Whether you miss the accents, the banter, or just the deep-dive information that only a local can bring you, podcasts can help you stay in touch with your homeland and soften bouts of homesickness.
A podcast is a series of MP3 files that are freely downloadable on the internet. Most podcasts consist of people talking about a subject they love, or “podsafe” music from unsigned bands, happy for the exposure. The producer will periodically release new shows, but you are free to listen to them whenever you want to.
All you need to listen to a podcast is a computer with an internet connection and speakers. Installing Apple’s iTunes will make it easier to keep up-to-date with your favourite podcasts. Add an MP3 player and you can listen to your shows wherever you like.
The iTunes app will also let you browse the Apple store to locate and subscribe to podcasts that match your interests. Don’t let the terms “subscribe” and “store” mislead you – with one or two exceptions, all podcasts are free to download.
It’s important to understand the difference between podcasts and streaming Internet audio. The subscription model of podcasts means you never need miss an episode of your favourite show, and the MP3 format – compatible with iPods and other MP3 players – let you take the shows with you and listen to them at your convenience. The technical and financial barriers have also been significantly reduced, which has led to an explosion in amateur podcasting.
While I find the amateur podcast scene more interesting, let’s cover the professional world first. The BBC is going on a huge podcast kick, making a wide selection of radio shows available shortly after their broadcast. Virgin Radio is also podcasting about half-a-dozen of their DJs. In newspaper-land, the Guardian and the Telegraph are leading the way.
So now to the amateurs: Just as you might read an Internet message board as well as the BBC website, you might want to find a few amateur podcasts to provide a refreshing alternative to what the “big media” are making available.
The first place to visit is the Britcaster website. This is a directory where British podcasters can sign up in order to promote their shows.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my own podcast: Soccer Shout. A mate and I do a daily twenty-minute show that covers football match reports, previews and news from England and Scotland . We try to be both informative and also provide a bit of the banter that many expats miss.
One of the more popular Britcasts is Top of the Pods. It’s a daily dose of silliness driven by listener-submitted Top Ten lists. Recent subjects range from favourite sweets, to ambassadors for England, to human-animal hybrids.
I’ll throw in one more, because there are hundreds of podcasts produced by Brits and we could be here all day: The Aycliffe Podcast. It’s a fine example of what is almost an audio version of a blog. It’s nothing more than a couple of lads having a chat from their village in north-east England, but a nice reminder of life back home.
Many podcasts – ours included – encourage their audience to get involved and contribute in much the same way as fanzines and websites do. As well as email, podcasts have the added dimension of accepting listener voicemails and cutting them into the show.
While these are early days for podcasting, it is also a golden time when amateurs are on a more or less equal footing with the big boys. This means there are delicious slices of “home” available for your consumption, if you know where to look.
Phil creates his podcast, Soccer Shout, from a basement in Maryland, USA.
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