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What is…Subscriptions, Podcasting, and Feeds?

This is the latest in a series of “What Is …” (see also Website Tips for more of this series).

Podcasts: Podcasting is a way of distributing audio and video automatically to your computer through a podcast reader. Two popular readers are iTunes (Windows or Mac, free) and FireANT (Windows or Mac, free).

Feeds: Feeds (also known as RSS/Atom/XML) allow you to automatically be alerted when new content for a subscription has been posted. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication and is a web standard for publishing news headlines. By subscribing to RSS feeds from your favorite sites, the latest news is gathered for you into a single application or reader and organized into small news bites. This allows you to quickly read through the latest headlines without having to visit each site. If you are interested in reading more, it is a matter of simply clicking the headline title and it will take you to that site. Atom is the name of syndication standard. XML stands for eXtended Markup Language and is the language that these feeds are written in. To use feeds you need a feedreader program. Here is a list of popular feedreaders:

Windows: SharpReader, Internet Explorer 6 via Pluck, IE7, Firefox via Livebookmarks (built-in) or Sage (plugin).

Mac: NetNewsWire Lite, NewsFire, Firefox (see above).
Web-based: NewsGator (not free), Bloglines, Google Reader.

Subscriptions: You can subscribe to Podcasts, Feeds, and Email lists. Email lists allow mass distribution of one email to a virtually unlimited number of email inboxes. While this may sound eerily familiar to SPAM (or unwanted, unsolicited emails that never seem to stop), the key difference is that you can generally safely subscribe and UN-subscribe from these email subscriptions.

For a complete listing of all the Podcasts, Feeds, and Subscriptions available on our website, please see our subscriptions page.