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How to Create Your Own Podcast
But first, what is podcasting?
Podcasting is a relatively new type of technology so here’s a little background for those new to the term. Wikipedia’s definition is pretty good:
“Podcasting” makes audio files (usually in MP3 format) available online in a way that allows software to automatically download the files for the user’s convenience.
The way I see podcasting is a cross between a radio show and a blog. The great thing is that anyone can create a podcast with little expense and only a very basic knowledge of IT. Once you create a podcast you can allow people to subscribe to receive updates when it is uploaded to your website. This is done in the same way as using an RSS reader to syndicate blog/news feeds (more on this later).
How did I create and publish my first podcast?
The first step for me was research. I wanted to know what other podcasts sounded like and what other people were already doing (especially in my personal finance area). It was also a useful activity to dispel fears that all podcasts already produced will be of high professional quality – some are, but not most!
Once I had established that no one else was doing what I had planned (apart from money saving expert Martin Lewis, but that’s more about saving money than financial planning) it was time to work out how to record my first show. .
I plan to record a ten minute show which will reduce production time and also keep the file size quite small. Because this is an audio file hosted on our website I wanted to make sure it wasn’t too big (to keep download times fast but also to save bandwidth limitations).
I first tried using the ‘Sound Recorder’ that comes with Windows XP to record content for my podcast. This was not ideal for a few reasons. Recording time is limited to 60 seconds which means cutting my planned show into ten perfect time segments then editing them together. It didn’t allow me to talk over the backing music (something I felt was important for a professional sounding show/presentation).
I searched the web and found some free to use software on download.com. This software is called Propaganda 1.0 and it offers a complete podcast creator solution. I downloaded the free trial to make sure it did what I wanted and then shelled out $49.95 to activate the full version.
I wanted to make sure my podcast wasn’t ten minutes of me talking about my pension so I asked my sister to record some sound bites for me. These were just simple bits of audio that I could use to launch the show, break down content, and end the podcast (my regulatory caveat/disclaimer).
In terms of hardware I just used a microphone headset; Same system I use for Skype. It cost me £10 at Dixons and it does a good job of recording solo voices.
Using Propaganda I could record content for the show, line up 16 different audio tracks (including some backing music) and play them in time. This entire process took less than 2 hours before I was happy with the final version.
Publishing my podcast
Propaganda software makes this quite easy. There are basically three steps to publishing a podcast.
1 – Create an MP3 file of the podcast. MP3 seems to be the most common file format for podcasts so I’m sticking with tradition. Propaganda allowed me to convert 16 audio tracks into a single MP3 file and choose the most appropriate file quality. I chose something mid-range, not too low because the sound quality suffers and not too high to keep the file size reasonable (under 4MB).
2 – Host the MP3 files on your website. I use MS Frontpage to design my website and use some freeware FTP software to transfer files from my PC to the Internet. I also created a basic website page to host the file that will tell potential listeners more about my podcast in general and about this particular podcast show.
3 – Create an RSS feed. Again, Propaganda did it for me with its publishing feature. RSS feeds are syndication feeds that allow podcast players to find your podcast and subscribe to updates. When you create a new podcast show, you update this RSS feed (which is hosted on your website) and various podcast players notice the update and download the new podcast for the listener.
Promote my podcast
Now that I had a podcast I had to get some listeners! I posted a request for help on Ecademy.com, an online network, and received some very useful responses It seems the main podcast directory is Apples iTunes so I started there. It’s really easy to get listed because all they need to know is the link to your podcast, website and RSS feed. There is a verification process so I had to wait a few days to be listed but by Sunday morning I found my link and was able to use iTunes to download, listen and subscribe to my podcast.
There are loads of other podcast directories but the one that caught my attention was Britcaster.com. As it only lists UK podcasts (most directories including iTunes are US centric) this should result in a more relevant audience.
As well as being listed in various directories I have added a blog to my website and a mention in my academy signature. The combined effect of these two items is a higher result on google.co.uk when the search term ‘personal finance podcast’ is used.
I think I’ve got a fairly good story to tell the press now that it’s a first for a UK podcast (personal finance from an independent financial adviser). I’ve already had some positive feedback from the trade press so this week I plan to move on to the consumer financial press.
Well, besides working on show number two I plan to improve the production quality of the show over time. I may consider creating some ‘jingles’ that I can mix into the show to enhance the feel and quality of the production. Of course, there is a business purpose to creating this podcast (I hope) that will lead to new searches and a higher profile on the web and in the press.
For anyone considering their own podcast (or reading this article and thinking it might be something they could do) I recommend going for it! Podcasting is still in its very early stages and many people in the UK have yet to catch on to the technology. All predictions are for massive growth in the podcast market, along with the explosion in ownership of iPods and other MP3 players.
Because relatively few people create their own podcasts it’s a good time to get your own show up and running before your competitors catch on to the idea.
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