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How do Podcasts Work?

written by: Kristina Dems•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 7/16/2010

Podcasting is a very popular way to listen to discussions or be entertained by shows for free. How do podcasts work? In this article, you'll learn the basics.

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    Podcasts

    How do podcasts work? First, let's define what a podcast or podcasting is. Podcasting is the process of creating audio files, usually featuring discussions about certain topics, and making them available on the Internet in a way that notifies desktop or web applications about new uploads. But how do podcast work exactly? We'll answer this question and more in the following paragraphs. You might also be interested in reading Everything about Podcasts.

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    The Audio Files

    The first step of podcasting is the creation of the audio file itself. Usually, a person or a group of people record a discussion that revolves around a certain topic like social media, entertainment, photography, sports and current events. It can even be a recording of a scripted drama or comedy show. Podcasts can also contain chapter marks and photos if the podcaster intends the audio to be an educational or presentation tool. These audio files are mostly saved in MP3 format, which is one of the most widely used audio formats in the world, but it can also be saved in several other media formats. All the podcaster needs to create these audio files is a mic and a recording software, and they're ready to go.

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    Uploading Podcasts

    The podcast is sent to Internet servers via browser uploads or an FTP connection. This usually only takes a few minutes on a fast Internet connection. The Internet servers can either be hosted personally by the podcaster or is a free web hosting service that allows podcasting or uploading of audio files. Once the audio file is already uploaded on an Internet server, an XML file on the server will be updated with the information of the new audio file. This newly updated XML file will then be the basis of notifications to all subscribers of the podcast that there is a new episode that's ready for download. These notifications come in RSS feeds.

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    Downloading Podcasts

    Users have podcast applications that regularly checks their podcast subscriptions via the appropriate XML file if there are new episodes of the podcast. If the software detects that a new audio file has been uploaded, it will proceed to download the audio file to the user's computer. Some applications can be set up in a way that they just inform the user about a new episode. It is then the user's prerogative if they are going to download the episode or not. Once the podcast episode is already downloaded on the user's computer, it can then be transferred to portable media devices like mobile phones or MP3 players so users can listen to episodes while they're on the go.

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    Streaming Podcasts

    Podcasts can also be made available on web pages. People who don't want to download podcast episodes can instead just listen to them as streaming media embedded on a web page. Aside from letting listeners listen to the podcast as streaming media on a web page, podcasters can also put a direct link on a web page that listeners can use to download the podcast episode into their computer without the use of podcasting clients.

    You may also want to consider reading the Pros and Cons of Podcasts.