Podcasting

Podcasting

Have you ever had an idea you wanted to share with the world? Have you ever thought a lesson learned might benefit others somehow or possibly save them some grief?  Maybe you have some special insight on a topic you’d like to offer others.  If any of these are true, podcasts might be the answer for you.

The term podcast is a combination of “broadcasting” and “iPod” and refers to the posting of digital audio content to the Web.  The audio files are downloadable to MP3 players and computers.  Podcasts can contain just about any content the creator wants to record and share with the hope that some audience somewhere will want to listen.

Why a podcast?  In today’s world of immediacy where multitasking isn’t a nicety, it’s a necessity, we are constantly looking for ways to achieve the most in the least amount of time.  For many of us,  the drive to work or the time on the treadmill is the only downtime we have during the day to collect our thoughts or learn about a special interest. Audio podcasts are downloaded to a personal device so they can be listened to whenever it’s convenient.  Because they are on a personal device, they can be listened to over and over.  So if the only chance a listener has to hear what you have to say is during their drive to work, or while walking the treadmill, a podcast will make that possible for them.

Technique – Why a podcast?

Flexibility, mobility and variety – that’s why!  Podcasts can be listened to anytime and anywhere that is convenient for the listener.  They can be downloaded to multiple devices and shared easily among audiences by sharing the link. Ease of sharing allows your message to reach multiple audiences quickly.  Simple podcasts can be cost-free to produce, publish and market.

Tip – What to include in a podcast?

Who creates podcasts? People just like you.  Really anyone with something to say can create a podcast. Select a topic you’re passionate about and have enough knowledge of to generate interest and engage an audience.  Start jotting down some ideas and information for segments  you think will capture an audience’s attention.  Maybe things you’ve learned either through employment, education or  life experiences.  There are podcasts available on topics ranging from political views to helpful household tips.  Pick a topic you can turn into continuing segments rather than just one or two segments.  The idea is to engage an audience that will subscribe to your segments and become loyal followers and share with others.

Technique:  How to get started

Once you have your topic, or even topics, all you need is a headset and a microphone or a laptop with a built-in microphone.  Really, it’s that easy.  Some podcasters use free recording software such as Audacity for PCs or GarageBand for Macs to add some extra umph but it’s not necessary. You can download both programs from the Internet if you decide to venture beyond the standard laptop offerings.  However, you should note that most Macs come preloaded with GarageBand.

Download Audacity at:

www.audacity.sourceforge.net

Download GarageBand and find support information at:

http://www.apple.com/support/garageband/

Tip – Additional Equipment Usage

Numerous options are available for additional recording equipment.  Editing equipment can help extract the audio from some videos depending on the formatting. This allows you to cross those video files over into your audio library, similar to books on tape.

Serious podcasters may choose to upgrade from the baseline laptop microphone to more advanced microphones and recording equipment.  More expensive microphones can filter out the whirring of the computer.  It’s not recommended to dive right into high-end equipment until a podcast proves itself with an audience.  Generally audiences require seven to 15 podcasts before they become a regular listener.  As a general rule of thumb, podcasters should wait until after this milestone before investing in upgraded equipment.

To learn more about equipment options visit the Podcast Answer Man’s site at:

http://podcastanswerman.com/equipment

Technique:  Creating a listen-worthy podcast

Here’s where all those special little nuances our friends and family like to point out can be used to your advantage.  Consider leveraging your uniqueness and bring something to the table only your experiences can produce.  Offer a topic not already overly abundant in podcast communities.  It’s also helpful to listen to other podcasts and see what tones and formats attract you.  If they attract you, chances are they will also attract other followers.

The topic of the podcast will determine some characteristics.  Serious topics should  have a serious tone where lighter topics may allow for a degree of brevity.  Your speaking voice should also have animation appropriate for the topic.  Avoid a monotone and dry delivery.  Even serious topics require some emotion to keep a listener engaged.

Adding music or a catchy tune to your podcast may enhance the listening experience.  However, unauthorized use of music may violate copyright laws. Be careful to only use music you have permission to use.  Licensing popular music from CDs or iTunes can be pricey, but you might find an independent artist who will appreciate the exposure. The artist may also remember you after they make it big and you a break on using their music in the future.

There are royalty-free clips available online.  These might make a notable intro for your podcast.  It is even possible to have a song or a catchy jingle created specifically for the theme of your podcast.

For more information on royalty-free theme songs visit:

http://soundrangers.com

http://shockwave-sound.com

http://incompetech.com/m/c/royalty-free

For more on jingles visit:

http://thegeoffsmith.com

 Tip – Perfecting a podcast

Most people take a while to get comfortable recording a podcast.  If you’re someone who can think on your feet and remember everything you wanted to cover during recording, you are one of a rare breed.  For the rest of us, it is helpful to jot down notes as reminders of topics you want to discuss.  Include links to references and anything  you need to remember.  Get comfortable with what you’re talking about.  Rehearse the material a few times before hitting record so the actual recording goes smoothly.

