If you're a podcast addict like me, you're always on the lookout for interesting audio and video programs to fill your portable media player. After awhile, stuff like "Ask a Ninja" and the "Onion News" only satisfies so much. Then you yearn for something more intellectually nourishing. And fortunately there's a growing selection of free quality content available on the Internet. The producers are usually organizations like universities, think tanks, bookstores and public forums (such as San Francisco's Commonwealth Club). The formats are typically classes, lectures, interviews and panel discussions. The speakers are generally writers, scientists, academics, political leaders and others who have something worthwhile to say.
Finding good programs is getting much easier. I particularly like Fora.tv, an aggregator of spoken word content that let's you browse through hundreds of videos by broad topic (economy, culture, politics, technology, etc.), geography (Europe, Africa, North America, etc.), partner organization (Cato Institute, UC New York Public Library, etc.) and speaker. There's also a keyword search engine for more narrow searches. You can watch streaming videos right on the Fora.tv web site or download the video or audio files for transfer to a portable device like the iPod. The range of content is broad and deep, and the speakers are first rate. New Fora.tv programming is distributed through the iTunes Store as free podcasts.
iTunes also carries university-produced multimedia content in a separate channel called iTunes U. This is place to sample classes, lectures, concerts and other events sponsored by some the nation's leading colleges (including CSUS, UC Davis, UC Berkeley, Stanford, MIT, Harvard and others).
Speaking of universities, there's a new online hub just for free video courses led by professors at top schools. Academic Earth lectures are browseable by subject, university or instructor. The number of videos is somewhat small, but the quality of the current content bodes well for future growth.
I ought to mention the impressive amount of quality material on YouTube, the goliath of video aggregation. Using Google's Advanced Video Search you can hunt for lectures, interviews, panels and documentaries by keywords such as speaker name, subject and sponsoring group. Many organizations who distribute content online via podcast or web page streaming have created YouTube channels to reach an extended audience. One of them is UCTV, the broadcasting arm of the University of California system, whose YouTube channel, UCtelevision, delivers the best of its educational and enrichment programming for the general public.
I'm sure I've only skimmed the surface of mulitimedia sources on the internet. If you know of others, share it with this blog's readers by adding a comment below.