In the first post in this series, I gave the shortest way to listening to a podcast: clicking on it in the web and playing it in your browser or media player.
In the second, I explained how you can download and store podcast files.
In the third, you were guided through downloading and installing iTunes - the easiest and most wildely used all-round application for finding, downloading and listening to podcasts.
Now that you have iTunes installed on your computer, behind the scenes something very important has happened: this application can be called any time. This helps you when you find a podcast on-line. You may notice a button that allows to 'subscribe through iTunes'. This means, by clicking the button, you will call iTunes and you will automatically be subscribed to the podcast. As of that moment, iTunes will know when there are new episodes of this podcast and will automatically download the latest (or do something else, according to the preferences you set).
The buttons look like this:
Alternatively, you may find a link that says 'iTunes', 'subscribe through iTunes' or 'direct subscription'. Clicking these will have the very same effect: iTunes is called and the takes care, automatically of subscription.
If you hover over these links or buttons, you will come to recognize the link, which is that they link to phobos.apple.com. Other subscribe links will look different and only in exceptional circumstances call iTunes. More likeley are they going to link you through to an XML file, or to feedburner. However, also these subscription links can be used with iTunes, only not automatically. Nevertheless, after having applied them manually in iTunes, the effect will be the same as described before: you will be subscribed and iTunes will download the latest episode, when it comes in.
Here is how you subscribe manually to a podcast in iTunes: right-click the subscription link and copy it (in Internet Explorer choose copy shortcut and in FireFox copy link location). Then open iTunes and choose Advanced | subscribe to podcast... from the menu. In the next dialog, paste the link and click OK. Thus, you have manually subscribed to a podcast.
Once you have experienced this way of getting to podcasts, you will not bother with the previously described approaches. As an additional advantage, podcasts arrived at this way, will be organized by iTunes, in the podcast folder, giving you a very friendly and accessible overview.
Downloading and installing iTunes,
Downloading audio files from the web,
Listening on line.