If anything's a given about the iPod, it's that the player has a solid history of handling podcasts exceptionally well. This has to do with the firmware on the device itself, but perhaps more credit should be given to the iTunes software, which makes excellent use of its integrated music store interface to aggregate, organize, and promote a wide variety of podcats--likely the widest array available in any one spot. That's great for iPod owners, but what about the rest of us? Never fear: there are plenty of solutions available.
I have a Creative Zen MP3 player, and I want to subscribe to podcasts from NPR and learn Spanish. What would be the best way to "collect" the subscriptions for podcasts? Can my Creative software convert iTunes podcasts to MP3? iTunes seems to have an easy system to "collect" the podcasts for loading to an iPod, but I'm not sure if it will convert podcasts to MP3 or if I need software. Is it necessary to buy a piece of software for active collection of podcasts? Any suggestions or pointing to a Web site would be appreciated.-- Kerry, via e-mail
A: For the Zen line of MP3 players, Creative offers a service and software called ZenCast, which allows you to subscribe to and manage podcast. This combination will give you the most seamless experience for your particular player, but if you are already comfortable with iTunes, that is actually a perfectly reasonable way to collect podcasts for the Zen or any other MP3 players. The podcasts available through iTunes are already in MP3 format, so there is no need to convert the files to get them to playback on any non-iPod MP3 player.
Provided you haven't adjusted any Library settings in iTunes, podcasts should automatically be saved under My Music>iTunes>Podcasts. You can set up Creative MediaSource or Windows Media Player (or most other jukeboxes) to automatically monitor any folder for new media, so to make the experience more effortless, have your media manager monitor that Podcasts folder. Then, you can simply sync the new podcasts from the software when you connect your device. (With the Zen, you may also drag-and-drop podcasts from the folder to the player via Windows Explorer.)
For those who are anti-iTunes and use other MP3 players, check out Juice. It works across all platforms and has positive user feedback. Have another recommendation? Feel free to talk it up in the comment section below.
MP3 Mailbox Monday is a recurring feature where I answer a selection of questions about MP3 players and accessories, such as headphones, speakers, and music services and software. Check back often to see if the advice presented here might be of some use to you, or send your questions directly to me. (Note: We never include last names, but if you prefer to remain completely anonymous, please state as much in your e-mail.)