Podcast is short for “iPod Broadcasting”, because it all started with the iPod from Apple Computers. Podcasting is nothing but MP3 files broadcasted to the public. Meanwhile, it’s common for big journal publishers and press agencies to offer information in form of audio or video files. Radio or television stations use podcasts to offer their programmes around the clock, that one can enjoy them whenever he or she likes to.
From among the scientific podcasts, most well-known are the ones from Nature on the fields Chemistry, Genetics, Heredity, Neuroscience, and Nature itself (http://www.nature.com/nature/podcast/index.html). Quite a few universities and medical schools use podcasts for promotional and educational purposes as well, top examples worth to mention are the John Hopkins University health podcast, “a lively discussion of the week’s medical news and how it may affect you” (http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/mediaII/Podcastsinstructions.html) or the Medical Edge podcasts of the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, “making the daily audio and weekly video health news more convenient and accessible than ever before, and feature general health and people-focused stories covering medical breakthroughs and compelling health information“ (http://www.mayoclinic.org/podcasts/). Medical subject specific podcast could cover a range as broad as continuing education video courses for paradontologists (University of Münster), the American Heart Association’s podcast for the general public “on ways to lower your risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke” (http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=3037153) or the Rheumatology Radio “the very first Rheumatology PodCast over the Internet” (http://rheumatologyradio.blogspot.com/). An extensive and updated list of podcasts in the field medicine is offered by Krafty Librarian at http://www.kraftylibrarian.com/podcasts2.doc.
Medical Libraries too came across this new medium and tried to examine the benefits accompanied. So did the Health Sciences Library of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis, which offers podcasts “that summarize highlights of library workshops and orientations that students can view in about 5 minutes or less. Podcasts include information on health information resources, database search strategies, literature and resource guides, Internet safety tips, general orientation to the library, and more. New library podcasts will be posted each month.” (http://library.utmem.edu/media/podcasting/Podcast/Podcast.html).
The central medical library of the University of Münster, Germany, uses a podcast called “Wochenrückblick” (review of the week) to provide an continuous stream of news and information to its clients. The podcast summarize what happened in the library in the last weeks, which new e-books, e-journals, and databases are on the shelf or which budget constraints the library has to cope with. Introduction courses on how to search medical literature or how to use the library are planned. The podcast episodes can be subscribed – as everything in the Web 2.0 – via a news or RSS feed (http://medbib.klinikum.uni-muenster.de/mp3/podcast.xml). The weekly reviews can be supplemented by any material which you think is of benefit to your customers. For instance, training sessions or conference presentations can be recorded and broadcasted instantly. For me, a personal digital assistant (PDA) put on my talking desk worked quite satisfactorily.
New versions of the browsers Firefox or Internet Explorer recognize RSS Feeds automatically, and therefore also Podcasts. With common stand alone newsreaders such as Bloglines or Feeddemon you can subscribe podcasts like any other news feed. However, only with dedicated podcasts clients, called Podcatcher, you can download and manage podcasts really comfortable (you may find a list at http://wiki.podcast.de/Podcatcher). They enable they easy subscription, announcement, playing, burning, and synchronization with a MP3-Player. The most well-known Podcatcher in town is iTunes from Apple. What do you need technically to create your own podcast? There are surprisingly few gears needed:
As explained above, you can start with the built-in microphone on a laptop or a PDA or a MP3 player. However, for a better quality you have to buy external microphones or computer headsets. On the other hand of the price range I would like to suggest a dedicated mobile device such as the Edirol R-09 from Roland (http://www.thomann.de/de/edirol_r09.htm) (which I use with an external Sennheiser microphone by that way). As an free application for recording and editing WAV files I use Audacity (http://audacity.sourceforge.net/), which is available both for Windows and Mac. Audacity is able to export audio files as MP3s if you add an free MP3 encoder such as the LAME Encoder (http://www.free-codecs.com/Lame_Encoder_download.htm). iTunes can also convert recordings to MP3.
There are various software applications specialized in producing podcasts. You may find a suitable list at Podcasting Software (http://www.podcastingnews.com/topics/Podcasting_Software.html). Here comes a selection of software: Podcast Maker (Mac, http://www.lemonzdream.com/), MAGIX Podcast Maker (http://site.magix.net/deutsch/startseite/musik-produkte/podcast-maker-e-version/), Jvw Podcast creator (http://www.jvwinc.com/podcast-creator.php), Open Source Podcast Generator – (http://podcastgen.sourceforge.net/).
Finally the feed
When you have your podcasts recorded successfully, the only thing which is left is to upload the MP3 files on a server and the offer them as a feed by an XML file. Put simply, Podcast are MP3 files offered via a RSS Feed. To create Podcast Feeds you can use one of the Podcast Makers mentioned above or a dedicated software like Podcast RSS creator (http://www.softpedia.com/get/IPOD-TOOLS/Podcast/podcast-RSS-creator.shtml). Even easier to start from the scratch are web sites, where you simply fill out fields that are used to generate the RSS file in need. Examples are Podcastblaster (http://www.podcastblaster.com/) or Podcast RSS Feed Generator (http://www.tdscripts.com/webmaster_utilities/podcast-generator.php). At some sites you can set up an account, to go back and add new MP3 files. Or you add new episodes by simply text editing the generated XML file. All you need to do is to duplicate the text bordered by the tags and manually enter the required information, e.g. Review Nr. 03, woche03.mp3, and so on – that’s it!