Technology & Social Media

Podcasts: Information wherever, whenever you want it

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I have a confession to make. I'm addicted ... to podcasts.

If you're not familiar with the concept, podcasts are kind of like computerized radio or TV programs. They're digital files that you can either (a) play on your computer, or (b) download to your iPod and play on the go. I have a series of podcasts that I listen to each day, and if I miss them, I get this vague, almost panicky feeling that something's not quite right. I need my audio fix.

"Bill," you're thinking, "you're a geek. Get a life." But I challenge you to give them a try and tell me you don't feel the same way. They're habit-forming. Plus, you don't have to be glued to your TV or radio to get the business news you need. With podcasts, you can get that news whenever and wherever you want it.

A quick podcast primer
So how do you get started? First, find some podcasts that you'd like to listen to. There are podcasts for almost every interest area -- business, entertainment, news, sports, religion, music.

Go to any of the gazillion podcast directories on the Web and start searching for podcasts in your favorite interest area. I love iTunes because it's so easy to use. Simply download and run the iTunes software, then click on the "Podcast" tab and start searching. But there are other pretty impressive podcast directories out there as well, including, Podcast Alley and Yahoo podcasts. Pick a directory and start searching.

Here's the cool part
Audio and video files become podcasts when you subscribe to them -- that is, when you use software known as a podcast reader and a piece of code called RSS to have the podcasts delivered straight to your computer. That way, you don't have to search the Web whenever you want to listen to your podcasts. As an added bonus, it's free to subscribe to most podcasts.

Here's what you need to do:

  1. Download a podcast reader. Again, I highly recommend iTunes because it is so easy to use, but there lots of other options as well. Some of the more popular desktop readers include Juice, JPodder and Feedreader. There are also some popular Web-based readers like Google Reader and Bloglines.
  2. If you use iTunes, search for your favorite podcast in iTunes and click the "Subscribe" button. If you're not using iTunes, go to your favorite podcast's Web page and find the "Subscribe" option. That will give you a Web address that's known as an RSS feed. Copy that address and paste it into your podcast reader as a "new feed."

That's really all you need to do. Now, whenever a new episode of your podcast is published, it will be delivered straight to your podcast reader. You can either listen to it on your computer or copy it to your iPod and take it with you.

Check out the MACPA's podcast
The MACPA produces a weekly podcast called CPA Spotlight, which takes a closer look at the issues that impact CPAs and their clients.

Subscribing to CPA Spotlight is free and easy. Open your copy of iTunes and search for "CPA Spotlight," then click the "Subscribe" button. If you're not using iTunes, click this link and copy the Web address into your podcast reader.

Some of my other favorite podcasts are:

Give podcasts a try, then tell us: What's your favorite podcast?


Bill Sheridan