European Podcasts: A First Look

by Hank Harken, Arizona State University

WESS Newsletter
Spring 2006
Vol. 29, no. 2

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Audioblogging is an old concept in "Internet years". Now popularly known as podcasting and also by other terms such as radio blogging, it was first proposed in October 2000. In brief, a podcast is an audio file or program that may be listened to at the user's convenience rather than on a schedule devised by someone else. A small number of web bloggers began making these audio enclosures available for download on their web sites after the 2000 proposal but there was little activity until client software became available in 2004 for the listening audience. Clearly the "pod" derives from the Apple iPod, the most prolific digital music device on the market though attempts have been made to manufacture other origins or meanings. Longer and more technical explanations of podcasting and its history are available on the Internet (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Podcasting)

The authoring of early podcasts was very much a hobbyist and "geek" activity: deeply personal and intimate discussions, technology issues, and musical subjects seemed to dominate. (For one viewpoint on podcast quality and subjects during this period, see http://www.joyoftech.com/joyoftech/joyarchives/705.html. In 2005, the concept became mainstream, embraced by a variety of organizations including National Public Radio and many of its member stations (see http://www.npr.org/podcasts/). The use of podcasting by radio broadcasters and other organizations provided access to higher quality productions for listeners, but there is no subject which is off-limits on the Internet for discussion through these audio files.

With Apple Computers' release of video playback on its iPods in the fall of 2005, video blogs (AKA video podcasts, vodcasts, vlogs, vcasts, etc) have begun to proliferate. In this case, subscribers receive a video file downloaded to their computer and to their portable music/video player. Like the audio-only podcasts, vodcasts run the full range of quality and subject matter.

Using client software as an intermediary, individual podcast files may be downloaded as desired or new files may be received automatically as they become available. The most technical act a user needs to perform in order to begin downloading a podcast is typically to copy a string of XML code from a web page and paste those characters into a window in the podcast client. Some podcast sites and current podcast software, such as Apple's iTunes (for Macintosh or MS-Windows), have made this task much easier by eliminating even that step.

Client Software for Receiving Podcasts

iTunes (Macintosh or MS-Windows)

no cost

http://www.apple.com/

Juice, formerly iPodder. (Macintosh, MS-Windows or Linux)

no cost

http://juicereceiver.sourceforge.net/index.php

The use of the word "subscribe" with podcasts begs the question of free or pay. Thus far, podcasts have been free but commercial entities have discussed making content available with some charge. Apple Computer has already made various television programs from Disney, ABC and NBC available for purchase and download to the newer video iPod players. Some podcasts may follow this example.

Finding new podcasts and keeping track of available ones is not simple. "Podcasters" have been encouraged to register their audio programs at iPodder.org, and many have done so. Apple's iTunes software has an integrated directory.  Other directory sites also exist, and exhibit great variation in their organization. No directory appears to be comprehensive. Checking your favorite web sites for announcements about podcasts and searching on standard web search engines are additional ways to locate materials in this format.

Podcast Directories

General

iPodder.org

http://www.ipodder.org/

Note: a commercial entity is using .com

Podcast.net

http://www.podcast.net/

Podcast Alley

http://www.podcastalley.com/

Podcasts.tv

http://podcast.tv./index2.php

Audio and video podcast directory

Finding Non-English Podcasts: A Starter List

Podster.de

http://www.podster.de/

Currently lists 1385 German language or German origin podcasts (February 2006). Highlights new podcasts.

Podcast Directory

http://www.podster.de/

http://www.podcastdirectory.com/regional/

Cluttered and difficult list to work with. Browsing by language is possible. Select "Deutsch" and "German", Française and French, etc. It's a poor substitute for Podster.de for German language podcasts. Browsing by region and country is interesting but can be confusing.

Penguinradio

http://www.podcastdirectory.com/regional/

Originally created to list radio stations broadcasting on the Internet, Penquinradio has added some podcasts to its listings. Click on a country and podcasts will also be listed with the radio choices.

Podcast-France

http://www.podcast-france.com/

"Site francophone de resources Podcasting"

PodBlaster

http://www.podblaster.net/

"L'annuaire de Podcasting Francophone Indépendant"

Examples of Podcasts and Podcast Pages

Deutsche Welle's podcast page

http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,2144,1719252,00.html

An assortment of Deutsche Welle podcasts in German and English languages.

Deutschlandfunk Radio's Podcast page

http://www.dradio.de/aktuell/398578/

An amazing 27 separate German language radio programs available for subscription.

BerlinCast

http://www.berlincast.de/

Recorded non-musical sounds from Berlin. Illustrations on the webpages.


Editor: Paul Vermouth

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