Thursday, January 12, 2006

Podcasting in 5 Easy Steps

How to setup you very own Podcast in 5 easy steps
By: Pocholo Gonzales and Brian Ligsay,
Of Creativoices Productions

Podcasting took the internet by storm with its release in the first quarter of last year. No it is not a machine, a gadget nor a program. It is a broadcast medium format that is very widely accepted. Now there is an estimated 20 million subscribers in the US alone. And each day more and more people are either tuning (or out) and setting up their own podcast. Its appeal is generally accepted, because listeners get to listen to “real” people, with real and believable conversations about their common interests, and not over radio broadcasts with their over hyped advertisements and commercials (with the exception of a few). And because it is downloadable, you can listen to your favorite “podcast” through your favorite MP3 player, while driving, at work or even while enjoying your favorite sport. So how do you get yourself out there? Well, we know about podcasting more than anyone out there in the country today. In fact, we’re the only company that offers podcasting services! And we’re more than happy to give you the basics of this internet programming revolution.

THE BASICS.

We’ll define how to set it up in 5 easy steps. But first you have to know the basics. Podcasting or Podcast came from the word I-POD, the ever popular MP3 and video player by Apple Macintosh. And the term “broadcast”, to distribute or make known. Although it is generally the idea to promote I-PODs with this new medium, APPLE Macintosh agrees that you don’t need an IPOD to listen to podcasts. With podcasting you can create your own personal diary, setup audio presentations for internet subscriptions, and even commentaries all in cyberspace. Consider it as your very own radio station over the internet! This means you have complete control over its content, and get your listeners from across the globe!

Podcasts are essentially an audio blog of your interest, hobby or about anything you wanna talk about or play over the internet. Your audience (that is the subscribers) can download the episodes you created by the use of an RSS aggregator (too techy!) or simply put a podcast catcher (more of that in a moment). As a society, people have become conditioned over generations to expect certain patterns in radio-like content. Podcasting is no exception. Even if your podcast sounds like radio, the most important piece of the podcasting puzzle is that anybody can do it. It is arguable that podcasting is done by common folks, but since everybody would like to take advantage of this new medium, we have categorized podcasting into two types: PERONAL/SMALL BUSINESS and SPECIALTY/CORPORATE. Personal/small business podcasts, are simple, easy-listening types and will serve just about any purpose you have for the internet. But Corporate/Specialty type of podcasting requires creative and careful attention to content, presentation, programming, voice talents and detail. Like stock exchange podcasts, radio podcasts (can you imagine!), business report podcasts, news, interviews and special skills. You can listen to an example of a corporate type podcast at http://podworx.blogspot.com It’s a specialty in Voice Acting in the Philippines, so go figure. No matter what content, both types of podcasts will still use the same basic steps. So don’t worry, you’ll be podcasting in a moment.


THE IDIOT’S GUIDE TO PODCASTING.
Here we go.

Now that you know a little about podcasts, decide what your content will be. Remember you can talk about anything, but not everything! If you want to become a successful podcaster, you have to offer some point of interest to your listeners, like your favorite anime, PS2 game or even sport. Something that you think will be worthwhile to listen to. The best way to approach this is to have a script available, or some sort of itemized topics that you wanna talk about and the rest will be fine. The ideal length of time for a podcast is about 15-20 minutes, without boring your listeners. Its about the same time of commute from North Avenue station to Ayala MRT Station.

You can also brighten up your podcast by adding a little intro/extro or background music and hosting it with a friend. It gives your podcast a certain “feel” of professionalism. And you’ll find it easier to the mike with a friend, than doing it alone. When choosing a music for your podcast, make sure its pleasing to “everybody’s” ear. We all have preferences but it is wise to keep your background music at a fairly low level so that it doesn’t eat up the conversation or your message.

