Make Noise the New Fashioned Way Demystifying the Podcast. Thomas Dopko [email protected] What we will cover. What Makes a Podcast a Podcast Defining a Potentially Confusing Term How Podcasts are Used in the Enterprise Podcasting Essentials (a Visual Guide)
A podcast is a collection of files (usually audio and/or video) residing on a host server. People can "subscribe" to this audio “feed” by submitting the address of the podcast location to an aggregator or receiver like iTunes or Juice. When new "episodes" become available in the podcast, they will be automatically* downloaded to that user’s computer. If you are already lost or confused, don’t sweat it. I’ll explain it all.
The key concept here is subscribe, so lets see if we can illustrate the concept with a graphical analogy…
In the case of the podcast, your computer (or other device) is your house and your aggregator is the mailbox.
Just like a magazine, you subscribe to a podcast. In both cases you make the initial connection by contacting them in order to receive their content.
With both types of subscriptions, you just check your mail to see what is new. With a podcast, your mailbox is your aggregator and you are subscribed until you unsubscribe.
In both cases, the content is stored at an external location whether it be a warehouse or a hosting server.
RSS 2.0 (Real Simple Syndication) is a data format used within XML files that facilitates the “feed” aspect. This means that the data within the RSS tags is formatted specifically to provide a reader, or receiver with information it can use to dynamically update content when a new edition or episode is added. The tags within the RSS tags have information about how to format the podcast so that the users see items the way they were meant to be seen (title, author, description, etc).
Before you embark on a long and successful career as a podcaster, you need your concept. What is the purpose of this proposed, potential podcast and who is going to be hearing it? Decide on a basic objective and gear your podcast towards that objective. Keep it simple, but don’t just make a “testing 1-2-3” podcast as it requires very little thought or creativity (two things you should be trying to cultivate if you want to have people listen regularly).
You can use a standard line-in microphone, or a (preferable) USB microphone. I prefer the USB due to the greater amount of data that can be utilized to capture your voice and filter out background noise. If you do not have access to a full studio, try to record the audio in a small room where echoes and stray redundant analog signals are kept to a minimum.
While you can certainly record directly into a basic sound recorder, you will more than likely want to clean up the recording before posting it. More importantly, you will need to save your audio down to the correct format. Instead of going into great (and excruciating) detail about the various file types, you should be looking to end up with an MP3 file as your final output.
The reasoning behind this inclusion should not be too tough to divine… but it is essential.
You will need to port your file(s) to a server or hosting service so that they can be accessed by other users. If your podcast is going to be internal only, you will still need to find it a home in a location within your own network environment. Some people update podcasts using nothing but their PDA and an Internet connection.
The hosting server could be a file server in your own network, the server used to host your website or it might even be a server operated by a hosting service that manages podcasts. Whatever the case, your files need to be stored in a location that can be reached by listeners’ aggregators or receivers.
The aggregator or receiver is used to establish the connection to the podcast files stored on the hosting server. Once you provide the feed address and tweak a few delivery settings you should be able to open iTunes or Juice and have new episodes automatically download to your playlist.
1. Create your audio content. The content can be anything you like, including audio books, music, "radio" type shows, interviews, or business content. There's no formula for creating the audio content.
Personally, I use GarageBand when using my MacBook Pro and WavePad when I’m on my ThinkPad. Whatever the platform, there is a software suite you can easily use. All you really need it for is inputting your voice, maybe cleaning it up and then saving it as an MP3.
GarageBand is a part of the iLife suite that comes with most new Macs. While it offers built-in podcasting tools and is very user friendly, it may have more options than you want.
WavePad is a part of a free suite of tools you can download from the internet. It serves its purpose and lets you record, edit and publish audio recordings with relative ease.
Click the New File button or choose the action from the File menu option.
High sample rates = larger files as more data is captured to create a digital representation of the sound being recorded
You are starting off making a wav recording which means an analog waveform is being captured digitally from your voice (or dog barking, etc…)
You can make some last tweaks to the settings before hitting the red record button. Keep an eye on the recording levels as abnormally high levels can result in garbled unusable audio samples
Rewind and listen to your recording, or if you’d prefer, you can fiddle around some more with your settings. Clicking the close button on this mini interface will drop your recording into the main editing window
At this point you can edit the recording by adding a fade in, or cropping the dead air at the end. Take some time to look at the available edit options and effects. Some are pretty useful and cool while others are seemingly pointless.
