What is Podcasting and How Can I do it?
What is podcasting?
Podcasting, in short, is the term for generating a form of online media whether this be audio or video and distributing this media via a ‘feed’.
This can be a series of lectures, a weekly/monthly news roundup, a set of messages from different departments, or even a mechanism for the dissemination of training. Podcasts can be generated from and for almost anything.
It is important to note that podcasts are distributed with an RSS feed. Without getting too technical, RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication” — and it really is quite simple!
Let’s think of a newspaper subscription. How does that work and compare to podcasting?
Podcast & RSS Subscription
1. Go to the newsagent and order a subscription to your favourite newpaper/magazine.1. Go onto iTunes or a website and subscribe to a podcast series or press the RSS Orange Feed Button.2. The magazine publishes a new issue and the newsagent delivers to your postbox.2. A new podcast or news story is available and is automatically downloaded to your computer or mobile device.3. You get bored of the magazine and cancel your subscription.3. You delete the RSS feed from your preferred RSS Reader (iTunes/Google Reader etc).4. You are running out of space in your magazine rack so you throw out old issues.4. Tell your reader that you only want to keep the most recent 5 items in the feed.5. You like the magazine that you are subscribed to but would like another one as you have more free time.5. You can add multiple feeds to your reader or download multiple podcasts to your iTunes, Google Reader etc.
How do I get a Feed?
So now that you know how it works, you need to get yourself something to manage your feed. This can be any of the following which work really well:
- WordPress — Autogenerates a feed from which people can click on the RSS button to take a feed from your latest posts/podcasts.
- Google’s Feed Burner — Allows tracking of feeds, number of subscribers and easier implementation into iTunes.
- Blogger — Much like WordPress, it’s a free blogging site which allows you to embed visual or audible media into each post.
So there are a few options you can use.
How do I make content?
There are two types of content you can use to make a podcast — audio and video (which has audio too!).
Some of the things you’ll need to make an audio only podcast:
- A relatively good microphone.
- An audio recording device / or computer to record to.
- A laptop/PC/Mac to edit your recorded audio with.
- A Feed.
Some of the things you’ll need to make a video podcast:
- All of the above.
- A video camera — Price depending on what quality you’d like the end output to be.
- Probably a tripod to hold the camera steady.
- Lights to light the subject of your podcast (not an absolute necessity).
- Some video editing software (either free or professional).
- A good enough computer that will ‘render’ the video in good time rather than waiting around hours to finish and be ready for upload.
The ‘ACTUAL’ content is down to you I’m afraid. Whether your podcast is educational, comical or news driven, you need to be the one that comes up with the idea. (I know a few good joke websites if you need some one-liners!)
But seriously, look at podcasting as an ongoing process, not just a ‘one-off’ dip-your-toe-in and run away.
Good podcasts are made by having very interesting content and which people can return to in time. Most good podcasts have a central theme and maintain that theme throughout.
If it is a one-off series, or something that you are looking to do for a long time, try and maintain the level of quality in the content, but also the production value. People will keep coming back and your subscription rate will increase. Promise!
Bad podcasts often have poor production value and the content is useless to anyone. It will come as no surprise I hope, that audio clarity is one of the most important areas in both audio and video podcasting. If people can’t hear your words, or the speaker is ruffling their jacket on a microphone for 45 minutes, this WILL turn people away.
Editing the Content
With your recording now on your editing machine whether this is a laptop, mac or PC, you need some software to help you out with getting the end piece together.
Software you can use ranges greatly on the end product you envisage. But, if you’re looking for something free, that does the job and has some audio tweaking features, the following are great:
Once you get your head around the simple controls, it’s easy to chop out bits of the audio that you don’t need like the inaudible questions, ruffles, coughs, door slams. (Hopefully, if you get better at recording, these interruptions won’t even make it to the recording!)
There are a number of video editing applications out there. If you want to keep it really simple and free here are the ones you can use:
- Windows Movie Maker (PC)
- iMovie (MAC)
If you’ve got a bit of money to spend and fancy more of a challenge try these:
There are many different video formats out there so be careful when you’re importing / exporting for web.
‘Web ready’ means that people will be able to get hold of your content in the easiest possible form at the other end.
Make your podcast a length that suits the content and its audience e.g. no more than an hour for lectures, 5 minute tips & tricks something that isn’t going to 1. Bore people and 2. Be too big for them to download.
The most popular method of delivery of audio is in MP3 format, which lends itself well to MP3 players such as iPods, iPhones, and other portable devices as well as desktop players.
Similarly, MP4 is another very popular delivery format for podcasts as it is easily digestible by the players above.
There is a little bit to learn in terms of codecs and why they are used and how they work, but I think we’ll leave those for another day…
Once you have your file ready, whether it is an .MP3 audio file or a .MP4 video file, you will need somewhere to upload this file to so that it can be ‘hosted’. This means that it is in the ‘virtual space’ and is available for people to go and get via a link to that space.
Ideas for hosting could be: