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Podcasting: How I Do It

Nonnie over at Nonnie’s Quilting Dreams asked that I post my own experience on podcasting and how I do it so I thought I’d share that with you. If you listen to podcasts you might find this interesting to find out some of the work (and usually money) involved with podcasting! 

Step 1: Find a podcast host.
Each podcast has to have a hosting service online.  They provide the storage space for you to upload your sound and/or video file of each podcast episode.  They also typically provide the webpage that iTunes uses to pull your podcast information from so other people can find it on iTunes.  Some even go a step further and provide a blog combined with your podcast.

The big difference between podcast hosts is usually the amount of bandwidth they let you have for free before charging you for it.  Bandwidth is sort of like the internet version of electricity.  Whenever you load a website, look at a picture, listen to a file or watch a video online you are using bandwidth to load that data.  Bandwidth costs money for hosting providers to let you utilize.  This is why there aren’t many free services out there for Podcast hosting or if they offer a free service, it is very limited in the amount of bandwidth you are allowed to use.  
To get an idea of some of the common bandwidth limitations here are a few podcast hosts and what they let you have in their most basic plan:

Jellycast (the host I use): 25GB monthly bandwidth.  They charge a £10 one-time flat fee.  No storage limitations on uploads of files. They also have a handy bandwidth estimator to figure out how popular your podcast would have to become to require an upgrade in service plans.

Podbean (Free Basic Plan): 5GB Monthly.  Storage space for your audio files is also limited to 100mb.  Each month your usage will reset to zero for bandwidth.  If you want to get more bandwidth Podbean begins their packages at $2.49 a month.

Libsyn (Cheapest Plan Classic 50): $5 per month Doesn’t seem to have a bandwidth limitation, instead they limit how much you can upload in regards to files each month.  Their cheapest plan only allows for 50mb worth of files to be uploaded each month before it resets.  This is the equivalent to a two hour show in mp3 format.

Cyberears (Pro Plan): $5 per month – Unlimited bandwidth.  File storage limited to 500mb/month.  You are limited to 1 podcast until you upgrade your account to their Gold level.

So that gives you an idea.  Each one is different, some have fancy interfaces for your podcasts that provides your listeners a good landing pad to listen to all your episodes. Others are really simple.  I only use my host to do the iTunes file hosting basically.  I use something else to create the player so I can put it into a blog post for folks to play. 

Step 2: Plan Your Podcast:
If you’ve taken a speech class you know some of the common steps of planning a speaking engagement.  Podcasting is quite similar.  You don’t need to go super in-depth but I recommend at the least a little list of things you want to cover.  I usually do some bullet points in Word and leave that up for me to glance at while I’m talking.  If you are doing reviews, pull the books together to review and have those ready.  Just do 5 minutes of prep work to save yourself lots of editing headache afterwards with all your “ums” and silence.  You’ll thank yourself later!

Step 3: Record Your Podcast
Recording can be a challenge.  At a minimum you need a good microphone hooked up to your computer.  I use a headset that I have with a microphone built in.  I’m a gamer so I have a decent one that I use for gameplay.  The advantage of having a headset are that the microphone is always an equal distance away from your mouth so it helps to limit the variation of volume of your voice if you are always moving closer or farther away from the microphone.  

You also need recording software.  I use Audacity because it is free and pretty easy to edit.  The beta version of Audacity includes lots of plugins to help edit your podcast.  

Step 4: Edit Your Podcast
 Things I normally use when editing my recordings are:  

  • Normalization – helps to keep the volume at an even level throughout the entire recording
  • Amplify – to raise or lower the volume level of the recording or parts of the recording.  I talk rather softly so I end up having to amplify my recording oftentimes.
  • Truncate Silence – removes those abnormally long pauses that sometimes occur while talking.  Helps to also keep your podcast files smaller which is really important.
  • Convert to Mono – the track is recorded in stereo.  In my case, I convert it to mono to eliminate an odd echo that was occuring.  You can also have the file convert to a lower quality which results in a smaller file size.

I record my intro and exit separately and those are always separate files that I add in later.  Audacity lets you import tracks and then you can drag and drop them into your recording how you like.  It isn’t necessary for a podcast but is nice to have.

After editing the podcast you need to convert it to mp3 or some other iTunes friendly format.  

Step 5: Upload Your Episode
Depending on your host, you can upload it and then add necessary information for iTunes.  They call the information you add “tags”.  This is the information you see for podcast titles, episode number, author, year it was produced etc.  You can also add a small image for the episode usually.

Step 6: Add your Feed to iTunes
iTunes has a long explanation on how to test your feed address and add it to iTunes.  It is pretty simple once you make sure everything is in place at your podcast host.  It generally takes a week or so to see it show up on iTunes and be searchable.

Step 7: Tell Everyone!
Blog it, tweet it, share it on forums.  You can even send a 10 second clip or something to another podcast and ask if they would advertise your podcast on their own. 

Optional:
Post notes in your podcast of things you mentioned.  You can also a player of your latest episode included in it.  I like to do this for folks that don’t want to listen on iTunes.  Because my podcast host doesn’t offer that feature so I can embed it into my blog, I post my episodes on Blip.TV and use their embed tool.

That’s about it.  I think the most time consuming part is editing the podcast after you’ve recorded it.  

I know some podcasters become popular enough to sell advertising on their podcast.  I don’t know that I’ll ever become lucky enough to do that but it would be interesting!

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