In 2005, the New Oxford American Dictionary defined "podcast" as its word of the year.
Three key things have made podcasting spread so far and wide so quickly in the last few years.
1. Broadband Internet
In the past the Internet was usable for written material, but was too slow for audio or video. That was one of the things that held back podcasting (and multimedia in general).
Now more people have fast Internet access, which means they can download audio and video files conveniently. It's still not super-fast, but it's much faster then ever before.
2. The iPod
The name "podcasting" comes from a combination of broadcasting and iPod (the portable music device from Apple). It's a bit of a misnomer because you don't require an iPod to do podcasting (we'll talk about that a little bit later).
Some people think Apple unfairly got credit for podcasting because it really didn't have much to do with the technology at all. And yet I think Apple deserves some credit. It's because of the popularity of people walking around with iPods that podcasting has really taken off. And part of its popularity is that it makes it easy for people to get audio and video clips onto their computer and their iPod.
As an analogy, before spam destroyed much of the value of e-mail, the value of an e-mail newsletter was that the writer could send information to readers' in-boxes automatically. Without that, if somebody published a Web site and kept adding material to that regularly, it still required people to go back and check the site for new information. On
the other hand, if you subscribe to a newsletter from that Web site, that information would appear in your inbox automatically.
The same thing applies to podcasting. For years, people have been putting audio and video clips on their Web site, but it still required people to go to the Web site to get the latest files. Podcasting automates that process, which is part of what makes it valuable. And the iPod means that you can download the audio and video files onto your computer, then on to your iPod. You then listen to it in the car, in the gym, when you're going for a walk, or in other situations. It's made the technology portable.
3. Publishing Tools
The third thing that has made podcasting popular now is that now there are some very simple technology tools, software and Web sites you can use to make podcasting easy.
The technology behind podcasting has been around for a while, but in the past you required some technical knowledge to make it work. You required special codes on your Web site to make it possible for people to download your podcast onto their iPod or onto their computer. Now, there are simple tools that make it easy for you as a publisher to publish your podcast - and we're going to talk about that a little later.