What is a Podcast Feed?

A podcast feed is a way of sharing files over the

internet. It involves the use of a small, machine

readable file that is regularily updated to reflect changes

in the files available for downloading. The internet

addresses of these files are embedded into the feed file

and can be automatically downloaded when wished. At

this time, podcasting tends to refer to the use of feeds to

share only media files. Podcasting originally occured as

a way to share audio mp3 files, and has only recently

begun incorporating video into podcasts. However, the

technology that allows the files to be shared is not

limited to such media files and there is not reason that

other files may be shared via podcast in the future.

Today, however, a podcast feed tends to refer to the use

of a feed to share media files. Most podcasts are done

with audio files, and the individual files that are created

and shared are called episodes. These audio files may

contain a variety of things; there are music, comedy,

news, technology, even podcasts about wine.

Podcasting, because of the low entry cost, especially for

audio podcasting allows nearly anyone who believes

they have something to say to broadcast it over the

internet. Even more established groups have found that

audio podcasting works well. Some radio stations

podcast portions of their content, sharing it over the

internet to allow listeners who missed a specific show

to catch up on it later. NPR now does this with its news

breaks, and the NPR show “This American Life” offers

a podcast of its shows to subscribers who pay a small

fee.

One of the newer innovations in podcast feeds is the

vlog, or videoblog. These blogs usually contain a feed

that distributes a video, rather than an audio file to feed

subscribers. Although that would not have been feasible

a few years ago, growing numbers of broadband

internet subscribers has meant that most users are able

to download large files, even video files, relatively

quickly. These video podcasts have been readily

accepted by mainstream news organizations. They have

found that podcasting portions of their content is a way

to share their tape and reach a wider audience. The BBC

currently does this with parts of its news content. Pieces

of the news show that is played over the airwaves is

taken and placed online, along with a link to the content

placed inside the RSS feed. Those who subscribe to the

BBC feed can download the news clip and watch in

from the comfort of their home computer.

In the future, podcast feeds may be used for a number of

purposes besides simply sharing media files. Some

analysts predict that the feed system could also be used

to share software updates, or any of a myriad of other

file types. For now, however, podcasting is dominated

by small audio and video files.

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