STEP 1 – GEAR ASSEMBLY AND RECORDING

After you have decided on your content, its now time to record. It really doesn’t matter how you will do it, but we’ll assume this is a personal podcast and you will be using your computer. Most podcasters make use of their computers to set-up their podcasts. And like many of them you will need some sort of equipment. Your computer must first support an audio/mic input thru its soundcard. You can get a good soundcard if you don’t have one, there are also external types like AUDIGY from Creative Labs, but it’s a little costly. If you have a generic computer (that is brought as a package) soundcards may be built in or come as a bundle in your CPU. If you’re not sure about this you can look at the back of your CPU and you should see some sort of colored inputs (pink, green and red) each with engraved pictures of a sound, mic and input. You can get a good dynamic (cardiod) microphone (we use SHURE SM58) and an adaptor for the mic input (1/4 PL to ¾ PL adaptor). A great pair of headset (not earphones! or suffer the consequences of “ear-aches”), and make sure both of your ears are covered.

And finally a software program for which to edit your recording and encode them into MP3. There are many types of audio programs out there. Apple Mac users can avail of the Garage Band software. Windows and PC-based computers may use a free program called AUDACITY. Its quite easy to use, and you can layer audio files to suit your podcasting needs. We are using ADOBE AUDITION (the old COOL EDIT Pro) and PROTOOLS 6.4, it’s a little bit technical and expensive, but we need it for our job. You on the other hand, can get away with AUDACITY or any type of audio software you like. If you haven’t worked with an audio software before, this step may be a little daunting at first. But you’ll get the hang of it when you read the documentation that comes with your software and with constant practice recordings. The important thing here is that your software must be able to encode to MP3 files.

You will still need some other stuff, that may come in handy when doing your recordings. Like a mike stand for which to hold your microphone and a music stand for which to carry your script. You may also want to do your recordings in as much as little noise in the background available. If your planning to use a condenser mic (which is a little bit expensive and sensitive), you will also need a mixer with phantom power (BEHRINGER is by far the cheapest). There is also the new USB condenser microphone from SAMSON Audio, which is great for podcasting. All you need is plug to it into your PC and you are minutes away from recording. You may also prompt to use a pop filter to protect your microphone and lessen the “puh” sound in your recordings. The best way to eliminate the “puh” sound is by talking over (and not directly to) the mic or placing the mic 6 inches from your chin or across your forehead. This is just one the many essentials and tips of recording that we can discuss some other time (if the editor permits!).

STEP 2 – PUBLISHING YOUR CONTENT

Now that you have your content its time for your audience to get a hold of it! (FINALLY) But not quite yet. You will have to find a way to get it to the net and stay there for even a lifetime. If you have your own website, you can just add your files to a specific folder in your site. If you don’t have a site, there are a number of free online storages or at small costs. The best site for storing audio files (or anything for that matter) is at www.ourmedia.org. Signing up is easy and its free for a lifetime! If you intend to host a lot of files we recommend you opt for some sort of hosting services that will give you just about the space you need. The site www.multiply.com offers some unlimited space but you are limited to 20 audio uploads per month. If you think you can’t make that many podcasts then this site is also good for you. When you have your episodes filed over the internet, make sure you keep the shortcut tags by right clicking on the files and click copy shortcut (on IE expoler), then copy them to a notepad. You can also copy them manually but make sure you don’t make any mistakes. Otherwise you wont have a feed in your next step called SYNDICATION.

STEP 3 – SYNDICATING YOUR CONTENT

No this is not some sort of Mafia or Gang club. But it’s the most crucial part of your podcast. You have to create a feed for your audience to listen to. And this is about the power of RSS (Real Simple Syndication), that you have to tap in order to distribute your content worldwide. RSS is actually a form of script which enables your listener’s aggregators (pod catchers) to locate your podcast and subscribe to them. There are many ways to do it and its pretty darn easy nowadays to create a feed, but we’ll show you our favorite way (and its FREE!). First you have to create a BLOGGER account at www.blogger.com. This blog account will allow you to create and update the web page that will hold the links to your content. Blogger allows you to generate an Atom feed (atom.xml file) from your web log entries. The Atom feed itself doesn't allow you to podcast, but it's a necessary step. 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. That’s where the notepad file we ask you to do first will come in handy. You'll also need to change the blog settings to activate the Title and Link fields for your web log (this is done by default by the way) The combination of the feed with the title and link fields will give you the basic data elements necessary to create your podcasts.

