Despite popular believe, the term PODCAST has no connection with the Apple iPod. While the word Podcast is reportedly a portmanteau of "Pod" and "Broadcast", the connection to iPod represents nothing more than a convenient accident for Apple, the Apple Portable on Demand player, "iPod", and the iTunes media player.

The History of Podcasting has roots dating back to the pre-Internet 1980s with the implementation of early methods to digitally describe radio station programming. As of February 2007, there have been 24 attempts to trademark the word 'PODCAST' with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, all have failed. See, USPTO references Wikipedia Podcasting entry The USPTO recognizes that the word PODCAST emerged from usage in the public domain.

RSS was proposed in late 2000 as a "syndicating feed enclosure"; a method to encapsulate and describe content feeds. RSS serves as an envelope to describe the web addresses of available online media. Much like a road map, it allows subscribers to access published content from multiple sources all in one place. This is know as content syndication and aggregation. RSS subscribers no longer have to visit individual websites to access content. Instead, RSS feeds allow published content to displayed in one convenient interface with a feed aggrigator.

Traditional HTML coding also allows content to be embedded from multiple sources; the difference is that RSS defines a convenient standard to syndicate, or "feed" content to multiple sources.

Originally used for text-only online resources such as news and stock feeds, the application of RSS has grown to include the syndication of rich media formats including audio, and most recently, video.

How RSS works: Notice I mentioned 'method to digitally describe' programming. Podcasts are described with Really Simple Syndication. RSS is another term of uncertain definition, alhough most agree, "Really Simple Syndication", was the intended definition.

It was not until late 2004 that RSS emerge as a recognized method of subscribing to audio content, and Podcasting as we know it was born.

Syndicating without RSS:

The video below was produced by, and is stored on The author has permitted the video to be displayed here by embedding it with traditional HTML. This video file is stored on the file servers at Redistribution is achieved by embedding it here; referencing it using standard HTML:

Example of Embedded Media:

Embedded text and media including non-syndicated elements such as the above video, can be viewed in an RSS feed reader because this entire document have been subsequently syndicated.

Because the publisher wishes to maintain credit, and advertising revenues, it has been embedded in a custom Adobe Flash video player, which is incompatible with Apple iTunes, but thankfully is compatible with web browsers.

The only unfortunate limitation to this sort of syndicate content is it's current incompatibility with iTunes. We will see what's required to support iTunes below.

RSS provides a convenient syndication standard to allow publishing and subscription of online content. RSS is merely a text document, much like traditional HTML:

Viewing the same RSS document in XML format with a web browser results in:

Subscribing to such an RSS feed, allows off-site access to the encapsulated content. The important point to remember is that RSS does not contain data --it describes data.

Examples of RSS feeds:

News Headlines
Stock Updates
Blog Rolls
Blog Articles
Audio content (Podcasts)
Video Content (Vodcasts)
Odiocast (Text-to-speech content)

3rd-Part Enhanced Content:

The problem with enhanced 3rd-party online services, is that publishers must maintain many different feeds and then subscribers have to be instructed on what each feed is for. This effect is called 'content fragmentation'.

While fragmenting content is good in that it allows subscribers to choose what content to subscribe to, publishing mulitiple feeds only to support content of different formats adds unneeded complexity.

For example, as the publisher of this blog, I would like my subscribers to be able to subscribe to content based on subject, and it would be sensible to have two main content channels: Business, and Everything Else.

Each feed should provide all available content types (Articles, Podcasts, Audio Casts and Odiocasts). The user subscribes to what they are interested in, and are limited only by their chosen feed reader.

As it is now, third-party services each provide the publisher with their own feed link.

I have these feeds:

This blog
Odiogo iTunes
Blog Roll

As syndication is still in its infancy, there is no one size fits all solution to this problem. The ideal is for publisher to not advertise 3rd party feeds. Instead, make an effort to natively integrate all content into one or more publishing feeds, organized by subject.

Enhanced Feed Syndication:

To further facilitate RSS feed syndication, feed Burning services, such as Google's FeedBurner, provide RSS feed syndication and directory services.

Feedburner offers services for publishers to manage their content feeds and subscriptions.

By selecting the "I'm a podcaster" option, feedburner configures a special feed home page that detects content embedded specifically for iTunes. In order to subscribe with iTunes, embedded video must be in a file format compatible with Apple's QuickTime media player. Several proprietary formats exist, but the new mp4 for standVidard is compatible with QuickTime and since mp4 supports an enhanced compression features for both video and audio, mp4 is the best choice.

Because mp4 is relatively new, not many application programs are freely available. Apple would like you to use iMovie and QuickTime Pro, but I'll demonstrate a free method to convert videos into mp4 format on MS Windows.

Video hosting offers free video hosting and broadcasting services:

Get an account
Upload a video
Embed video code in your blog
Pro account will automatically create an mp4 version for iTunes
If you want advertising, you need to use the Flash Player
You can upload different versions and define different video players based on your needs
Videos in mp4 format are automatically syndicated through the blip user's iTunes URL

Limitations of iTunes Podcasting:

Each post is a single Podcast comprising of one mp4 feed and the post text. If you syndicate using feedbrurner, the first link to a QuickTime compatible file will be detected. In other words, the first appropriatly linked mp4 will become part of the iTunes podcast. The text of the post body will be the description as viewed in iTunes. Additional mp4 files, if any, will not be availableto iTunes.

Since mp4 supports both audio and video, the embedding process is the same for both content types.


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