A podcast is an audio (or video) feed. That can be fed to your computer or to a mobile device. These feeds can be subscribed to by people who are interested in receiving regular podcasts.
A podcast is a series of topical audio or video recordings distributed online using a “web feed.“ Any audience member with free podcasting software, such as Apple’s iTunes or the open source Juicer program, can set his or her computer to track their favorite podcast feeds for new episodes.
When radio and television started beaming into the homes of audience members, broadcasters had to standardize the time and the format of their productions. In America, this means that shows start on the hour or on the half-hour.
Constrained by time, producers have to stretch or squeeze their content to fit these arbitrary blocks. Other countries’ audiences sometimes tolerate shows of irregular lengths, but niche audiences must still hunt through program listings and use recording devices to capture their favorite shows.
Podcasting eliminates restraints for program producers, as well as for audience members. Anyone with a telephone can make a simple podcast by leaving a voice mail message. Likewise, large media companies can produce slick, expensive podcasts to complement their existing offerings. Without time restraints, producers can release recordings of key academic lectures without being forced to edit them. Likewise, a podcaster can upload episodes of varying lengths without confusing or annoying an audience.
Unlike radio and television shows, that must conform to traditional conventions in order to reach the widest audiences, podcast producers can do anything it takes to realize their creative goals or reach their specific audiences.
Podcasts can be raw, unadorned, personal voice messages from one person. Or, podcasts can look or sound as slick and as professional as a Hollywood production.
Podcasts can even complement traditional broadcast media. Not only have television producers, like Battlestar Galactica’s Ron Moore and Doctor Who’s Russell T. Davies, offered up podcast commentaries for their latest episodes, fans have joined in by producing podcast discussions that can be synchronized to a recording of each week’s show. Public radio producers, once stymied by the limits of the broadcast day, use NPR’s website to podcast stories and series that don’t make it to the radio waves.