Like the term broadcast, podcast can refer either to the series of content itself or to the method by which it is syndicated; the latter is also called podcasting. The host or author of a podcast is often called a podcaster.
The term is a portmanteau of the words "iPod" and "broadcast", the Apple iPod being the brand of portable media player for which the first podcasting scripts were developed (see history of podcasting). Such scripts allow podcasts to be automatically transferred from a personal computer to a mobile device after they are downloaded. As more devices other than iPods became able to synchronize with podcast feeds, the term was redefined by some parties as a backronym for "Personal On Demand broadCASTING".
Podcasts are most often listened to on an MP3 player, but they can also be heard on a computer using media player software. Links for direct download are often also included on the podcast's website, so that the podcast can be accessed without the necessity of a subscription. VoIP technology can also be used for podcasts.
Podcasting is becoming increasingly popular in education. Podcasts enable students and teachers to share information with anyone at any time. An absent student can download the podcast of the recorded lesson. It can be a tool for teachers or administrators to communicate curriculum, assignments and other information with parents and the community. Teachers can record book discussions, vocabulary or foreign language lessons, international pen pal letters, music performance, interviews, and debates. Podcasting can be a publishing tool for student oral presentations. Video podcasts can be used in all these ways as well.
As of September 19, 2005, known trademarks that capitalize on podcast include: Podcast Realty, GuidePod, PodGizmo, Pod-Casting, MyPod, Podvertiser, Podango, ePodcast, PodCabin, Podcaster, PodShop, PodKitchen, Podgram, GodPod and Podcast.
As of February 2007, there have been 24 attempts to register trademarks containing the word "PODCAST" in United States, but only "PODCAST READY" from Podcast Ready, Inc. was approved.
On September 26, 2006, it was reported that Apple Computer started to crack down on businesses using the acronym 'POD,' standing for "Portable on Demand," in product and company names. Apple sent a cease-and-desist order that week to Podcast Ready, which markets an application known as myPodder. Lawyers for Apple contended allegedly that the term "pod" has been used by the public to refer to Apple's music player so extensively that it falls under Apple's trademark cover. It was speculated that such activity was part of a bigger campaign for Apple to expand the scope of its existing iPod trademark, which included trademarking "IPODCAST," "IPOD," and "POD. On November 16, 2006, Apple Trademark Department returned a letter claiming Apple does not object to third party usage of "podcast" to refer to podcasting services and that Apple does not license the term(s).