Podcasting Search Engine - The Good And The Not So Good

by : Danny Wirken

It is much easier for search engines to index text blogs than podcasts or videoblogs. At present, search engines are using link text and the text surrounding the links to podcasts and videoblogs as a means to index their contents. The situation is admittedly a far cry from the ideal but the great strides being seen in the development of technologies towards the indexing of these mediacasts are very encouraging.

Podcasting in Relation to Search Engines

Podcasting is the method of distributing multi-media files over the Internet using either the RSS or atom-syndication formats, for playback on mobile devices and personal computers. This may include, but is not limited to, audio programs and music videos. Podcast can mean both the content and method of delivery while a podcaster is the host or author of a podcast.

The websites of podcasters may offer direct download or streaming of their files. A podcast usually features a single type of show with new episodes introduced regularly or sporadically, although there are podcast networks that feature multiple shows on the same feed. It can be downloaded automatically using software capable of reading RSS or atom feeds.

The term podcasting is technically a misnomer as it combines two words: iPod and broadcasting. It does not require an iPod or over-the-air broadcasting. The "pod" name association stemmed from the popularity of the iPod digital audio player during the time that podcasting began. A lot of other terms have been suggested for use but the term stuck and remained as such.

Like any other regular websites that aim to be found by searchers, search engines have much to contribute towards this end including podcasts. Podcast optimization can be achieved by promoting only one feed. Many podcasters commit the mistake of creating a podcast and then moving over to a different management system which entails promoting a new RSS feed. This usually results to a lot of different feeds for every podcast which may be disadvantageous in the long run.

Another way to get the most out of podcasts is by optimizing the audio file. The findability gap should be closed since a lot of people listen to a podcast on their computers as well as their MP3 players. A landing page can be optimized for each episode of the show as well as the category page. Subscription information that is very visible on the landing page is highly recommended.

Podcasters should also look into building correct and valid feeds with feed validation tools. Since iTunes do not redistribute, a separate feed must be built for it. Doing three separate feeds - a 2.0 feed, a media feed and an iTunes feed is ideal.

The inclusion of a transcript or summary depending on the podcast's time span is needed. A landing page usually requires just a summary which is a well optimized page covering the podcast's high points. Some search engines use speech-recognition to determine the relevancy of the podcast.

Quality podcasts may not be easy to find. This is especially true if the desired site is one that has already done the lifting for its searchers including podcast search engines, directories and round up sites. A huge variety of podcasts are available in a wide variety of genres.

The Podcasting Search Engines

Generally, major search engines are not indexing podcasts in a format that is easy to find. However, some podcast-specific search engines seem to have solved some of the problems. Podscope searches for the spoken words within the podcasts themselves. Yahoo! Podcasts is very user friendly and is one of the more consistent and useful in finding good podcasts. Singing Fish provides a whole ream of results by just typing in podcast or bring back audio results only when specified with the use of drop-down menus on the top left. Other worthy research engines includes Podzinger, Blinkx, BlogDigger and Lycos Audio Search.

Aside from search engines, podcast directories are virtual goldmines for finding good podcasts. The Podcast includes the very useful Top Ten Podcasts of the Month as voted by listeners. The NPR Podcast Directory contains quality podcasts in a subject directory format. The categorizes podcasts of various subjects by tags which are available for free download. Podcast Bunker is likewise one of the best places to find quality podcasts on the web.

Search engines have become very useful especially to those who don't particularly enjoy the search process. allows the user to search podcasts in the same way as searching for anything else in the web. A word or phrase typed in will find relevant broadcasts and highlights the segment of the audio in which they occurred. It is not perfect but it serves the user's need at this time. It works with a speech-recognition software which transforms audio into words. and Blinkx are sites that work in a similar way.

Podzinger and Blinkx are search engines that scour audio content for keywords by translating the audio into text and creating an index for quick searching. This is a step ahead of traditional search engines that can only identify keywords in a podcast's Meta data such as the headline and introductory notes which describes the audio file's general content.

Podzinger has officially ended its beta and lets users jump to the spot in a podcast where their search term appears. This is a welcome option to being forced to scan an entire program for pertinent parts such as with Blinkx. The design results to an uncluttered search page similar to those of Google. Podcasters can also link to a searchable index of their content in order to sell sponsored links to text in the index provided by Podzinger.

Both Podzinger and Blinkx include information about the source of the podcast as well as excerpts of text translated from the podcast. This comes with the added convenience of having relevant search terms highlighted. In this regard, Podzinger's information is more extensive while allowing users to hear excerpts and determine its relevancy before downloading the entire podcast.

Podscope searches podcasts but scans only for sounds of syllable rather than full words. It has operated a keyword search engine for video and radio broadcast since 1999. By far, the Blinkx service is a bit more extensive as it scours thousands of podcast and offers search for 1 million hours of TV news video and the content of academic lectures.

The problem at hand for podcast search is the difficulty in finding what is really needed in podcasts. Relevant results cannot be attained without words thus the heavy reliance on speech recognition software that would help the public search for on-line video and radio content. Podcasts are a priority at this time due to popularity boom it is currently experiencing. The aim is to make the spoken word as searchable as the printed word.