I gave a talk on podcasting for a Technology for the Music Educator class at DePaul University in Chicago last night. It is an interesting experience (and a novel one for me) to talk about this subject in front of people. I am used to talking about music and double bass for hours each day, but I am not used to clearly communicating technological concepts, so it was a surprising challenge for me to try to clearly articulate what makes podcasting special.
Podcasting is a very simple thing. Basically it is media delivered over the Internet. At least that is the description I was going to use. I quickly realized that this definition breaks down upon deeper analysis. Is ABC’s streaming content podcasting? Definitely not. How can one define podcasting, then?
Probably the most accurate definition would be audio and video content delivered via RSS. The question when talking to people who don’t know a lot about podcasting is ‘what is RSS?’, which is a complicated thing to describe (despite it’s name–Really Simple Syndication is what the abbreviation is commonly considered to mean). XML data with enclosures syndicated via RSS.
In the end, I decided that the best way to introduce people to podcasting was to have them play with iTunes and find podcasts that would be interesting to them. Nobody in the class had listened to podcasts before (!), so I described how to use the iTunes Store to find podcasts. It is actually easier than ever to do this with the iTunes Store, but the word ‘subscribe’ still throws people for a loop (most people think they have to pay to listen).
I ultimately decided that it would be best to provide an introduction of sorts, and what better introduction to podcasting than Ask a Ninja? I played the class this episode:
It went over very well!
Rob Walch from Podcast411 has a great article on how to explain podcasting to newbies. Ceck it out if you ever need to do this.