When you save your file remember that you should probably change the file type to mp3 as it is a pretty standard audio file compression method
There are lots of settings available to fine tune the file’s encoding properties. Things like constant and variable bitrate may sound confusing, but don’t worry about them with this attempt.
Remember that a stereo encoded recording will be bigger than a mono recorded version. The more data needed to manage the file, the bigger it is.
2. Publish/Upload your MP3 (audio file) – After you have cleaned up your audio a bit and have edited out the dead air and various undefined noises, save or upload your MP3 file(s) to your web server or in most first-time cases a hosting service. Some companies have internal podcast capabilities through SharePoint or other server configurations. To publish your file simply means to get it from your local machine to a publicly accessible server.
If you create your XML feed file on your own, you should be keeping all your files in one folder on the host server.
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<rss version="2.0" xmlns:itunes="http://www.itunes.com/DTDs/Podcast-1.0.dtd" xmlns:media="http://search.yahoo.com/mrss/">
<title> Title of your site </title>
<description> A description of your podcast show </description>
<itunes:author>Your Name </itunes:author>
<link> http://www.yourserver.com/YourPodcastHomepage/ </link>
<itunes:image href="http://www.yourserver.com/YourPodcastPicture.jpg" />
<pubDate> Sun, 09 Oct 2005 21:00:00 PST </pubDate>
<copyright> Copyright Year Your_Name </copyright>
<title> This is just a test </title>
<description> A description of your podcast episode </description>
<itunes:author> Your Name </itunes:author>
<pubDate> Thu, 16 Jun 2005 5:00:00 PST </pubDate>
<enclosure url="http://www.yourserver.com/podcast_file.mp3" length="3174554" type="audio/mpeg" /> </item>
PodBean is a podcasting service that allows you to upload your audio files to their servers. You provide a few bits of information and then a feed file is generated and you can just copy the URL for use in an aggregator or to send/post for others to use.
Note Pad can be used to generate a homemade XML file with the appropriate RSS tags. As I mentioned before, you need a little patience or basic tag knowledge for the code.
After creating an account with a hosting service like Podbean, log in and click the Publish a podcast link.
While there are lots of nifty things to configure and goof around with, click on the Upload link to continue with the process of making your podcast
Depending on the site/hosting service you use, there are multiple ways to upload your audio files. Often you can upload to a repository of files and then reference the mp3 you want to publish, or you can upload the file on the fly
It is always a good idea to plan ahead and come up with a specific location and naming convention so that you can manage your files easily and quickly
There are two primary methods used to upload your files, the fastest being FTP. If you plan on using FTP to upload your content, be aware that most free services limit the bandwidth you can use. The upload utility built into most free sites works perfectly fine
Enter tags for searching capabilities, add your title in and perhaps post a description to go along with your podcast.
If you already uploaded an audio file, you can select it from the drop-down box, or you can browse and upload the file on the fly.
3. Create/acquire your podcast news feed - Podcast feeds are most often associated with RSS capabilities allowing for syndicated distribution. If you are planning on creating your own feed file, it requires a little coding knowledge (or at least a reckless absence of fear).
If you would rather use a service to store your audio file, you will not need to create the feed file but will instead provide a few items of information that will be used to generate a feed file.
Simply copy your feed address to your clipboard so that you can paste it into the subscription field in the receiver of your choice.
4. Testing the Podcast (Using an Aggregator) - In order for the aggregator (iTunes or Juice) to be able to access your multimedia, it needs to have the address of your XML file that was specifically coded to achieve this.
The receiver needs the feed address only, and if you made your own feed file it will be something like http://www.fitcharoo.com/podcasts/mypodcast.xml. Just like an RSS reader, you can often add feed addresses very easily using simple “Create New…” buttons or menu options.
Paste your feed address into the appropriate form field. Each receiver is different, so be prepared to do a little trial-and-error
Using iTunes as your podcast receiver is a good idea at first as it has lots of support (and support files for it.) Other receivers that do nothing but pull new podcasts down may be more specialized, but in this one we’ll just use iTunes.
Once your feed address is in place, simply configure the Podcast Settings or use the defaults. You often have many options when it comes to managing a feed, but iTunes is pretty easy to work with.
If you create a podcast that you want to be searchable through iTunes, you can use a simple sign-up process with nothing more than an iTunes account and your podcast feed address. The link below will take you to the iTunes podcast specifications page.