In Thing 11 we return to the theme of RSS feeds, which we discussed earlier in Things 5 and 6. However, this time we will be looking at podcasts which are a special type of RSS feed for audio and video content.

Podcasts are now common on the web and are often audio files (for example recordings of radio programmes, lectures, readings, drama, interviews, audio diaries or music). However, Podcasts may also include video content as well.

When you come across a podcast on the web you can usually listen to it or view it, simply by clicking "play" or "listen". However, because podcasts use RSS, you can also subscribe to them using a feed reader such as Google Reader. This means that when ever there is a new episode of the podcast you will receive it in your feed reader. In fact. subscribing to a podcast is a bit like subscribing to a blog - except that the information you receive is in audio or video format rather than text and pictures.

There are some RSS feed readers which have been designed specifically for podcasts. These are called Podcatchers and often facilitate the transfer of podcasts to MP3 players. Probably the most well known podcatcher is iTunes. However, you can susbscribe to podcasts using an ordinary RSS feed reader such as Google Reader just as easily and effectively.

The fact that Podcasts use RSS makes them popular with broadcasters who want to create a whole series of recordings which are broadcast periodically or in episodes. However, as you explore Podcasts you'll find that many end up consisting of one single file or episode only!

To find out more about podcasts and podcasting view "Podcasting in Plain English" on the Commoncraft Show.

What do you need to listen to a podcast (and for thing 12)?

To listen to a podcast you need a computer with speakers or headphones.

If you are working in a quiet area (or if you do not have speakers on your computer) you will need to use headphones for "Thing 11" and "Thing 12". If your library doesn't have any headphones, please bring some in from home if at all possible. If this isn't possible, we do have a small number of headphones for loan from the User Education Office - e email to borrow a set.

Its a podcast, don't I need an iPod? - No, although you can listen to podcasts using an iPod (or any other MP3 player), using a computer is just as good.

Thing 11

1. Find some podcasts which interest you using one of sites listed below.

2. Subscribe to the feed for your favourite podcast in Google Reader. If you need a refresher on subscribing to RSS feeds please see "Thing 6". There are some tips and hints below as well.

3. Blog about your experience of podcasts. Don't forget to include "Thing 11" as one of your tags.

BBC Podcasts - Podcasts of BBC radio programmes.
This is probably the easiest site to use. Search or browse to find something of interest. If you'd like to listen to a podcast (before subscribing) find "Play Recent Episodes" on the right. You can also download or save the BBC's podcasts to your computer but this takes a long time.
When you're reader to set up your RSS subscription, find "Subscribe for free" (top right) and click "Google Reader" - Podcasts on every conceivable subject! " is easy to use too. To listen to a podcast simply click "Play" next to an individual episode.
When you come to subscribe, avoid clicking the large yellow "Subscribe now" button as this takes you off to a page where you are invited to sign up for a account (which you do not need for this thing). Instead choose the "Show Advanced" option. This will open up a list of RSS feed readers lower down the page where you can choose Google.

Podcast Alley - Like covers a huge range of topics. is set up to facilitate subscribing to podcasts using a feed reader and does not encourage you to listen to episodes before subscribing. However, it is possible to listen first. To do so, find a podcast and then choose "More Details", followed by "Listen".
Once you're ready to subsribe click "Get Podcast". A pop up window will appear containing a URL and some other information. Copy the URL (and ignore the information).
Then open up Google Reader, choose "+ Add a subscription" and paste in the URL.

Podcasts from the University of Oxford - Academic lectures and talks from University of Oxford
Listening to one of the University's podcasts without setting up an RSS subscription is problematic. It is possible, simply by clicking on the title of a particular lecture. This will download it to your computer which can be extremely time consuming.
To avoid downloading, subscribe to a podcast straight away by right clicking on the orange RSS icon. and choosing "copy shortcut" or "copy link location". Then open up Google Reader, choose "+Add a subscription" and paste in the URL.
What about iTunesU? iTunesU brings together podcasts from Universities around the World. However, it is part of the Apple family and can only be used if you have Apple's iTunes software installed on your computer. iTunes can be freely downloaded from Apple. However, you may not be able to install it on your work computer. If you do have iTunesU please feel free to use iTunesU for this exercise if wish.
Oxford's iTunesU content is replicated on (which does not require iTunes).

More Things
There are no more things on podcasts - take a rest!
However, podcasting is fun. If you'd like to have a go at it, you can find information and instruction on the OUCS site How to Podcast. The Library Service will also be running a training session on podcasting during the summer - look out for information in Outline and in the weekly courses email from Staff Development.