What is a Podcast?

This Week in Science Podcast

The weekly science and technology podcast

What is a Podcast?

Podcasts are a new syndication format for conveniently and automatically distributing audio content across the web. Podcasts are based on the same RSS technology that allows for automated retrieval and aggregation of Blog text information on services such as Bloglines - the only difference being that instead of aggregating text content, podcast aggregators collect audio files.

How to Hear the TWIS Podcast

Podcasts are an excellent way to keep up with your favorite online science radio shows since you only need to sign up for a feed once in order to automatically receive new content as it is released to the web. All you need to begin receiving the This Week in Science Podcast is a free piece of software called a podcast aggregator.

Podcast aggregators are small software programs that automatically check for new content from your favorite online radio shows. When the aggregator sees a new show available it automatically downloads the show to your computer or portable media device so you can listen to it at your convenience. With a free aggregator program such as iPodder oriPodderX installed you to simply enter the URL of the Podcast RSS feed that you’d like to subscribe to into the aggregator ( the TWIS Podcast is http://www.twis.org/audio/podcast.rss) and set how often you’d like to check for new content. (Addition 05/22/05 - it was just announced that the new iTunes version 4.9 due for release in the next few months will add support podcasts. Just type the URL of your podcasts into iTunes and you're all set.)

How we Record the Show

This Week in Science is recorded live every Tuesday morning at 8:30 PST in our underground studio/nuclear bunker at the KDVS radio station on the University of California, Davis campus. We record the show as an uncompressed WAV file via a line connection to our super-handy Archos Gmini400 hard drive based recording unit.

After the show we take the file back to our post-production facility where it is imported into Vegas Audio for editing and compression/normalization. Once editing is complete we convert the final WAV into several different formats of MP3 - typically 40Kbs/Mono files for web and 256Kbs/Stereo files for local archives and promotional usage. Web MP3s are distributed as streaming audio through the TWIS audio archives (http://www.twis.org/archive.html) using an M3U wrapper as well as via an RSS Podcast that is listed on most of the popular Podcast directories on the web.

How we Podcast the Files

Once the Web MP3s are loaded on the TWIS server it is a simply matter to add these files to the podcast. We open the podcast.rss file in a text editor and add a new item listing to the top of the file. This item listing includes the name of the new audio file, a short description, the date the file was added to the podcast, and the location of the file on the server. This edited RSS file is then uploaded to the server where subscribed Podcast aggregators see the new item listing and automatically download the new audio file.

This Week In Science
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TWIS Podcast: Science

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