What’s a Podcast???

Podcast Community

Want to listen to the explanation, rather than read it?  Use the player below.

Before diving into a lengthy explanation of what a podcast is, let’s look at the word “podcast” itself.  First mentioned by Ben Hammersley in a 2004 Guardian newspaper article in which he rattled off possible names for this booming new medium, the “pod” of podcast is borrowed from Apple’s “iPod” digital media player; and the “cast” portion of podcast is taken from Radio’s “broadcast” term.  As a mater of clarity,  just because it’s named after Apple’s iPod, does not necessarily mean that you have to own or use an iPod — or any portable digital media player for that matter — to enjoy a podcast.

Okay, with that out of the way, back to the original question:  “What’s a podcast?”

A “podcast” is sort of difficult to explain because there really isn’t anything else like it — but rather, many things that are kind of like it.

A good starting point, is to think of a podcast as “Internet Radio On-Demand.”  It’s  similar in that you can usually listen to it on your computer — but it’s more than that.  [However, and not to confuse the issue, podcasting isn’t confined to just audio but can be video as well].

It has well over 100,000 content specific “channels,” which are sure to suit just about anyone’s interests, and is available on the Internet.  So, in a sense, it’s kind of like a Library.

podcast definitionWith the amount of content that podcasting provides, regular Broadcast Radio, or “Terrestrial Radio” — as they call it — simply can never compete.  The AM and FM radio band only has so many channels.  Consequently, radio stations “Broadcast” their content — meaning that they attempt to appeal to as broad of an audience as possible.  Because, afterall, this is what advertisers are looking for.  But podcasting, by contrast, is not necessarily hamstrung to advertising revenue like its broadcasting cousin.  With its specific and specialized content, it is able to “narrowcast” to only those who choose to listen.  So while a particular podcast’s audience may be considerably smaller than the audience of a broadcast, one could argue that the podcast’s audience is a much more targeted and interested in the content being delivered.  So, in a way, Satellite Radio, with its ability to provide more channels than Broadcast Radio, takes a step towards podcasting — but still does not come close.

Podcasts are “On Demand” and can be listened to on your schedule — not when a Radio Station decides to air it.  So, it’s kind of like TiVo.

Each podcast has a website it calls “home” (like ours at www.spinalcolumnradio.com) where show episodes can be listened to or downloaded for future listening.  With downloaded media, you can either listen to it on your computer or take it with you by transferring it to an iPod or any other portable digital media player.  So, in this way, it’s kind of like a small paperback book.

RSS 3D Logo

The RSS icon allows you to subscribe to a podcast. Click on it to subscribe to ours!

But what truly makes a podcast unique, and what gives a podcast its “casting” ability, is how it is able immediately deliver itself to multiple podcast directory websites (such as iTunes, Podcast Alley, and Podcast Pickle) and podcatcher applications (like  iTunes, Juice, and Zune) through a process of syndication known as RSS (Real Simple Syndication).  Listeners can easily “subscribe” to podcasts (most are free) by clicking on its RSS icon or subscription button (ours is located in the upper left hand column).  The listener is then walked through how to add that podcast’s syndication “feed” to a podcatching application of their choosing — or even good old-fashioned email.  So, when a podcaster releases a new episode, subscribers are automatically notified without having to constantly check back with the podcast’s website to see if a new show has been produced.  And, with the podcatching software, episodes of their favorite podcasts can be automatically downloaded and, if they choose, transferred to their portable listening device — all without having to lift a finger.  So, in this way, podcasts are like magazine subscriptions.

Podcasts can be produced by just about anyone wanting to share and communicate with the world.  They are not exclusive to Big Name Media.  So, you could also say that podcasts are like Blogs.

Because podcast websites usually have ways for listeners to leave comments about each episode, and literally enter into a discussion with other listeners, podcasts are like a community of individuals sharing a common interest.  And with an estimated 47 million podcast listeners out there in 2010, that’s a pretty hefty community.

Kind of cool if you ask me.

Still confused?  The folks over at Common Craft have put together a nifty little 3 minute video that put’s it all in plain English.  Perhaps that why they’ve entitled it “Podcasting in Plain English.”  I encourage you to give it a view.  It’s informative, easy to understand, and entertaining all at the same time.


1) To add to the comprehensiveness of our podcast explanation above, some might be interested to know that while the “pod” in podcast originally spawned from Apple’s iPod digital media player, a “backcronym” (an acronym developed after the fact) was developed with the “pod” of podcast alternatively standing for Personal On Demand or Programing On Demand.

2) 03/29/10 — You might also find another podcast explanation I created for my church’s website  entitled “How to Listen to Our Sermons” helpful.

3) 09/23/10 — Just embedded an iTunes tutorial video (below) from Cliff Ravenscraft (aka. The Podcastanswerman) over at GSPN.tv.  If the idea of subscribing to a podcast using iTunes intrigues you… but you haven’t a clue how to go about doing it…. you’ve GOT to watch this video.

