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Songs are only one type of audio file you can listen to on your iPod. Your iPod is also a great device for listening to podcasts—those online audio programs that help you keep up with current news and opinions.

Understanding Podcasts

Despite the name, a podcast doesn't necessarily have anything to do with Apple's iPod. A podcast is essentially a homegrown radio program, distributed over the Internet, that you can play on any portable audio player—iPods included.

Anyone with a microphone and a computer can create her own podcasts. That's because a podcast is nothing more than a digital audio file (typically in MP3 format) posted to the Internet. Most podcasters deliver their content via an RSS feed, which enables users to easily find future podcasts by subscribing to the podcaster's feed. The podcasts are then downloaded to the listener's portable audio player and listened to at the listener's convenience.

What kinds of podcasts are out there? It's an interesting world, full of all sorts of basement and garage productions and more professional recordings. Probably the most common form of podcast is the amateur radio show, where the podcaster assembles a mixture of personally selected music and commentary. But, there are also professional podcasts by real radio stations and broadcasters, interviews and exposés, and true audio blogs that consist of running commentary and ravings. The variety is staggering, and the quality level ranges from embarrassingly amateurish to surprisingly professional.

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