What is a Podcast Feed

A podcast feed is a way of sharing files over the
internet. It involves the use of a small, machine
readable file that is regularily updated to reflect changes
in the files available for downloading. The internet
addresses of these files are embedded into the feed file
and can be automatically downloaded when wished. At
this time, podcasting tends to refer to the use of feeds to
share only media files. Podcasting originally occured as
a way to share audio mp3 files, and has only recently
begun incorporating video into podcasts. However, the
technology that allows the files to be shared is not
limited to such media files and there is not reason that
other files may be shared via podcast in the future.

Today, however, a podcast feed tends to refer to the use
of a feed to share media files. Most podcasts are done
with audio files, and the individual files that are created
and shared are called episodes. These audio files may
contain a variety of things; there are music, comedy,
news, technology, even podcasts about wine.
Podcasting, because of the low entry cost, especially for
audio podcasting allows nearly anyone who believes
they have something to say to broadcast it over the
internet. Even more established groups have found that
audio podcasting works well. Some radio stations
podcast portions of their content, sharing it over the
internet to allow listeners who missed a specific show
to catch up on it later. NPR now does this with its news
breaks, and the NPR show « This American Life » offers
a podcast of its shows to subscribers who pay a small

One of the newer innovations in podcast feeds is the
vlog, or videoblog. These blogs usually contain a feed
that distributes a video, rather than an audio file to feed
subscribers. Although that would not have been feasible
a few years ago, growing numbers of broadband
internet subscribers has meant that most users are able
to download large files, even video files, relatively
quickly. These video podcasts have been readily
accepted by mainstream news organizations. They have
found that podcasting portions of their content is a way
to share their tape and reach a wider audience. The BBC
currently does this with parts of its news content. Pieces
of the news show that is played over the airwaves is
taken and placed online, along with a link to the content
placed inside the RSS feed. Those who subscribe to the
BBC feed can download the news clip and watch in
from the comfort of their home computer.

In the future, podcast feeds may be used for a number of
purposes besides simply sharing media files. Some
analysts predict that the feed system could also be used
to share software updates, or any of a myriad of other
file types. For now, however, podcasting is dominated
by small audio and video files.