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Podcast Services Help Users Connect With New Content

Listeners can catch podcasts on the Web as streaming programs or subscribe to every issue in an ongoing series by using a client, also called a podcatcher.

As podcasts morph from the latest craze into a permanent presence in cyberspace, services are springing up to help users seek out their favorite downloads. Listeners can catch podcasts on the Web as streaming programs or subscribe to every issue in an ongoing series by using a podcast client (also called a podcatcher) such as iTunes or iPodder. Podcast clients use RSS, a syndication format for aggregating updates to podcasts, to "catch" podcasts as they become available.

"If you can't find a show you like, you can, fairly easily, create your own show," said Elisabeth Lewin, publisher of PodcastingNews.com, which offers tutorials on how to use services like Blogger or Feedburner to create and host podcasts. Sites like iPodder.org and iTunes.com are podcast clients that allow users to subscribe to every version of a specific podcast. Via these clients, each production of a show is automatically downloaded to a users’ hard drive or media player.

iPodder.org has a podcast directory organized by genre as well as its own list of updated podcast feeds. Categories include animals, beer, finance, golf, hacking, medicine, gadgets, poetry, and tequila.

Apple's iTunes.com music store allows user to first search for--and sample--various podcasts. On the left of the page is a list of the day’s Top Podcasts. To make the search a bit easier, podcasts are divided by genre--such as food, family, and talk radio. Popular podcasts on iTunes include “News Hour with Jim Lehrer,” the CNN News Update, and ESPN Radio. The site also has music videos, movie trailers, and audio books. The cost is generally minimal--and sometimes free.

Microsoft has also jumped on the podcasting bandwagon. "Microsoft believes RSS is key to how people will use the Internet in the future, including how they discover and consume audio and video content," said Kevin Unangst, director, Windows Digital Media at Microsoft. “"We’ve enhanced our WMPlugins.com site with podcasting tools and information."

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