You've probably heard about weblogs, also referred to as "blogs,"
that are used to communicate in a fun and newsy way on the Internet. In
fact, Ancestry.com will soon be introducing its new 24-7 Family History
Circle, which paired with the new Ancestry Weekly Journal, will be a new
way to communicate with you. It promises to bring a new and more exciting
method of communication to readers.
Something else new is happening on the Internet in the genealogy and library
communities. It's a way to learn and a way to share information with others.
It's called a "podcast" and, in Along Those Lines . . . this
week, I'll explain what a podcast is and how you can put it to use, both
for yourself and your genealogical society, and where to find podcasts
that may be of interest to you.
What Is a Podcast?
Wikipedia, the free, online encyclopedia, defines podcasting as "distribution
of audio or video files, such as radio programs or music videos, over
the Internet . . . for listening on mobile devices and personal computers."
With the increases in communications speeds offered by broadband network
providers, data is more quickly moved than ever before.
A podcast is typically nothing more than a recorded file that uses the
types of compressed audio and video file formats that can be played back
by free or low-cost audio and/or audio-video software. A podcast is created
at the discretion of the producer--daily, weekly, monthly, or sporadically.
Audio podcasts are typically created in the common MP3 file format that
you can play on your computer if you have the Microsoft Media Player,
RealPlayer, or any other audio file program. They are then uploaded to
a host site on the Web where you can listen to a program, download it
to your computer, or you can go to a podcast subscription site that will
regularly "feed" it to your computer device through a protocol
called RSS (short for Really Simple Syndication).
If that sounds complicated, it really isn't. The podcast's creator(s)
submit information to a podcast directory and subscription service. That
automatically sets up a feed that communicates the availability of a new
episode and, if you have subscribed to receive each new episode, it will
be automatically downloaded to your computer for you to do what you like
What Equipment Do I Need To Listen To One?
All you really need to listen to a podcast is a broadband computer connection
to the Internet and the Web address of the podcast. For example, I co-host
The Genealogy Guys podcast each week with Drew Smith, and we record the
program and upload it to our host site. Our podcast has attracted a huge
following of downloaders and subscribers numbering in the thousands. We
offer news and announcements, discussion of genealogy record types and
research strategies, book and magazine reviews, interviews with some of
the top genealogy experts, and even an occasional surprise.
When you arrive at the website, you have a couple of options. First, you
can simply play the whole file by:
* clicking on the POD icon to the left of the episode,
* clicking on the right arrowhead in the box in the upper right-hand corner
of the episode's player controls,
* or clicking on the direct download link at the bottom of the episode's
Second, you can opt to download the podcast to your own computer by right-clicking
on the direct download link at the bottom (e.g., the MP3 file named genealogyguys-2006-03-12.mp3).
You can specify where to save the file.
When you download the MP3 file, you can listen to it at your leisure on
your own computer or you might decide to
a) copy it to a personal MP3 player and take it along with you, or
b) burn it to a CD and take it along to play in your car.
Some listeners tell us that they create (burn) multiple CDs--one to play
in the car and others to distribute to their friends or to other members
in their genealogical society to enjoy.
The only software you need to listen on your own computer is something
like Microsoft's Windows Media Player, or RealPlayer's free version of
the software. Certainly there are other players available.
Whether or not you own an Apple iPod, you can download Apple's iTunes
software. iTunes also provides a podcast directory and you can subscribe
to podcasts such as "The Genealogy Guys" there. Each new episode
is downloaded to your iTunes software each time as it becomes available
and when you connect to the Internet. If you own an iPod, the new podcast
is automatically loaded onto it whenever you synchronize your iPod with
iTunes. It's that automatic!
There are a number of places to subscribe to podcasts. Among them are
Doppler, Podcast.net, Podcast Alley, and others. Certainly iTunes is another
podcast directory resource. The only caveat is that, if you subscribe
to podcasts via iTunes, the podcasts are converted from MP3 file format
to Apple's own format and therefore may not be played on software and
devices other than iTunes and iPods.
How Can I Create My Own Podcasts?
Creating your own podcast for yourself or your genealogy society is pretty
straightforward. What you need are the following components:
* A computer, either PC or Macintosh
* A microphone
* Sound recording and editing software
* A podcast hosting service/provider
* FTP (File Transfer Protocol) software
For The Genealogy Guys, we chose a free piece of sound recording and editing
software called Audacity, available from SourceForge.net. It allows us
to record, edit, and tweak the sound quality of our recordings. (We even
purchased a license for an inexpensive musical sound file to use as our
opening and closing theme.) We use a desk-stand microphone that we purchased
You will want to choose a podcast hosting service that provides plenty
of bandwidth for communications. Bandwidth can be simply defined as the
amount of data that can be transferred over the network in a fixed amount
of time. Some hosts get picky about having too many people connecting
all at once, or about the amount of data you plan to store at the site.
We chose Liberated Syndication. The company provides four levels of monthly
storage space at very reasonable rates. You can begin with the basic service
for $5.00 per month and increase space as you grow; it's easy to upgrade.
Once you are signed up, you can create your own podcast page, complete
with a directory of podcasts you've produced, upload your own logo, and
other features. They also include statistical reports on subscribers,
direct downloads, listeners, and the subscriber services used.
An FTP program is needed to transfer your recorded file from your computer
to the podcast host site. Your host will provide you with the necessary
login ID and password. There are many FTP programs available, many of
them free at sites such as TuCows and Download.com. Many FTP programs
are free (freeware) while others are available at a very low price (shareware).
They are very simple and intuitive to use.
Once you have started uploading podcasts, you can add a link to your own
or your society's Web page. You also can contact all the podcast directory
sites and request that they add your podcast to their subscription lists.
Where Can I Learn More?
There are plenty of books available about podcasting and how to do it.
Visit your local bookstore's computer section or search the online bookstores
for the words "podcast" or "podcasting." McGraw-Hill,
publisher of the popular How to Do Everything series (including my genealogy
book) has announced that a new book about podcasting will be published
in the fall of 2006 too.
Check It Out!
If you are interested in more about what a podcast can be like, visit
The Genealogy Guys site at http://genealogyguys.com anytime, 24/7, and
check us out. If you're like thousands of other listeners, you'll be hooked
Visit George's ALL-NEW website at http://ahaseminars.com for information
about his company, speaking engagements, and presentation topics. He will
be appearing at the following genealogy events in coming months.
Visit George's website at http://ahaseminars.com/atl for information about
GOTO: Google Genealogy
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