Are you webcasting or podcasting?

Most Internet users have probably watched and listened to a Webcast or possibly even hosted one.

Gail Overton

Most Internet users have probably watched and listened to a Webcast or possibly even hosted one. But an emerging form of audio transmission is the portable and downloadable version of a webcast: the podcast. Unlike webcasts-which are usually created by corporations and larger businesses with equally large IT resources-podcasts are relatively easy to produce for small companies and individuals.

According to Wikipedia (, a webcast (derived from the terms “Web” and “broadcast”) is either the live or archived streaming of video and audio over the Internet, whereas a podcast (derived from the terms “iPod”-referring to the physical Apple-trademarked portable device-and “broadcast”) is a downloadable audio (and increasingly video) file that is meant for on-demand listening or viewing on a PC or a portable media device such as an iPod or MP3 player, and is usually delivered to the device at periodic intervals on a free-subscription basis. Although both webcasts and podcasts can be viewed over the Internet and played back through streaming media players such as RealPlayer, QuickTime, or Windows Media Player, podcasts are productions geared toward automated synchronizing with playlists (like Apple’s iTunes) associated with portable devices.

In the April issue of Laser Focus World, columnist Jeff Bairstow compiled his list of the top ten science and technology podcasts (see To prevent duplication of his efforts, I’d like to point out several good podcast directories that will allow you to do your own searches by subject. Unfortunately, webcast directories are more elusive. Perhaps the best way to find good optoelectronics-related webcasts is to search the Web sites of photonic- and optoelectronic-related companies and industry associations-the typical producers of Webcasts on these subjects. For example, don’t forget the webcast series from Laser Focus World magazine at

In addition to searching purely by subject, allows you to search by region, language, popularity, and has just added a new video search capability. I counted about 50 entries in the science category, and numerous other technology categories including astronomy, physics, and imaging, among many others.

According to public relations manager Ruth Meers, was the first commercial podcast directory (September 2004) and its CEO Dannie Gregoire coined the word “podcast” for the industry. A free-service directory with more than 20,000 podcasts in 400 categories, it allows users to search for podcasts by title, description, creator, location, keywords, and tags.

On the day I searched, Technology ranked number seven in the top ten subject or “tag” listings, with 574 podcast entries ranging from computers to science education to quantum biocommunication. I was able to find some interesting photonic-related podcasts such as HoloTalk and Science Friday-Making Science Radioactive.

In the science category, indiePodder currently has 51 listings-compared to typically less than 20 for other directories. A property of the PodShow (San Francisco, CA) family of Web and media offerings, indiePodder is the only community-managed Podcast directory: listings are suggested by anyone who is able to create an outline processor markup language (OPML) type of file and then post the file as a link in the directory.

Another PodShow property, Podcast Alley has more than 25,000 podcasts indexed, with hundreds of thousands of user-contributed articles, tips, and tricks to help identify podcasts of interest.

Compared to other directories, this site returned a multitude of podcast entries when entering such search terms as “nanotechnology,” “imaging,” and “laser.” For example, a search on “nanotechnology” returned more than 20 podcast listings, and a search on “laser” returned more than 10 listings-compared to just a few or in many cases none at all when using other more popular directories.

Creating your own Podcast

In February, CEO Bruce Manning of the public-relations firm The Manning Group ( several photonics companies including Movaz Networks (Norcross, GA) and Timbercon (Lake Oswego, OR)-began “PRodcasting.” Coining a new term that combines public relations or “PR” with “podcasting,” Manning is now broadcasting what he calls “an ongoing series of public-relations tips, information, interviews, and entertainment for corporate executives and their PR staff.” For example, shortly after the OFC/NFOEC 2006 conference, an informative PRodcast that featured our own PennWell colleague, Stephen Hardy, editor in chief of Lightwave magazine, discussed how PR and company representatives can best interact with media and editors.

Though Manning still views himself as a novice podcaster, he suggested a number of sites that can help you, as a photonics professional, get started on creating your own podcast for educational or promotional purposes.

Billed on their Web site as “The leading provider of free, Web-based tools and services that enable anyone to easily find, create, distribute, promote and listen to podcasts and videocasts,” PodOmatic strives to be a one-stop-shop for podcasters. Cofounder and chief business development officer Johnny Mansour emphasizes how simple (and free) it is to create your own podcast through PodOmatic’s Web browser (no need to download additional programs). PodOmatic also distributes or “syndicates” your Podcast to online directories, and offers statistics on how many people are downloading your Podcast.

Incredibly, podOmatic claims that roughly 4.8 million people downloaded a podcast in 2005 compared to just over 800,000 the previous year. “Podcasting has roots as an alternative to radio-but we at podOmatic see a huge opportunity in opening a round-trip dialog between podcasters and their audience,” says Mansour. “We are pioneering tools that will allow listeners to leave audio comments or podmail in response to a podcasting event, allowing a podcast to be an ‘interactive’ two-way communication.”

Created and cofounded by ex-MTV veejay Adam Curry, PodShow has just introduced PodShow+ (PodShow plus), letting anyone create, host, and distribute a Podcast via PodShowPDN, the Podcast-specific delivery network created by PodShow and Limelight Networks (Tempe, AZ). PodShow+ lets fans of Podcasters create communities around the show, sharing content with Podcasters.

An essential part of any podcast is often the music that supplements the narrative. At, individuals can register and accept a simple artist agreement to freely add music to their podcast that is “podsafe”-or in other words, is guaranteed and cleared for use within a podcast without copyright or royalty restrictions by the music owner.

Because the list of available tools relevant to podcast users and creators gets longer all the time, this Web site offers a comprehensive library of resources including definitions and terms, podcast directory listings, free music and icons for podcast creators, Web sites that allow you to post your podcast to various directories, listings of podcast forums and blogs, and links to other podcast-related Web sites.

Every other month, associate editor Gail Overton presents her view of what the World Wide Web offers optics and photonics engineers, researchers, and technical professionals. Topics will help readers identify Internet sites that provide links to databases, tutorials, collaboration and technology licensing opportunities, scientific blogs and chat rooms, and other online resources of interest. To share your best Web-site finds with our readers, please contact Gail Overton at

More in Research