Don’t be afraid to edit your recording if it will improve the listeners’ experience.  Editing software can help you remove long, awkward pauses and the “uhs” and “ums” so many speakers unknowingly include.  Tweaking whatever content  might keep a listener from returning to your podcast is always a good idea.

It’s not uncommon for the first few recorded episodes to be less-than-stellar performances.  If they are, nobody says you have to publish them. Practice until you’re comfortable sitting in a room by yourself talking into a microphone.  Because these are self-driven productions, you don’t have to hit that “publish” button until you’re satisfied with your recording.  Take your time and be proud of what you’re putting out there to be downloaded onto millions of portable audio devices worldwide. Only positive thoughts here.

If you don’t have a “radio voice”, you can  always use a voice-over professional.  There is usually a cost associated with this service, but there are resources available.

 Two voice-over resources are:

http://www.jeffradio.com

http://www.voice123.com

Technique: Publishing a podcast

 So now you have the topic, the voice, and possibly the music recorded, how do you get it where the masses can find it?

A number of options are available for publishing your podcast. Most blog sites support audio file formats, making it possible to publish podcasts directly from a blog site such as wordpress.com.  Some podcasters purchase their own domain names to better represent their specific podcast topic and publish to a dedicated website. The first option leaves you at the mercy of the blog site owner for a portion of the marketing and exposure.  The second option gives you complete control of the rights and the ultimate destiny of your podcast.  Depending on your knowledge and expertise, you may have a preference as to which route you take.  Once you make the selection, the rest should be as easy as uploading the audio file.

Other ideas for hosting and publishing can be found on Entrepreneurs – Journey.com:

 http://www.entrepreneurs-journey.com/1039/the-7-secrets-to-a-successful-podcast/

 Tip – Marketing a podcast

Once a podcast is published you can start actively marketing to your target audiences.  Podcast marketing tends to be viral in nature.  A good way to get the viral ball rolling is to identify podcast communities with similar topics and share your podcast with that community.  Then they’ll share it with other communities and so on, and so on, and so on.  Facebook offers multiple advertising options or you can use Facebook to share links on pages of similar or related topics.  The key is to identify audiences and online communities your topic relates to and get it exposure within those audiences to draw listeners.

Since the term “podcast” is partially derived from “iPod,” you might guess the premier place to have a podcast listed is on iTunes.  Podcasts are submitted to iTunes through the storefront by selecting: Podcasts>Submit a Podcast.  There is typically a two-week lag time before podcasts are listed.

A podcast listed on iTunes is easily accessible from a vast podcast library to users in a familiar format for downloading to a multitude of ever-so-popular Apple products. iTunes also offers a subscription service where followers subscribe to have new podcasts pushed out to their devices as soon as they become available.  This is a slick way to ensure they receive your podcast on an ongoing basis.  This makes it less likely they’ll forget to download the one episode that would have been perfect to share with friends.

Additional Opportunities

One of the benefits of successful podcast marketing is the exposure to advertisers  willing to send some incentive your way for allowing them to share your hard-earned traffic.  These incentives can take many forms.  Some are offered as podcast sponsorships so you’ll acknowledge them during your podcast.  Some may want to advertise a product or service offering through your podcast.  You may decide to take the opportunity to sell your own stuff after you’ve had time to build your own brand equity.  Whatever the option, they are all opportunities to generate income.

Visit the HGSE Multimedia Lab Knowledge Center for more information on how some of these opportunities work:

http://isites.harvard.edu/icb/icb.do?keyword=k1967&pageid=icb.page23750

 Todd’s Podcast:  Interview with radio station manager and afternoon jock Todd Nuke ‘Em

In an industry where every word that comes out of your mouth is scrutinized by a heavy-handed governing regulator, Todd Nuke ‘Em’s eyes light up when you ask him for input on podcasts. Why you might ask? Because in Todd’s words, “Podcasts are your own projects.  They aren’t connected to a station or media company.” Nuke ‘Em says, “The content is directly from the artist or individual.  Nobody is influencing what you say and there are no repercussions.” Much like the disclaimers on television station commentaries that indicate the views expressed are not the views of the station or its affiliates, Nuke ‘Em and the other hosts can freely express their opinions in their podcast episodes as just that, their opinions.

As the station manager and afternoon jock for Utah’s leading alternative rock station, it is common to get complaints from listeners and managers regarding something he said on the air. Alternative rock listeners are a pretty edgy bunch, but apparently even they  occasionally get offended.

The station’s website contains podcasts created by each of the radio hosts or collective show personalities that can be downloaded by listeners.  This provides Nuke ‘Em an opportunity to speak his mind about a topic of choice without the repercussions of live radio regulation.  Though Nuke ‘Em still cautions when you are affiliated with a particular company or organization you still want to censor content to ensure it doesn’t negatively reflect on the entity that provides your paycheck.

The bottom line, according to Nuke ‘Em, is to always podcast responsibly.  You never know who may be listening, and really you hope everyone is listening.

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