The landscape of the Internet was changed permanently with the introduction of what came to be known as “webcasts”. These audio clips by ordinary Internet users could be about anything, broadcast from anywhere, and made accessible to people across the globe. With the rise of the iPod as the dominant form of streaming media, the term webcast was quickly replaced with “podcast”, and high quality, interesting digital media files quickly became hot commodities. So how do you get in on the podcast craze?
What Exactly Is a Podcast?
Most people have heard the term “podcast”, but many are unsure about exactly what it means. At its most basic, a podcast is an audio file that can be downloaded to a user’s computer or mobile device. There is still no hard and fast definition of the term agreed upon by academics, but a podcast will typically make use of a host or theme, have an episodic or serial format, be downloadable, and often free. Video files can also be considered podcasts, but audio is the original, and still most common, form of the medium.
Getting Into the Podcasting Game
Starting to podcast is simple – you only need a computer, microphone or video camera, and the ability to create a supported file type. These types include .m4a, .mov, .mp3, .mp4, .pdf or even .epub. You can choose to record audio, video, or even distribute a text document and still be considered podcasting, so long as your cast is available for download in its entirety and is easily accessible. Once you have recorded your podcast file, it must be uploaded to a server and then made available for download, often using an RSS feed, which can update those who follow your cast on when a new post is available. Basic rules for making a good podcast include having a high quality microphone, a specific topic or area of expertise that you will be podcasting about, and an idea for a series of casts, rather than a single one.
Publishing Your Podcast
You have a number of options when it comes to publishing your podcast online. The most common is to post a link to the cast on your website, meaning that you’ll need to choose if you want to use shared web hosting or a VPS hosting option to store your data. Podcast hosting using a shared solution is possible, but in many cases can put a drain on server resources, especially as the number of episodes online increases and your popularity grows. Hosted podcasting using a VPS option, meanwhile, can give you space that is yours alone to store your podcasts, without having to worry that the server will bog down or that listeners will not be able to access your content. VPS podcast hosting will often be more expensive than shared hosted podcasting, but once your viewership hits a certain point, may be a necessity in order to provide consistent access.
Production and Promotion
While making a podcast is relatively simple, there are a number of apps available online both for free and for pay that can help you streamline the process. Free publishing and creation software includes Audacity and Easy Podcast, which allow you to record, edit and easily publish podcasts, or Free Podcast Maker, that gives you a simple tool for making XML podcast files. Paid options are also available such as Podifier, which lets you create RSS feeds, enclose MP3s and upload them to a server, and Propaganda, which gives you the power to create XML and HTML files as well as create ID3 tags (containing tiles, author and date information), and provide meta tag information for your podcast. Once you have your podcast created, your next job will be to publish it. This starts at your website, but you should also consider publishing your podcast with known services like iTunes. In order to post on iTunes, you will need to create a file format supported by Apple, post your file on a publicly accessible URL, and create an RSS feed which you will then submit to iTunes.
If you are also running a blog to accompany your podcast, you can also consider an all-in-one solution such as WordPress hosting, which can do triple-duty as a podcast producer, blog hosting platform and content management service. In combination with a hosted VPS solution and well-targeted marketing on iTunes and other outlets, you lay the groundwork to create a podcast that is both professional and popular.