Okay, 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. Then make a link of the file you want to podcast in your weblog. 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. When you get to your feedburner site, all you need to do is give your blogger address (that’s yourname.blogspot.com) and add the following extension “/atom.xml” when prompted. 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? Here is a sample of that feed, http://feeds.feedburner.com/podworx. Just add this link to your aggregators subscription option and start downloading! There are many types of podcatchers including the latest I-Tunes version. That is offered free or with a little contribution to its authors.

STEP 4 – PUBLICIZING YOUR FEED.
The truth is out there.

Okay, now that your finished with the dirty work, its time for people to learn more about your podcast. Its useless to have one, when no one bothers to listen, isn’t it? So here are some of the few “marketing steps” that will help you get the word out. First stop, e-mail your friends. Your buddies are your first audience of course, ask them to take some time to listen to your discovery of a certain fungus that grows on tip of the earwax, and its effect to the health of new fleas in the planet. Or just tell them to download your podcast by providing the links. Next try this, go to ipodder.org, podcast.net and podcast.yahoo.com and have yourself listed. This way more people can find you and your podcast. Now the I-tunes program offers podcasting uploads for free, however you will have to sign-up using your credit card. You wont be charged for uploading really, but it’s a hassle when you don’t have a credit card. And third, you can also ping http://audio.weblogs.com/pingSiteForm in order to get your feed included every time you add a new enclosure. On the Feed Burner setup page under Publicize/Pingshot there is a checkbox to allow an automatic ping to audio.weblogs.com and others, every time you update your feed with a new enclosure. When you PING a weblog site it actually just refreshes its list of new and updated podcasts, so that aggregator search engines can find your new episodes faster.

STEP 5 – THE FINAL STOP.
Is there another way?

When you’ve taken the four steps above, you are officially podcasting. If you don’t have the equipment, not a glitch of the word podcasting in your head, and your still worried about how you will sound over the net, or maybe, you would like to just try it out, without all the pestering links and interconnection of a podcast, then this is where you go (what a long sentence). You can make your podcasting life easier by choosing a great podcasting service provider at www.creativoices.com From the maker of podworx, they cater to simple, personal or small business podcast and can handle the most difficult type of podcasting in the market. There is nothing these guys can’t do for your podcast. Best of all the company is Filipino-owned and they come at a very affordable rate. Heck they can even go to your place so that you can podcast-away after work, while in the office, in your gym or at the comfort of your own home.


FINAL WORD
What to expect.

There are already thousands of podcasts in the planet. Some of them are into high-tech stuff and some are just plain audio diaries. But only a handful of these podcasts are made by Filipinos. You can start ahead and impress your friends, however, like we always say to new podcasters, what you post over the net is a collective reflection of you being a Filipino (patriotic podcast? Not really). Just be wise and nice in your podcast, so that everybody comes out happy. If you are new to this medium don’t be hesitant to investigate and explore its potentials. You can try different ways to record, until you find what suits you best. Try the steps we’ve mentioned until you get one feed up and running. Once you’ve created your own feed you’ll be off to the races as an active participant in this digital revolution.

3 Comments:

At April 28, 2006 2:28 PM, Blogger digitalfilipino said...

Hi Brian. Thanks for all the help. =)

 
At May 22, 2006 4:29 AM, Anonymous filipino consumer alert said...

Good source of information ! I think we are beginning to see more Filipino podcasts on the web.

 
At August 02, 2007 2:22 AM, Blogger Todd said...

Thanks, Brian... this was very helpful!!!

 

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