RSS Feeds, Podcasts, Webcasts

What does an RSS Feed do?

RSS feeds automatically update content available without requiring users to constantly check back to the site again and again. By subscribing to an RSS feed, all new content added to the feed will be automatically and instantaneously delivered to you. Many news sites use RSS feeds to deliver headlines and brief article summaries to subscribers, for example. Some blogs also use an RSS feed to alert their subscribers when new posts are available. The FTC offers RSS feeds to update you when new press releases, speech transcripts, and other information is available.

How do I subscribe?

To subscribe to an RSS feed, download a free RSS aggregator or RSS reader. (There are free programs that can be downloaded.) Many of these programs resemble software that allows you to read emails – as new content becomes available, it’s automatically delivered to your computer and shows up in your program. But, just like with emails, you can also used a Web-based service, rather than downloading and using a separate program.

You can choose to view the new content whenever you want, or even ignore it. A list of feeds available from the FTC can be found at You have to enter the address (URL) of the specific feed you want to subscribe to (for example: into the program. Each program will have specific instructions for adding feeds.

What is a Podcast?

A Podcast also uses RSS feeds to distribute content on the Internet. A Podcast sends audio or video files to your computer or MP3 player, letting you control when you want to listen to the files or view them. By subscribing to the feed once, you automatically get any new content sent to you as soon as it becomes available. You can play the audio or video files either on a personal computer or you can synchronize an MP3 player with your computer to play the files.

Podcasts are similar to a television or radio series in some ways. There is a program offered that you enjoy, with new episodes offered frequently. Each episode offers new, unique content that fits within the theme for the program. With a Podcast, however, you don’t have to “tune in” at a certain time of day; you can enjoy each new episode anytime you want, after it’s made available. By signing up for that Podcast’s feed, it’s delivered to you automatically.

How can I receive a Podcast?

First, you need to install a piece of software (a “Podcatcher”) onto your computer. Sometimes, this software comes with an MP3 player. Otherwise, you can download it for free.

Then, you copy and paste the Web address of the feed (for example: into that software. The Podcatcher runs without interrupting your ability to use your computer, checking the feeds of any Podcasts you have subscribed to. When the Podcatcher detects new content, it automatically downloads the material to your computer or MP3 player.

What is a Webcast?

A Webcast is material that is available live from a Web site, at the same time an event is occurring. A Webcast is a one-time thing, unlike the series of episodes on a feed for a Podcast.

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