Advantages & Disadvantages of Podcasting
By Clare Edwards
Podcasts are audio recordings that have been made in or converted into a digital format. They are intended to be downloaded from the Internet and played either through your computer, a mobile device or a personal media player. Podcasts are typically talk shows, but may also contain music. Podcasts containing images or video are often called vodcasts. Podcasts can be entertaining, informative and convenient; however, they don't have all the advantages of the traditional radio broadcasts they're based on.
Podcasts can be used for many different purposes. Some consist of reviews for books, movies, games or other products; others are instructional, discussing how to accomplish tasks such as DIY projects or computer upgrades. Podcasts are often used for entertainment to present plays or audiobooks. More and more schools and colleges are making lectures and other materials available for download as podcasts, both for enrolled students and others who may be interested in auditing classes.
Creation and Distribution
Podcasts are very easy to create. Anyone can record and upload a podcast without the need for expensive equipment or software; the results may be a little rough without dedicated tools, but it's possible to create a podcast even if you don't have them. There are plenty of distribution channels, including podcast directories and sites such as iTunes. Podcasts can be uploaded to your own Web space or shared via third-party sites.
Podcasts are a convenient way to enjoy entertainment or educate yourself wherever you are. A student can review previous lessons on the way to class; a commuter can use her travel time to catch up with the week's industry news; a jogger can listen to an audiobook. Podcasts can be played back repeatedly, listened to in full or scanned for key details.
Problems with Access
While making material available as a podcast can help improve access, you shouldn't rely exclusively on podcasts as a means to communicate your message. Those with slower connections may find it difficult to download audio files; depending on the podcast's audio format, it may not be playable on all media devices. Transcripts or video versions should be made available to hearing-impaired individuals, who will benefit less from audio materials.
A further disadvantage of podcasts is the lack of interactivity. Unlike a meeting, conference call or group text chat, podcasts don't allow listeners the chance to ask questions or offer input. Issues may also arise from the use of copyrighted material; for example, a music podcast that uses copyrighted tunes may risk being in violation of intellectual property laws. Even if you've made the recording yourself, if you're reading a text that isn't in the public domain you may find yourself facing legal problems.
Clare Edwards has been providing Internet content since 1998. She has written and translated for a variety of markets: everything from technical articles to short fiction and essays on alternative spirituality. She holds a certificate of higher education in electronics and audio arts from Middlesex University.