PUBLISHED: 1:38 PM on Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Podcast: Be the star of your own show
Have you ever wanted to host your own talk show?

It's not as far fetched an idea as it might have been just a few years ago.

With a computer and some software, a new phenomenon called podcasting is making it easy for anyone to post audio and video programs on the Internet and allow other people to download, then listen or watch.

Podcasting has only been around a few years but has really taken off in the last half of 2005.

On June 28, Apple Computers, Inc. released version 4.9 of its iTunes software that added the feature of allowing users to subscribe to podcasts.

Apple announced one million subscriptions to podcasts on its service only two days after the release of iTunes 4.9.

So what kind of content has to be in a podcast?

It can be anything you want. People have created podcasts about what they are doing in their daily life - parenting, sports, technology, travel, cooking, and almost anything else imaginable.

Scott Sigler, whose first Podcast-only novel Earth Core has been published as a book by Dragon Moon Press after he had gained thousands of subscribers from all over the world when he read the entire book as a podcast earlier this year, said in an e-mail interview that podcasting has unlimited possibilities.

"If you're a model train buff, you can have a show that talks about nothing but model trains, and you're going to find thousands of listeners that want to hear what you've got to say," Sigler said. "A thousand listeners is a successful podcast, while 1,000 listeners on radio isn't enough to sell any ads."

Television channels like ABC, FOX and CBS have begun to use podcasts to promote shows and also as more in-depth news broadcasts.

NPR, BBC and other radio stations have started using them to post edited broadcasts of some of their current shows, and for people to listen to old documentaries and lecture series.

President Bush and the Republican and Democratic parties have their own podcasts.

Pittsburg State University assistant professor Victor Miller suggested podcasting as an option to students who wanted to start a radio station.

"It's a viable alternative to broadcasting," Miller said. "Part of the problem with students who want to start a small radio station is there are several hundred, maybe into the thousands, of backlogged licenses that the FCC are slow getting out. So even if the students applied for a license for a radio station, they are going to have to wait a long time. So this is an alternative to get their stuff out there."

Recently, video podcasts or vidcasts have become more popular.

ABC has posted popular television shows Lost and Desperate Housewives as vidcasts on the iTunes music store. These ABC shows cost $1.99 per show to download but most podcast and vidcasts are free to the subscriber.

The variety of content can give the subscriber more control of what they listen to or watch, but the medium can also serve for greater control of when and where the content is viewed or listened.

The programs can play directly on a computer, but can also be downloaded to a portable music or video player.

"The future is endless," Sigler said. "As MP3 players become more common, people want things to listen to. There's already 100,000 plus podcasts out there, people are bound to find things that cater to their specific interests and hobbies. You can listen any time you like, hear exactly what you want. It's like programming your own radio station."

Subscribing to a podcast or vidcast can be entertaining, but if you want to create your own content, it can be as simple as just having a computer, some software and a high-speed Internet connection.

"It's easy to create your own podcast or vidcast," Amber MacArthur, producer and host of commandN, a vidcast about technology trends, said in an e-mail interview. "All you need for a good podcast is some quality content, some basic audio recording and editing equipment, and an enormous amount of patience and time to distribute it online. I say patience because there are always technical issues and it does take time to do a podcast on your own. As for vidcasts, since it involves video it's obviously much more complicated, but you can still make this happen with equipment as basic as a web cam, some video recording software, and again the drive to produce it regularly online."

Whether you want to listen, produce or both, podcasts and vidcast are becoming more popular and more mainstream. The word "podcast" has even been added to the latest edition of the Oxford Dictionary of English.

"The Internet is an alternative to FCC licensed broadcasting," Miller said. "That's what we want to see younger people try to do. Get beyond that standard government controlled license process."