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Creating a Podcast

Do you have an idea for an audio or video podcast that you would like to create?  Maybe there is a subject that you want to cover such as protecting the environment, provide on-demand training or provide product presentations, etc.  You're main limits will be your imagination and budget.  Most of don't have unlimited budgets, so you may have to get creative or scale down your vision.

What is Podcasting?
"Podcasting" is a web-based broadcast medium in which media files (audio or video) are made available online.  Podcast listening/viewing software (e.g. iTunes) can automatically detect and download updates to favorite shows via RSS feeds.

The word "PodCasting" came from the merger of the words iPod and broadcasting.  The term "PodCast" is no longer specifically related to the iPod but to any software and hardware combination that permits the downloading and playing of these files.

PodCasting enables anyone to create their own internet based show, without requiring expensive hardware.  PodCasts are subscription based,  which means that listeners/viewers can select what they want to listen or watch. 

Getting Started
The only limit is your imagination, and restrictions placed on you by free services.  If that becomes an issue, there are commercial hosting providers that will be happy to assist (but they're probably not free).

To get into audio or video podcasting is not expensive.  You can start out with the basic equipment that comes with most modern desktop and laptop computers.  Although, as you grow in sophistication your needs can grow, such as needing a better microphone, camera, or even audio or video mixing board.

To get started, you will need the following hardware and software.

Podcasting Hardware
  • Computer: You need a system (e.g. Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux) with working audio hardware. Most modern computers have a built-in ability to play and record audio.
  • Microphone: Most modern laptops now come with a built-in microphone.  Although this hardware can vary on what may have come with your desktop computer, so you may have to buy this device independently.  If you're not happy with the sound quality of the built-in microphone consider buying a better one there are several options available for you.
  • Internet Connectivity:  If you're reading this article, then I am assuming that your connectivity to the Internet is not an issue.

Audio Podcasting Software
When creating a audio podcast you're going to need to sound recording and editing software.  There are several different software applications available, most of them will cost money while others are free.  To highlight some of the free options, check out:
  • Sound Editing
    • Audacity - A free, open source, multi-platform (e.g. Windows, Mac, and Linux). multi-track audio editor for recording and editing. Features include:
      • recording live audio
      • editing multi-formatted sound files
      • Cut, copy, splice or mix sounds together
      • change the speed or pitch of a recording
      • Remove extra background noise
      • Normalizing the audio to remove sound spikes
      • And more.
  • Sound Leveling:
    • Levelator - A free, multi-platform tools that allows the adjustment of the audio levels within your podcast or other audio files.

Media Formats
Different services, may require your media files in different format (e.g. MP3, MPEG, WMV).  Some users like high-quality HD version of your podcast while others want standard versions that take up less space.
  • Audio Formats
    • MP3 - most common general audio file format
  • Video Formats
    • MPEG4 - most common general video file format
    • WMV - common Windows video file format

RSS Feeds
RSS Feeds will be how you let the world know about your content.  An RSS feed is just a text file with formatted information about your podcast.  This file contains information like episode title, description, and download information.

Host/Publishing Your Podcast
  • Audio Podcast Hosting
    • Archive.org: will allow host your podcast files for free,
  • Web Hosting: Most free blog sites will be a great way to host your podcast, and show notes.  Plus it can automatically generate RSS files for your shows.
  • RSS Feed: your blog's RSS feed may not be compatible for podcast listening software
    • Feedburner: Allows you to create podcast software friendly RSS feeds.

Video Podcasting Services
  • Camera: This is only required if you want to do video podcasting.  Most modern laptops now come with built-in cameras.  Although this hardware can vary on what may have come with your desktop computer, so you may have to buy the device independently.  If you're not happy with the image quality of your camera consider buying a better one.
  • Video hosting services:The following sites can host any videos that you create, some will allow you to embed them in your blog or web site.

Podcasting Analytics
Wondering how well your podcast is doing, check out the following service:
  • Podtrac - Free audience measurement and demographic research for your podcast

Before you choose any of the services or software listed above make sure to give yourself time to experiment with the technologies.  Then you will need some more time to learn how to tie them altogether.  I would recommend that you do this in phases, such as the ones I outlined below:
  • Phase 1: Install sound or video editing software and make sure that it works with your hardware and provides the results that you want.  Create a sample audio or video file that you can upload to the podcast hosting service.
  • Phase 2: Upload the sample audio or video file that you created to one or more of the podcast hosting service providers.  Make sure that you can live with the features that they provide and the terms of service related to the content that they will be hosting for you.
  • Phase 3: Setup a web site or blog to host your podcast, make sure to include show notes related to each episode.  This information will get index by the search engines and help people to find your content.  Make sure that the web site or blog also provides an RSS feed.
  • Phase 4: Depending on the market that you're targeting, and how much time and energy you may want to put into your podcast you may want to make it available for offline viewing on portable media device (such as an iPhone, Android, Windows Phone device, etc.)

Note: The web sites, software, hardware, and other services mentioned in this article are not personally endorsed by myself but provided as reference.
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