Leslie Cole: Podcasts: The end of an era?

Leslie Cole is a technical writer and site manager for the newly minted Office Podcasts directory. When she’s not chewing her nails on the Microsoft Redmond campus, Leslie can be found in West Seattle herding three children, a dog, a cat, two chickens, and two parakeets.

True story: A year ago, I didn’t know what a podcast was. I was embarrassingly behind the curve given that I write about technology and that podcasts and podcasting have been around since 2004. A few folks at the New Media Expo I attended in August even lamented the passing of the golden podcast era.

If you still don’t know what a podcast or an RSS subscription is all about, and I know you’re not alone, you’ll agree that podcasting has far from reached its full audience potential. Maybe it’s time for you to take advantage of this fantastic way to view audio and video about almost any subject, on demand. What could be more convenient? And, you don’t need an iPod or any other mobile device to listen to or view podcasts.

Podcasts can be identified like this:

The subscription or RSS feed contains a list of audio and/or video episodes for the podcast series you want to listen to or watch. You don’t have to do a thing except click Subscribe on the RSS feed page and, if you have Outlook, collect new episodes automatically to view any time you want. No Outlook? Install feed aggregator software for free off the web. Go ahead, subscribe to The Best of Office OFFline right now (I know you’ll love it); I dare you. But, if you’re still unsure, listen to this 2-minute audio podcast about RSS by the Crabby Office Lady herself. 

Are you convinced yet that podcasts sound easy enough? Then you’re ready to graduate to podcast directories 101. Directories all over the Web feature podcast series about everything from basketball to vegetarianism.

You can turn on our own Office channel to watch Office Podcasts: a podcast directory about everything from Office products to office politics. Start to browsing the podcast directory by checking out the Featured podcasts tab.

Did you notice Presentations Roundtable? Richard Bretschneider produces and hosts this fine audio podcast about the art of creating presentations.

First, click the episode title to go to Richard’s show notes page. Sometimes we’ve featured the latest episode, but often the featured episode is something that caught our eye and that we thought might catch yours, too.

The buttons below the featured podcast give you options related to subscriptions and mobile devices. By clicking the video or earphones icons on the left you can download the featured audio or video episode file to play directly on your computer.

Zune and iPod icons allow you to subscribe to a series through Zune marketplace and iTunes, and then to download the series episodes to view on your Zune or iPod-compatible mobile devices. The RSS icon on the right is a convenient way to subscribe to the series so that you get updated episodes as soon as they are available.

Don’t forget to check out the Products and Titles tabs for a comprehensive catalog of all of the podcast episodes on Office Podcasts. The Community tab features not only podcasts hosted by folks like you but also links to blogs, twitter posts, additional episodes, and other information.

Soon you’ll be making your own audio and video podcasts. There are dozens of tutorials out there… don’t let anyone stop you. Send us a link! Maybe we’ll feature your podcast.