After giving my MooseCamp session at Norther Voice 2008 on Podcasting 101, I learned a lot more about how things should have gone versus how it went.
Photo credit: John Biehler on Flickr
There were a variety of factors that caused me to really struggle how you give someone an introduction on podcasting within 30 minutes that doesn’t leave them feeling like a bus just drove by them and smacked them in the face because they were standing so close and didn’t see that rear view mirror sticking out as much as they just saw the bus. I only use that analogy because it almost happened to me a few weeks ago.
Rather than go through the would, should, or could haves, I’m going to make a blog post that hits the same topics, laid out in a method that will allow folks to explore tools of the medium rather than generate buzz words that you’ll forget to Google later. Plus, this will help me develop a better method of being able to do something like this again, if the virtual tomatoes haven’t already been thrown at me.
I won’t spend too much time on all the points, so let’s hit the big things when it comes to what podcasting is, how it works, and why should one podcast.
The easiest way to explain what podcasting is, for me, comes from something I have to credit Dave Olson for coming up with. Short and simple, they are download-able radio programs on the internet. Podcast enthusiasts will roll their eyes reading that, but if you want to reach through to that person who has never heard of podcasting, this is the easiest, most truncated explanation that you could start with.
Building out from that, a lot of people who get interested in the concept of podcasting, be it listening or making their own podcast, is that word “pod”. They instantly associate this with the iPod, thinking that he or she needs one in order to do anything, and this is further from the truth. So to put this clear and simple, you do not need an iPod to listen to or make podcasts.
Basically, podcasts are sound files that you download to your computer. Quite often they are MP3’s that can be played on nearly any type of computer and listened to on any portable media device. Getting the files from point A to B is a little complicated, but when explaining the what of podcasting, this is a good place to start.
You know what podcasting is, but how does this all work. I’ll skip the making of podcasts because that’s a hefty, meaty topic for another time. However, how does an MP3 of a “download-able internet radio program” get from the person who made it to the person who wants to listen to it?
The secret lies with RSS (Really Simple Syndication). Anyone can upload a file to a website and make a text link for you to click on and download something onto your computer. This is something that nearly anyone on the internet is used to, but this process is manual. You have to actually make an effort to visit the web page, visually see if something new is on the page, and click the link to the MP3, granted that you actually notice that it’s there.
RSS is the reverse. Instead, you subscribe to RSS feeds in what is called an aggregator. These come in various forms, such as stand alone programs (iTunes or Juice) or web based services (Google Reader). What an aggregator does is periodically check the RSS feeds that you subscribe to for any updated items. When it sees that there is something there that you haven’t listened to or downloaded, it flags that MP3 for you to download. Personally, I have my iTunes setup to automatically download new podcasts and have them uploaded onto my iPod for my commutes to and from work.
Depending on the type of person you are, you can choose to listen to podcasts however you want because there are so many ways you can do so. In fact, on The Crazy Canucks podcast that I produce, we have it setup so you can listen to the MP3’s directly on the website, streaming the audio from the front page if the visitor chooses to do so. Even as a podcast producer, I like to make it easy for anyone, anywhere, to listen to my podcast.
Once again, this is a very basic how of podcasting works. For how to make your very own podcast in terms of actually recording something to publish to the world, look into learning methods of audio recording and editing. Every producer is going to have their own methods, and it might take a lot for you to discover what is right for you. Whatever you do, be prepared to spend some time, money, and energy in learning the methods that will be the right ones for your podcast.
This seems like a silly point, but when you look at the basic, core elements of podcasting, you have to take a slight, philosophical look at… why podcasting?
First off, what’s the point? Well, there is TiVo for television, so some have considered this as TiVo for radio. Of course, radio has noticed this and has started to podcast their live programming into RSS feeds for dedicated listeners to download for a time that is more convenient to getting their fill of their favorite radio program. This is something I am a huge fan of, so I am all for it. And chances are, this is an amazing opportunity to pick up new listeners to a station and/or program that they never knew they were missing in the first place.
The other big “why” is just as big as the first one, if not bigger. Anyone can do a podcast, and they can do it about anything they want it to be about.
That is a huge element of podcasting that should not be ignored. If you have a computer and a microphone, you can record a podcast. If you have a Blogger or WordPress blog, your feed sydicated through a service like FeedBurner (which caters to podcasters very well), and a place like Libsyn to store and distribute your MP3 to the masses, then you can make a podcast. You can even use a service like PodShow and let them do it all for you. You just have to record something and upload it to their service.
The point is that you have the freedom to create anything you want. Aside from concerns that come with the use of copyrighted music or material in your podcast (which is a huge concern for many podcasters so do your research before you venture into territory that you don’t understand the legal consequences of), the rules are how you want to make them.
This is why the “why” is so important to me when it comes to podcasting. You don’t have to follow the rules set by law makers, you are not confined by what you can or cannot say by censors, and you are free to create as much or little as you want. You’ll never have to make your podcasts cram into a forty second spot during the six o’clock news. You set your own rules, and it’s the passion to create something you want to be heard that is all you need to get started.
The final “why” is those people that actually take the time to get your podcast. They are your listeners and/or viewers, depending if you want to do audio or video respectively, and you are speaking to them directly. Sure, some people will come and go, but you can bet fairly well that those who make the effort to subscribe to your podcast are paying attention to a great deal of it.
As soon as you get a response from them, you have a community. The thing is, communities have a tendency to build, and you might even discover similar or new communities in the process. This will give fire for your podcast to build, and the more you embrace it, the more you will have to podcast about.
Then, the next thing you’ll realize is that, and it will blow you mind every time you receive an email from a listener from another continent, people are actually paying attention to you. Chances are, they are anxiously waiting until you publish your next episode, and then the whole cycle starts again.
Now, I know that the way this post ends might not have all the answers you want from a beginners, “Podcasting 101” viewpoint, but there isn’t an easy, textbook answer. It’s like music. You can’t define music as one, simple thing because there are so many different forms and methods to creating music that rules are being rewritten time and time again.
Podcasting is similar. There’s a lot out there to listen and watch, and the ways you can create that type of content is vast. If you can think something up, it can be done. For me, that’s what podcasting, in its truest form, really comes down to.
Now that you have the concept down and you want to make your own podcast, start planning. Even though podcasting is easy, pushing that button to record without figuring out what you are going to do or say will probably not go as well as you hope.
Listen to other podcasts for inspiration. Read some blogs by other people who are writing about podcasting topics like content ideas, how to edit your audio, or what sweet gadgets folks are using inside and outside the “studio” (aka living room or spare bedroom) for recording gear. Then, get cracking because the only way you are going to get better at this is by trying it out and learning from your mistakes.
And if you don’t want to be a podcaster and have just as much thrill as being a listener, then that’s pretty cool, too. And as a podcast producer, we thank you.