Podcasting described simply

When explaining podcasting to people who don’t know what it is, how do you describe it?

I’ve tended to rely on the relatively complex Wikipedia definition or this one on Webopedia:

Podcasting is similar in nature to RSS, which allows subscribers to subscribe to a set of feeds to view syndicated website content. With podcasting however, you have a set of subscriptions that are checked regularly for updates and instead of reading the feeds on your computer screen, you listen to the new content on your iPod (or like device).

The format used for podcasting is RSS 2.0 with enclosures. The podcasting enclosures refer to all binary (non-text) downloads. You can read the text description of the enclosure before downloading the item to view.

Right. Say that to one of your colleagues, your CEO or a business associate (or even your mother), and you’ll see their eyes start to glaze. Not much understanding there.

How about this one instead:

Podcasting – A Simple Description

Podcasting is the distribution of audio files using really simple syndication or RSS, a method to automatically get news and information that interests you, which you get in your RSS reader – that’s the tool you use to read your news and information on your computer. The distribution is called a ‘feed’ which you commonly get (or ‘subscribe to’) by visiting a website or blog and, on a Windows PC, right-clicking on the little orange ‘RSS’ or ‘XML’ image you see there and copying the link into your RSS reader. Some readers can automatically subscribe you.

The difference between a podcast RSS feed and a news RSS feed is that, with the podcast feed, you get an audio file instead of text. Think of it as like an email attachment. You would save the podcast file from the feed to your hard drive, just as you do with saving a file attachment from an email. It’s even easier if you use one of the new smart RSS readers that automatically handles the receiving and saving of podcast files. You can then listen to it using a media player program on your PC.

You can also listen to your podcast on a digital music player like an iPod (which is how the name came about), but you don’t have to have one. iPods do offer some advantages, though. For instance, by using some additional special software (mostly free), your podcasts can automatically synchronize from your PC to your player so they’re instantly available in your playlist without you having to do anything.

You can also directly download podcast files from many websites and blogs. But that’s a manual process, not automatic as podcasting is.

Once you have your podcast, you can listen to its content whenever you want, just as you can with digital music. If you have a portable player, then you can also listen wherever you want.

I wrote this with inspiration from What is Podcasting, a help file on the FeedForAll website. I tried it out on a tech-phobic business associate – the type of person who couldn’t care less how anything on his PC works as long as it does – who said he understood it. What’s more, he now feels able to explain it to someone else.

So it might be a little lengthy, and it does need to contextually explain what RSS is, but it’s the type of explanation that will be useful in helping business people understand it when you’re trying to convince colleagues or clients of the business benefits of this communication tool.