Podcasts usually come in the form of audio files, but may also include video.
The term is a combination of the word “broadcast” and the iPod brand. This refers to broadcasts made available on the Internet which are available for downloading. Users or providers who wish to remove the association of podcasts with the Apple brand may also refer to these as netcasts. Podcasts started to gain popularity in 2004.
Podcasts have become associated with iPods because they are often stored in users’ iPods. Of course, other mp3 players may also be used to play podcasts. Regular media players such as VLC Player may also be used.
Users can subscribe to podcasts and receive notifications on a regular basis, with the use of a tool called a podcatcher. This allows new podcasts to be automatically downloaded. One of the tools that may be used for podcast subscription is iTunes.
Podcasts may also be distributed through blogs, and usually have a theme. They may also be used to aid instruction, for example, by exposing learners of a language to the spoken word, under a specific context. Another advantage is that it is possible for users to store these files and access them as necessary.
Users may find subscribing to podcasts more appealing than simply listening to the radio because it allows for the tailoring of program selection according to the user’s preferences. Since a lot of podcasts have a radio talk show format, discussions on special topics of interest are made available to the public, and may not include as many advertisements as regular radio programs.