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There has been much confusion in the past as to what exactly a podcast is. To ease some of the confusion, it is basically an online show which can be in the form of audio or video that is downloaded on demand. Most notably, podcasts utilize RSS which stands for Really Simple Syndication. RSS might even be how you subscribe to Make Use Of and podcasts work the same way. However instead of text posts you would be downloading audio or video.
An example of an audio podcast is Make Use Of’s own podcast. The real confusion sets in with the term ‘podcasting’. Despite the word “pod,” you do not need an iPod or any type of special device although you could use any device that supports mp3 files. So the big question lies in what is the best way to subscribe to your podcasts. The program you would use to subscribe is called a ‘feedreader’, ‘aggregator’, or ‘podcatcher’ and these are among my favorite recommendations for this.
Miro – This is my favorite client. Miro by default runs in your system tray to periodically download your subscribed podcasts as new episodes are available. When you open the program, it displays the Miro Guide which is a great directory of podcasts by categories. When you subscribe to podcasts, they list in the left sidebar and display the appropriate album art next to its name creating a clean organized list that is also capable of utilizing folders for more elaborate organization.
Miro is free, open source, cross platform, and perhaps its most unique feature is BitTorrent support which allows Peer-2-Peer podcast downloads rather than the traditional Server-Client downloads.
iTunes – This option is the most common option and mainly where podcast downloading originally began. The podcast subscription feature is a feature of the iTunes Music Store which makes it a little more difficult to figure out and not quite as straightforward. However just about every podcast is listed in its podcast directory.
iTunes, unlike Miro, does not minimize to the system tray forcing you to have the iTunes application open if you want to download episodes of podcasts. If you do have an iPod and that is how you listen to podcasts then you will want to use iTunes as podcasts download automatically to your iPod when you sync it with iTunes as you normally would.
Juice – This option is another open source solution. It is cross platform and has a very simple look. The interface is not as elegant as the others but offers a very straightforward method to download the podcasts you want. Unlike iTunes, Juice is an application intended specifically for podcasts and functions much like an RSS text feed reader.
What do you use for podcast subscriptions? Please let us know in the comments.