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What's a podcast?

Updated Tuesday, 5th September 2006

Everything you need to know about podcasts, but were too afraid to ask.

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Headphones Headphones Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: BBC

A podcast is a series of audio or video files available for download over the internet. The files are normally released for download at regular intervals, for example daily or weekly.

You can subscribe to a podcast using special software, which is usually free. When you do this, the software checks the podcast and downloads any new files that have been released.

You can listen to (or watch) the downloaded files on your computer, or move them to a portable device (like an mp3 player or mobile phone) to listen to while you're out and about.

What's so good about podcasts?

Podcasts are brilliant for a number of reasons:

  • Most podcasts are free. You can get the whole series of BBC Radio 4's The Now Show for absolutely nothing!
  • There's a podcast for everyone. There are thousands available on such diverse topics as: history, learning Italian and praying! You're bound to find something you're interested in.
  • Podcasts are convenient. With some free software and a couple of clicks you can have a whole series. It's easier than downloading individual files, and you never miss an episode.
  • Podcasts are hot! Famous names such as Ricky Gervais and David Walliams are now rubbing shoulders with the amateurs. Even movie studios are getting in on the act by podcasting film trailers and interviews with actors.

What's the downside?

The downside is that audio and video files can be rather large, so if you're using a modem you need to be patient. A 15 minute radio show could take 45 minutes to download. However, on broadband it might only take three minutes.

These size of these files leads to another pitfall. If you're using a broadband account which limits the amount of data you can download each month, you need to be careful. Audio and video files takes up much more data than a web page. So if you have this sort of account, you should keep an eye on how much you're using.

What do I need to get podcasts?

  • a computer
  • an internet connection (preferably broadband)
  • some software which can subscribe to podcasts

Do I need an mp3 player?

No, just a computer.

What software can download podcasts?

There's a variety of software available that can subscribe to podcasts and download their files. Here are a few of the most popular:

There are lots of other packages out there. Here's a list of podcasting software from If you recently purchased an mp3 player, it probably came with software for downloading podcasts.

How do I subscribe to a podcast?

There are several ways to subscribe to a podcast.

Websites that offer a podcast give you a URL like this:




Type (or copy and paste) the URL into your podcasting software, and you're subscribed. See the help section of your software for detailed information.

A number of sites give you a link which you click on to subscribe to the podcast. This is very convenient, but only works if you have iTunes. Here's an example: subscribe to Ever Wondered About Food podcast.

Some software has a built-in podcast directory, which makes subscribing easy. You browse the directory and click on the podcast you want to subscribe to.

Whichever method you use to subscribe, your podcasting software downloads the most recent episode of the podcast. Thereafter it checks the podcast at regular intervals and downloads other episodes when they're released.

How do I find podcasts?

On we have the following podcasts:

Watch this space, there are more podcasts on the way.

There are also some great podcasts on

There are a number of podcast directories, here are some of them:

Some podcast software, such as iTunes, has a built-in directory of podcasts.





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