Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Magazines that talk on internet

Podcasts -- does that ring a bell? Not so long ago, around 2005, these online magazines in audio format were a rage; so much that New Oxford American Dictionary selected it as the word of the year. Many websites had podcast links on them, people bookmarked podcast directories and downloaded applications like Apple’s iTunes.

Are podcasts still around? Yes, they are very much around; only that they are not in the limelight: having ceded the centre stage to social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. Far from having disappeared, reports say that the number of people downloading these online audio/video magazines is on the increase.

Podcasts are nothing but audio blogs that are periodically updated. It could also be the audio versions of the contents that are uploaded at regular intervals on websites, like the BBC. The new issues get downloaded on to the PC or mobile phones or tablets. Many people think podcasts are associated with Apple. Not so. The prefix ‘pod’ caught on, since this technology followed the success of iPod.

When podcasts first burst into cyberspace, many pundits saw an imminent boom of amateur radio stations on the internet. Many believed that just as some blogs had grown to rival traditional print medium, podcasts could give a stiff competition to established radio stations. Though many amateur bloggers began podcasting, it’s those of established radio and TV stations that were much sought after. A big challenge for amateur podcasters is the quality, and that’s where established organisations like BBC or ABC score.

How does one listen to a podcast? Typically, websites that have podcast version of their content would have a link indicating it. Click on it to download the clip. We can also subscribe to the programme feed on Twitter, Facebook or Google Reader by clicking on the link. Once we do that, we get a notification every time new podcast content has been uploaded.

There are also directories where one can access a collection of podcasts on a variety of subjects like news, sports, technology, business, comedy, travel, science, parenting, etc. The best known directory though is iTunes of Apple. It can be downloaded from “apple.com/itunes/download/”. The iTunes has a section on podcasts, besides it also has radio, TV shows, music and movies. Take for example BBC Global News podcast. Once it is subscribed, each news bulletin will get downloaded to the PC when it becomes available.

During its initial days, podcasts struggled to establish themselves, because downloading audio and video clips were expensive. That’s not the case now, with the availability of affordable plans that allow unlimited downloads. So, be it the podcasts of Scientific American, or TED Talks, or BBC, Free Health Tips, there’s plenty to choose from.

(This article appeared in The Times of India, Bangalore, today)

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