Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Beginner's Guide to Podcasting, Part I - SirsiDynix Institute

I just finished listening to the SirsiDynix Institute web conference on locating and consuming podcasts. It was very informative and only took about an hour of my morning.
The session was led by Greg Schwartz, Supervisor of Electronic Services, Louisville Free Public Library and librarian podcaster (his blog is at:

If you're one of the many who've heard the term "podcasting" (Oxford Dictionary's 2005 word of the year), but didn't really know what it was, this webinar provided an excellent explanation. It also demonstrated where you could go to begin finding and consuming podcasts on your own.

Basically, Greg Schwartz explained, podcasting is the distribution of any media over RSS (RSS = Really Simple Syndication OR Rich Site Summary). It could be audio programs, such as radio shows, or video programs (didn't spend much time on the videologging/vlog/videoblogging phenomenon, though, as it's less widespread at this point - to see the exemplar of this genre, however, go to RocketBoom at

Listening to a podcast doesn't require an iPOD - because podcasts are generally created in MP3 format. They can be handled by your pc, PDA, MP3 player, iPod, or similar device. In fact, all you really need to access a podcast are the following 3 things:
1. a computer/computing device
2. an internet connection - (the faster, the better)
3. a tool for downloading content
They are usually FREE! (Which makes them a great way to keep up with topics that might otherwise be expensive to keep on top of - such as emerging technology... can't go to the conference? maybe there's a podcast!)

Link to podcast aggregators/receivers:

The importance of the podcast is that it's offered via RSS. And, of course, the importance of RSS is that it allows the end-user more control over how they use the information that's been syndicated. For example, do they want to listen to a given program on their pc or PDA? When do they want to hear it? Podcasts have been compared with the Tivo. Tivo allows users to control their own tv experience - to get only the content they want. Similarly the podcast allows users to personalize and control their listening experience.

The fact that many podcasts are created without advertising can also enhance the user experience. Listeners can use the internet to search for programs in an area of interest to them. Thus, they create a personalized media experience, spending time only on topics or programs that they seek out.

There are podcasts on a wide array of topics - topics often ignored by the mainstream media. Because they are often created by someone with an enthusiasm for a given topic, rather than being created because they might make money, they are often considered part of what's been termed "the long tail" of information/entertainment products.

So, here are some podcasts that Greg mentioned during the session:
  • IT Conversations - includes original series, interview shows, Event coverage (lectures, presentations from conferences, for example)
  • Daily Searchcast (daily search engine
    news recaps
  • Check this out! podcast from a librarian at the University of Buffalo Law School

He mentioned some others (for other interest areas) but these are the ones I wanted to make sure you heard about here. Greg also talked about podcast discovery tools. Built into iTunes, for example, is a search capability to look for various podcasts that iTunes offers specifically. Still, there are many other podcasts online that are not in the iTunes "store". Unfortunately for us, there is no one directory/search engine that we can use to find podcasts. Here are some suggestions of where you might begin, however:
  • Podcast Alley - a directory (one of the first podcast directories); also has a search function
  • Podzinger - a search engine using transcription technology
  • Loomia

Remember that the search engines usually only search the metadata about the podcast that was provided by the creator. They usually do not search transcripts or full-text of individual podcast episodes. On the other hand, Greg explained that some podcast creators are now using transcription services to make such full-text of individual episode searching possible (see Podzinger, for example). There are several automated transcript-text programs that podcasters can use to help individuals find particular episodes of interest, but the technology is not great and transcriptions may not be correct. It's like OCR, particularly the first attempts at OCR. There is also a human-mediated transcription service, but the podcast's creators have to pay considerably more for this.

And finally, if you'd like to hear the archived version of this SirsiDynix Institute session, the podcast will soon be available! (you should've known that was coming, eh?) If you're interested in learning how to create your own podcast, join next Wednesday's web conference at 11AM Eastern. All of this is available at the SirsiDynix Institute (thank you, SirsiDynix, and no - I'm not currently a user, but I do give the company kudos for providing this service). See:

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