Podcasting involves the posting and sending through RSS feed, serialized audio broadcasts on the internet that users can download on digital media players such as iPods, Zunes, and other digital media devices. Podcasts are usually updated and are downloadable on a regularly occuring basis. This section will explain the impacts podcasting can have in government from sharing internal and external communications with federal employees and the general public.

History and Background

Adam Curry, one of the original creators of podcasting.
Podcasting origins can be traced to around 2003, when former MTV host Adam Curry and the developers of RSS helped send out serialized audio recordings that could automatically update on digital audio devices. The term podcasting was first used in 2004, and user manuals on how to create podcasts began to appear on the internet at this time.

There are reports that Compaq was also developing a similar idea to podcasts in 1999 that would have worked with a hard disk mp3 player they were developing as well. [1]

Podcasting was popularized with the onset of blogs, which could share the content of amateur recorders, before radios and more seasoned professionals would also enter the format. Apple incorporated podcasting into their iTunes product by 2005, offering a centralized way to download podcasts uploaded into the iTunes environment.[2]

Today, millions of podcasts can be found on the internet, ranging from simple "how-to" podcasts, commentary podcasts, and educational podcasts. Even the federal government has started implementing podcast for the public about upcoming initiatives that could affect their lives (such as podcasts from the Department of Defense).


Key Functionalities

Recording Software

Podcasts can be recorded simply through various audio recording software programs. The easiest to use is Audacity, a free software that you can download on a PC or Mac that records simple audio files. These files can then be edited into a typical podcast format, such as a recording with music, and intro, the main content of the podcast, and a closing.

Other software that can be use to record and edit podcasts include Garage Band (for Mac only, a robust system to record and edit podcasts and include effects built into the software, such as jingles and sound effects. Simple audio effects can be used on the recordings as well), Ableton Live (traditionally used for music editing but can provide a platform for recording podcasts), and Adobe Sound Booth (which records similarly to Garage Band and is available on both the Mac and PC).

To record audio interviews over the phone, it is easy to use free software such as Skype to place phone calls and then record those phone calls in another software program such as Audacity.

Recording Hardware

The Blue Snowball Microphone is a popular USB microphone.
Most simple podcast studios include hardware to record the podcasts, such as a USB microphone and headset and a computer with an internet connection. With these simple tools, you can make a surprisingly good quality podcast almost anywhere, whether in a government office or in your home office. Most costs for a podcasting studio (especially if you already own a computer) will run you between $100 - $200.

The important thing to keep in mind with recording hardware is that you can get a quality recording device at a rather low price. Headsets and microphones will also work with both Mac's and PC's, especially if you make sure the recording device connects with the computer via USB. Make sure that when you record, that your USB is being recognized by the software program with which you will be conducting the recording. Once you have verified that everything is all set up, you will be ready to record your first podcast!


RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is an integral part in podcast creation. This is because the RSS code will be the way that sites, such as iTunes, will be able to update the latest listing of podcasts being produced. The code includes data such as the recording date of the podcast, the content summary of the podcast, the author of the podcast, and any other pertinent information important to the data of the podcast.

Here is an example of typical RSS code for a podcast:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<rss xmlns:itunes="http://www.itunes.com/dtds/podcast-1.0.dtd" version="2.0">
<title>The Riverside Tour</title> This is the title of the podcast series.
<link>http://riverside.ccnmtl.columbia.edu/</link> This is where the podcast is hosted.
<itunes:author>Columbia University</itunes:author> This is who created the podcast.
<description></description> Any description of the podcast would go here.
<language>en</language> The language the podcast is recorded in.
<copyright>Copyright 2006 Trustees of Columbia University</copyright> This is the copyright of the podcast.
<itunes:name>CCNMTL, Columbia University</itunes:name>
<itunes:email>ccnmtl@columbia.edu</itunes:email> This is the contact email for the podcast.
<title>The Riverside Tour</title>
<itunes:image href="http://riverside.ccnmtl.columbia.edu/images/logo.jpg" />
<category>Higher Education</category> This is the category in which the podcast will fall under in iTunes.
<itunes:category text="Education">
<itunes:category text="Higher Education" />
<itunes:keywords>Columbia University, CCNMTL, Riverside</itunes:keywords>
<lastBuildDate>Fri, 15 Dec 2006 12:00:00 -0500</lastBuildDate> This is the date the podcast was created.
<title>A Walk in the Park</title> This is the title of the podcast episode.
<itunes:author>Columbia University</itunes:author>
<category>Higher Education</category>
<pubDate>Thu, 02 Nov 2006 00:00:53 -0500</pubDate>
<enclosure url="http://riverside.ccnmtl.columbia.edu/walk_park.m4a" type="audio/mov" />

Publishing to iTunes

To publish a podcast to iTunes, you need to make sure you have an RSS feed running as shown in the example in the RSS feed section. Publishing a podcast to iTunes requires an account being made for iTunes and then submitting the site where the podcast is being hosted as well as the RSS feed to iTunes. You will need to determine which type of category of content the podcast falls under. It can take up to a week or two for iTunes to publish the podcast, but once it is published, it is available to the general public to download.

