DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!
Apr 16 2009

What’s Podcasting?

by Jimmy L

podcastingIf you haven’t noticed yet, the library now has a podcasting page, where you can listen, download, and subscribe to our Musical Bookings podcasts and our Author Talk podcasts.  Podcasts, as you may or may not know, are basically audio (sometimes video) “shows” that are available on the internet.  Think of it like a radio show, except you listen to it on either your computer or portable MP3 device.  In fact, many radio shows are available as podcasts, including NPR’s This American Life, Car Talk, and Fresh Air.

But because anybody with a mic and a computer can make a podcast, you don’t have to be Terry Gross to have a  show on the internet.  This has resulted in podcasts that focus in on many special niche interests that would never survive on normal radio, shows like Imprint (a show dedicated to the Twilight series), GolfBetter (dedicated to golf), and Manic Mommies (about motherhood).

I’m ashamed to admit that before last week, I had barely listened to any podcasts.  I imagined badly produced shows featuring 14 year old hosts talking about World of Warcraft (no offense).  But because I was in charge of helping coordinate the library’s podcasts, I decided to look around and see what was out there already.  Now I’m totally hooked!  There are many good podcasts.  After the jump, I’ll highlight three that I absolutely love.  Then I’ll give you a few technical tips on how to get started.

Stuff You Missed In History Class  (link)

  • What is it? History buffs Candace Gibson and Jane McGrath answers listeners’ questions in this informative and casual show.  Some of my favorite episodes include: “How Thomas Jefferson’s Bible Worked”, “Why did it take more than 20 years to bury Eva Peron?”, and “How Easter Island Works”.  My only complaint is that sometimes the hosts talk a little bit too fast, and I have to rewind to get some of it to really sink in.
  • Cost? Free
  • How did I find out about it? I went to iTunes, clicked on Music Store,  then clicked on Podcasts.  Then on the right hand side there is a list of “Top Podcasts”.  This show was listed as #8 on that list.  You should check out some of the other ones on that list, too.
  • Where is it? Here.

Dial A Stranger (link)

  • What is it? The concept is simple.  Hosts Mercedes and Zachary calls random strangers on the phone and asks them questions that are sent in by their listeners.  The strangers aren’t really completely random, because there is a place on the website for people to submit their phone numbers if they want to be called.  The hosts are very genuine (this is not a prank call kind of situation) and are good at letting the conversations get carried away, and they often end up in unexpectedly touching, intimate, insightful, or humorous places.
  • Cost? Free.
  • How did I find out about it? From this PodCastAwards website.  Check out some of the other award winners!
  • Where is it? Here.

Books on the Nightstand (link)

  • What is it? A book recommendation podcast.  Each show has a topic; for instance, I really like Episode #23: Reading Outside of your Comfort Zone.  Then hosts Ann and Michael talk about the topic du jour and come up with book recommendations that fit the theme, as well as providing in depth reviews and commentary.
  • Cost? Free
  • How did I find it? I found it on a Goodreads book discussion group.  I forget exactly where, but someone there was recommending this podcast.
  • Where is it? Here.

Technical Tips

If you haven’t already, watch the below video first.  It really explains well the concepts surrounding podcasts:

My recommendation is to start off with a podcatcher that is easy to use and widely available, something like iTunes.  With iTunes, it is really easy.  Just click on “Music Store” and then do a search for the podcast you’re looking for.  Otherwise, you can also browse in the music store under the “Podcast” category for something you like.  Once you’ve found your desired podcast, click on download next to each individual episode that you want to listen to.  Otherwise, click on “Subscribe” to automatically download all of them as they become available.

You don’t need a podcatcher like iTunes to listen to podcasts.  A simpler way (if you don’t care about subscribing) is just to go to the website of the podcast.  Usually you can click on individual episodes from the website itself.  There will be a “play” button that you can click on and listen to it there.  The downside to this method is that you can’t download it to your portable MP3 player and you have to listen to it at your computer.

Do you know any good podcasts you want to recommend?  Please leave questions and suggestions in the comments section.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

T. Strong April 16, 2009 at 4:09 PM

Thanks for the post. Now I am in the know about Podcastings…I can’t wait to listen to E Lynn Harris’s podcast.

Michael Kindness April 16, 2009 at 11:55 PM

Thanks so much for linking to Books on the Nightstand and for saying that you absolutely love our little project!

Jimmy L April 17, 2009 at 9:26 AM

You’re welcome! Thanks for running a great show.

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