link (Windows) or hold down the control button and click (Mac) and choose the option closest to "Copy shortcut" or "Copy link location." Then, in your software client or online account, find the menu for adding a new subscription and paste the link in the appropriate location.

iTunes example

Click on Advanced, and then Subscribe to Podcast.... Paste the URL of the podcast in the box, and click OK
iTunes Podcast subscription
(Click for larger version)

Finally, play the podcast! Most podcasting software will provide options for opening a podcast in a media player, like Windows Media Player or iTunes, already installed on your computer. If a different player, such as Real, MusicMatch or WinAmp, is your favorite, it should have a way for you to add your podcasts to a playlist. And for the ultimate "play anywhere at anytime" experience, copy the podcasts to your portable MP3 device. Most current devices, such as Apple's iPod or Creative's Zen Vision, come with USB cables to connect the device to your computer and have software that allows you to "synch" (i.e., copy) the podcasts from your computer to your portable device.


RSS is the underlying technology that makes the process of subscribing to podcasts work. Before there were podcasts, RSS was a text-only medium, used for delivering news headlines or summaries of updated web content, like blogs. You subscribe to RSS newsfeeds the same way you subscribe to podcasts, though generally you'll use a separate RSS reader or aggregator (some, like FeedDemon, handle both newsfeeds and podcasts). This is why many podcasts use the RSS icon label even though most RSS feeds don't contain podcasts.


The Idaho Debates (2008 General Election)  Podcast icon

The Idaho Debates (2008 Primary Election)  Podcast icon

Idaho Reports  Podcast icon

Dialogue  Podcast icon

Dialogue for Kids  Podcast icon



NPR (National Public Radio)

Open Media Network


Wikipedia article on Podcasting