Monday, August 27, 2007

Starting to podcast checklist

Podcasting is quite simple. But you have to start with a decent mic and the capacity to record to your computer (duh). The mic I've heard about is a USB Plantronics - just saw one with a Skype tie-in, I'm going to try it.

But here's a good rundown. Audacity is indeed free - but best is to set one computer just for this type stuff as the more you have running in the background, the better your chances of screwing the pooch... And the blog you have devoted to podcasts should be it's own monkey, since the title link you use will be to the MP3 file.

Podcasting Checklist

STEP 1 - ASSEMBLING GEAR & RECORDING

Before you can get your content out there, you have to record it first. It doesn't really matter how you record your content. What matters is your ability to get the content on to a computer. I'd say almost all people who are podcasting are using their computers to record. I'm going to take the liberty of assuming that this is what you'll do. You'll need some equipment, including a soundcard (with input capability), a microphone (I use a Shure SM57), an audio recording program and an MP3 encoder. So what you're doing is plugging a microphone into a soundcard, then using software to monitor and edit what you've recorded. There are many different types of audio recording programs available. Most Mac owners seem to be using Apple's Garage Band software. Windows PC owners can use a freeware program called Audacity. I use a product called Magix Audio Studio. Magix costs about $80 but it's an awesome program with lots of great features. If you've never used an audio recording program before, this step may seem a bit daunting. Don't worry. Start by doing some test recordings and review the product documentation. With practice, you will get better.

You'll still need some other gear in order to make your setup complete. Get a pair of decent headphones so you can hear how things sound as you record. I recommend a pair of large, over the ear headphones. Check here for a nice selection of good headphones. You can also use a microphone stand too keep your mic in place. I use a boom stand as it offers flexibility for mic positioning. You can also use a pop screen to mute your "P's" when recording.

Once you've got your content recorded you'll want to convert the file to a compressed format, usually MP3 format if your content is audio based. Your audio recording package might have the ability to do this. If so, you're set. If not, I can recommend a great program that's free. It's called dBPowerAmp music converter and it allows you to convert your files at the click of a button.

STEP 2 - PUBLISHING TO THE INTERNET

Now that you've got some content you have to get it out to the internet. Once the content is on the internet you can use the power of RSS to distribute your content worldwide. AWESOME! More on that in a moment. You'll need some webserver space where you can store your content. If you already have a website you can upload your content to a folder on your site.If you don't have a site, there are other options. There are a number of sites that offer storage at low or no cost. If you intend to upload a lot of content I recommend spending some money to get some space on a hosting site. I use Namesecure. For $8.95 per month I get 500 mb of storage space. 500MB can fill up fast if you're adding content on a regular basis, but you can always upgrade if you need to. Once you've got your space, you can upload your files. A high speed internet connection is crucial here. You don't want to be uploading a 10MB file via a dial up connection that will take hours to complete the upload.

STEP 3 - SYNDICATING YOUR CONTENT

This is the crucial step in podcasting. Your content is on the internet but you want to get it out to the masses. That's why you syndicate. With syndication, people can 'subscribe' to your content. So when you add content, subscribers will automatically download that content the next time their aggregator checks your feed. To syndicate you need to create a feed. These days, creating a feed is pretty darn easy. There are a few ways to do it, but I'll let you know the way I'm doing it now. My method is very simple and best of all, it's free! First, set up an account with Blogger. This blog account will allow you to create and update the web page that will hold the links to your content. Blogger allows you generate an Atom feed from your web log entries. The Atom feed itself doesn't allow you to podcast, but it's a necessary step using my method. Look up the help pages on Blogger to get more information on how to set up your blog and the Atom feed. When you set up the Atom feed you'll need to specify a location for the publishing of the data file that will contain your content feed. You'll also need to change the blog settings to activate the Title and Link fields for your web log. The combination of the feed with the title and link fields will give you the basic data elements necessary to create your podcasts.

The next thing to do is create your first weblog entry. Your title should be a concise description of the content you want to podcast. The link field should have the complete link location of your media. You should also add a longer description of the content along with some related insights on the content in the text of the weblog. Once you publish your first post, Blogger will generate the Atom feed to the link you indicated in the setup. The Blogger atom feed can't be picked up by the podcast proper news aggregators because the atom feed doesn't support RSS enclosures. That's why you need to use Feedburner. Feedburner takes the Atom feed and converts it to a proper RSS 2.0 feed that supports enclosures. Feedburner is free and very easy to use. Check their website for more detailed information or pop me an email. Feedburner will assign you a url for your feed and that's where everyone will go to access your feed. You want people to get your feed, don't you?

STEP 4 - PUBLICIZING YOUR FEED

You've done the dirty work, now you need to get the word out there. There are a few simple ways to tell people about your feed. You should start by emailing all of your friends, letting them know that you've done something and inviting them to have a listen (or look.) Another thing you can do is get listed on ipodder.org. The ipodder.org website has directories where you can include a link to your feed. Each category has a "suggest a link" feature allowing you to submit your feed. I'm sure plenty of people are going there to check out what's new. You can also ping audio.weblogs.com in order to get your feed included everytime you add a new enclosure. On the Feed Burner setup page under Additional Services/SmartCast there is a checkbox to allow an automatic ping to audio.weblogs.com every time you update your feed with a new enclosure. A third, and also very simple option, is to send your link out from the Ping-O-Matic website. This is a good option because you can update multiple web log directories with a single click of the mouse.
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