If your first thought when you consider the concept of podcasting is internet radio, you’re just hitting the tip of the iceberg. To get a feel for the breadth of material available, take a look at iTunes’ podcast directory or download the Juice podcasting manager.
You’ll find podcasting a useful delivery vehicle if you run a business and want to regularly provide clients with useful information, if you’re a student who wants to freshen up the school ‘magazine’, or if you’re a collector, hobbyist or specialist with a desire to share your knowledge with a wider audience. Even politicians could find a use in podcasting, with the format helping them to spread their message among constituents.
PC Advisor has often used podcasts to deliver technology news on a daily basis, and discuss current topics in depth.
Whatever your reason for wanting to get your voice heard, several variables must be considered before you begin. These include hardware and software requirements, and distribution of the finished product.
Planning is important too. Your initial excitement might lead you to podcast day and night, but bombarding your listeners with information can have an adverse effect, causing them to switch off. Your time is also a valuable commodity, and you should take care not to overstretch yourself. Whatever you decide, ensure your listeners know when they can expect the next instalment.
Here, we’ll teach you all you need to know about creating your first podcast. We’ll cover the basics behind recording, editing and tagging audio, and look at how to create an RSS feed for your podcast or submit your work to iTunes.
Record a podcast
Step 1. You’ll need a microphone and sound card, plus video-recording equipment if you’ll be adding visuals to your podcast. Your PC may have these facilities built-in, which will be fine for your first podcast. If your first attempt is successful, however, you’ll be wise to invest in better-quality equipment.
Step 2. You’ll also need some audio-recording software. We’re using the popular, free Audacity. Its ease of use makes Audacity a great application with which to begin experimenting with audio recordings, allowing you to concentrate on the podcast’s content and structure.
Step 3. Versions of Audacity are available for Windows, Mac and Linux; make sure you download the right version. We’re using Audacity in Windows; note that the menu structure and graphics may differ in other versions. Install Audacity in the default directory, then launch the application.
Step 4. To get used to the software, we’ll make a simple short recording. Later on, you’ll make scripted podcasts. Click Edit, Preferences and select the Devices tab. Specify your input device. Choose ‘Mono recording channels’ – you’ll be recording audio only, so this will keep down the file size.
Step 5. Audacity requires an add-on to save podcasts in MP3 format, but it’s worth using this widely supported file type. Choose Libraries in the Preferences menu and click Download next to ‘Lame MP3 Library’. A web page will open with download instructions; follow these to download and install the add-on in its default location.
Step 6. Make sure Windows knows what recording device you’re using. Open the Control Panel and choose ‘Hardware and Sound’, ‘Manage audio devices’. Ensure the device you want to use is selected. If you have a laptop, you may find the integrated microphone adequate although a dedicated mic is better.
Step 7. Click the large red button at the top of the Audacity window to begin recording a short passage. Start to speak. It’ll sound odd but, to make sure it is working, pause slightly between each word. You’ll see blobs of blue (words) and thin blue lines (silence) appear onscreen. Click the square Stop button to finish recording.
Step 8. Click the green Play button and listen to your recording. To remove the pauses between each word, click the Select tool (next to the Stop button and above the magnifying glass) and drag the cursor along an area of silence. Press Del to remove it. The ruler above the sound pattern measures time in seconds.
Step 9. As well as standard editing features, Audacity offers several adjustments under the Effects menu. Experiment with the settings here and use the Preview button to see how they affect your recording. You can undo any changes using the Edit menu. If you want to you can keep several versions. Choose File, Save Project.
Step 10. Audacity can simultaneously process multiple tracks, allowing you to add a soundtrack or audio effects. Treat music as a separate track with stereo streams, altering its volume, cutting it and applying effects. You can import other audio files too. Be aware of royalty and copyright issues. To add audio choose File, Import, Audio.
Step 11. When you’ve finished, click File, Export. Choose MP3 as the file format, give your podcast a name and save it. Now add metadata (ID3 tags are discussed on the previous page). If you plan to create a series of podcasts, save the metadata as a template to help keep things consistent.
Step 12. Now it’s time to distribute your podcast. We’ll assume that you don’t have your own website on which to host it. You can instead use a free Blogger or WordPress blog. Here you can write blogs about your podcasts and include links to the RSS feed that allows people to access them (see next step).
Step 13. You’ll need to create an RSS feed that points to your podcasts. These allow aggregating software such as iTunes to automatically download new episodes on to local computers. The easiest method is to use an automatic tool such as FeedBurner or PodcastBlaster.
Step 14. Submitting your podcasts to large aggregators such as iTunes can broaden your audience. Test your feed by subscribing to it using iTunes. Launch iTunes, click Advanced, choose ‘Subscribe to Podcast’ and enter your feed URL. If all works fine, click ‘Submit a podcast’ on the Podcasts page. It may take a few days to appear.