Podcasting is an audio version of RSS feeds, a way of publishing Web content with metadata that lets users subscribe and receive new files as they're posted. Using special software, users can download podcasts and play them back using desktop computer media players or portable MP3 players.
Users can listen to everything from professional newscasts to public domain novels read by amateurs. Odeo is a free beta service that makes it easy to subscribe to podcasts, while the iPodder project offers an open source podcast receiver.
In moves that will help move Podcasting into the mainstream. AOL recently announced the launch of Podcasting 101, a step-by-step guide to finding and listening to podcasts, as well as expanded programming on AOL Radio. It also began providing Podscope, a podcast search engine, through an agreement with TVEyes.
Blogging is already considered a mainstream activity, thanks to the free and relatively consumer-friendly tools provided by Web publishers including Ask Jeeves' Bloglines, Google's Blogger, MSN Spaces and Yahoo 360 and SixApart's TypePad.
Blogs took their place in mainstream culture in 2004, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project; about 8 million Internet users said they had created a blog.
But creating a podcast requires an array of skills from users who may not love to fiddle with hardware and software. A podcaster needs to reliably record sound, produce an audio program using audio editing software, encode it for syndication, and then upload it to a Web host.