ATTENTION PODCASTERS: If you like our podcasting explanation/presentation and would like to create something very similar — if not identical to ours — listen to episode 142 of the Podcast Answerman.  On this episode, Cliff Ravenscraft showcases our “What’s a Podcast???” page on his show and details out the restricitions and stipulations we have for others to use our page content on their own websites.  Of course you could forgo the bulk of the work and simply link to this page — but if you decide to recreate it, drop us a line, we’d love to see your finished product.  🙂

17 Comments so far
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Dr. Lamar, I must say that this is the best “What Is A Podcast?” page that I’ve seen developed. I really love the fact that you’ve taken the extra step of even recording an audio version.

I believe that providing information like this to your listeners will introduce more people the world of podcasting and all that is available for them out there.

Great work!


Comment by Cliff Ravenscraft

Thanks Cliff for the accolades…. and from the “Podcast Answerman” no less. 🙂 Truthfully it was through your inspiration that I created this page. Thanks for the passionate service you provide to the podcasting community.

Dr. L

Comment by drlamar

I really haven’t been too sure what to do with podcasts until now. Your explanation was excellent – and the video was the icing on the cake. Its not every day my chiropractor teaches me about technology!

Comment by Sue Taylor

Nice job, Doctor Lamar! Will recommend to our podcast listeners and colleagues.

Comment by Sister Julie

[…] In this episode, I shared how Dr. Thomas Lamar, of Spinal Column Radio, has done an amazing job providing a teaching tool for his audience, explain what a podcast is and how you the benefits of subscribing to the podcast feed. I encourage everyone to take a look at his What Is A Podcast Page. […]

Pingback by Generally Speaking Production Network (gspn.tv) 142 Podcast Answer Man – What Is A Podcast? And More

[…] In this episode, Cliff shared how Dr. Thomas Lamar, of Spinal Column Radio, has done an amazing job providing a teaching tool for his audience, explaining what a podcast is and how you reap the benefits of subscribing to the podcast feed. I encourage everyone to take a look at his What Is A Podcast Page. […]

Pingback by Generally Speaking Production Network (gspn.tv) gspn.tv Weekly Round Up 1/14/10

[…] I recently mentioned that it may be a good idea for you educate your audience on how they could subscribe to podcasts and have them automatically delivered to their computers. My favorite example of a client who took my suggestion to heart is Dr. Thomas Lamar who created an amazing “What Is A Podcast?” page on his website. […]

Pingback by How To Subscribe To A Podcast In iTunes

[…] Check out how Dr. Lamar educates his listening audience on podcasting: (Link Here) […]

Pingback by 186 Podcast Answer Man – Are You Willing To Step Up And Be A Leader?

[…] Check out how Dr. Lamar educates his listening audience on podcasting: (Link Here) […]

Pingback by gspn.tv Weekly Round Up 11/24/10

[…] – How to Podcast – Basic Podcasting Software – ‘Audacity’ Tutorial for Podcasters – ‘Audacity 1.3.10′ (Beta) Users Manual can be found under the ‘Help’ tab in the software (as of 12/29/09) – ‘Audacity’ Wiki Home Page – 7 Reasons to Create Your Own Podcast – Podcasting Tools – Podcasting Articles – ‘Mastering New Media’ Blog by Jason Van Orden (on Twitter @jasonvo) – Small Business Podcasting Demystified by John Jantsch (on Twitter @ducttape) ‘Spinal Column Radio’ – What is a Podcast […]

Pingback by What is ‘Podcasting’?: « "It's Elementary, My Dear Watson!"

Thanks Dal for linking to our “What’s a Podcast Page?”. You join a growing list of fellow podcasters and bloggers that are either using this content (or at least pointing to it) to educate their audience on this great new medium. Here’s a list of some of the websites that I am aware of:

Special Chronicles Podcast

Approachable Architect

Fireside Book Chat

Mike Dell’s World

SciFi Diner Podcast

Entertainment Law Update Podcast

Put on Your Travel Shoes Podcast

social cirlcle media network

Wireless Lan Professionals

Art World Talks

Upper Cervical Docs

So You Want to Podcast

Geek of the North

Darts Around the World

Tandem Teaching

The Water Sifu



Sports News and Politics

Comment by drlamar

Concur with Cliff, Dr L. Awesome round-up.

Be aware Common Craft have changed their policy and you can no longer show their video, ‘what is podcasting’. Which is a shame. But you might as well remove the container.

Have a great week!

Comment by Dave Thackeray

Thanks Dave…. I’ve gone ahead and made the image a link to their video on YouTube.
– Dr. Lamar

Comment by drlamar

[…] What Is A Podcast? […]

Pingback by Welcome to “The Water Sifu” Podcast | The Water Sifu

Now using your explanation as part of my podcast! At http://edacious.co Thank you so much for taking the time to explain this. Cheers!

Comment by The Diner of Cville...

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