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What is Vodcasting?

By Dan Rahmel  |  03-Jul-2006

When I first heard of "vodcasting," the term seemed to be a clumsy upgrade of the more popular term "podcasting." Podcasting is related primarily to audio, so it seemed that for video, someone just stuck the letter V on the front. Now that I know it means "video-on-demand casting," I think it's a good moniker that pretty much describes the benefits of the technology. It's also much more flexible than the other terms (such as vlogging, video blogging, pocket cinema, and so on) that have been used.

Vodcasting, like podcasting, is a subscription technology. When you're surfing the web, you may have noticed icons on web sites that say "RSS" or contain some link to an RSS or Atom feed. These icons contain a link to the site’s feed file.

What is a feed file? A feed file holds the equivalent of a table of contents of the most recent content items (often sorted by publication date) on the web site. There is an entry for each item in the table of contents. The item may be a written article, an audio file, or -- in the case of a vodcast -- a video file. Each TOC entry contains information such as a descriptive title, a link to the actual content (text, audio, or video), and a brief description of the item.

If you want to subscribe to a vodcast, you need a program variously called a podcatcher or an aggregator. Juice is a popular free media aggregator. When you find a feed that interests you, you simply point the aggregator at the feed file by adding the URL (that might appear as something like "http://www.myvodcast.com/myvodcast.rss").

The aggregator will download this table of contents file at regular intervals and check if there are any new items. Anything new will be displayed in a list so you can select the items you want to read, listen to, or view.

If your aggregator is set to automatic download, new items will automatically be downloaded onto your computer. With a combined aggregator/media player such as Apple's iTunes, you can designate that new content from a subscription is automatically download into your Video iPod.

That means that you can subscribe of a vodcast (a news program, for example) and the video content will be automatically downloaded in the background. When you put your Video iPod or other portable device into its cradle, the news program will be loaded downloaded and then you can watch later at your convenience.

You can, of course, watch a vodcast on your computer. In fact, some vodcasts use streaming technology, which means you must be connected to the Internet at the time you want to watch them.

In the next article, we'll use Juice to download and watch a vodcast.

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