Some sites on iTunes are restricted to universities only and can also have settings created on the podcast channel you have created so that only specified individuals can download and listen to the podcasts you create.


Current Uses in the Government Sector

Many governmental agencies in the federal government use podcasting as a way to communicate both internally and externally about their programs. Subscribing to the podcasts are easy, using the RSS feeds available. A range of departments use podcasts, including the Smithsonian, Department of Defense, and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).[3]

Most podcasting initiatives didn't begin until the past few years, once podcasting became a tried and true way to deliver information over the web. Today, government based podcasts are updated in a wide range of timelines, from once per month to once per week, so that the general public can get the information they need about a wide variety of governmental topics.


Examples and Resources

USDA Economic Research Service Podcasts

The USDA provides the latest research in agricultural research and market trends for both internal and external purposes. These podcasts are generally produced once per month.[4] Click here to view examples: USDA Podcasts
An example of the typical format of USDA podcasts.

Department of Defense Briefings

The US Department of Defense provides information to the public, such as media briefings and the latest updates about departmental initiatives.[5] Click here to view examples: Department of the Defense Briefings

An example of the Department of Defense podcasts.

Peace Corp Volunteer Voices

The US Peace Corp has provided a service with podcasting to educate people on the latest Peace Corp initiatives, and ways the general public can get information about Peace Corp activities.[6] Click here to view examples: Peace Corp Volunteer Voices

An example of the Peace Corp Volunteer Voices podcast.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Podcasts can have some advantages and disadvantages like any tool you will encounter in social media. These include qualities such as:

  • Relatively easy and inexpensive to produce.
  • Downloadable to digital devices to listen on the go.
  • Any content format can work in a podcast.
  • Any person can create a podcast.
  • Share information quickly and in a more engaging format besides writing.
  • Can be produced on both Mac's and PC's.

  • Need to have knowledge to code RSS.
  • Need to have some budget to purchase supplies for software and hardware.
  • Must have a network free of strict firewalls to post podcasts or listen to podcasts.
  • Being somewhat technologically savvy.
  • Considering wide ranges of digital devices when creating podcasts (some devices can only play audio and not video if you were to create a video podcast).

Activities and Assessments


A WebQuest allows you to look more in-depth at a topic. By researching and building upon what you have learned, you can understand information by putting it into practice based off of your research. The WebQuest will require three steps:

1. Look for an example of a podcast not listed on this page produced by the federal government and explore how this podcast is produced. You can explore these at the link provided here: http://www.usa.gov/Topics/Reference_Shelf/Libraries/Podcasts.shtml
2. Subscribe to the RSS feed to see examples of the podcast as it is being published. Make note of the:
  • Frequency of postings
  • Length of recordings
  • General content - is this geared to the public or internal employees?

3. With your team, describe your experience with podcasting as a listener and if it is something that you could use in your agency. Describe why or why not this would be a good option for your agency. Create a three (3) minute podcast and post it to your team portfolio.

Discussion Board

In the discussion board, post questions or comments related to this part of the module. This will also be where you will contribute to the growing knowledge of podcasting. Click here to go to the discussion board: http://socialmediaprototype.wikispaces.com/message/list/Podcasts


Take a quick assessment quiz to test what you have learned in this module. Click here to go to the quiz: http://www.wiziq.com/online-tests/7462-podcasting
  1. ^ http://www.voices.com/podcasting/history-of-podcasting.html
  2. ^ http://www.podcastblaster.com/history-of-podcasting.html
  3. ^ http://www.usa.gov/Topics/Reference_Shelf/Libraries/Podcast_RSS.shtml
  4. ^ http://www.ers.usda.gov/Podcast/
  5. ^ feed:www.pentagonchannel.mil/podcast/xml/PentagonChannelBriefings.xml
  6. ^ feed:www.peacecorps.gov/wws/multimedia/podcasts/rss.xml