TechTip: Podcasting basics

Where to find podcasts?

Increasing numbers of websites offer podcasts. There are also podcast directories that you can use to find the podcasts of interest to you. These directories list often hundreds of podcasts, grouped per genre or theme:

Podcast Alley
Odeo
Indie Plodder
Yahoo! Podcasts

How to listen to a podcast?

1. Choose and install a podcast receiver programme
To listen to a podcast you first need to install a software programme on your computer. These podcast receiver programmes are usually free and easy to download. Popular programmes include:

Juice
iTunes

There are many other programmes to choose from and Podcasting News is a good place to find them.

2. Subscribe to a podcast
Subscribe to individual podcasts with the podcast receiver programme. Sometimes the software has its own directory for selecting podcasts.

Alternatively, when visiting a website, click on the icon (see above) or look for ‘Add or ‘Subscribe’ buttons. The web address is then added to the receiver similar to ‘bookmarking’ a website. Sometimes it is necessary to paste the web address into the receiver programme. Each programme is slightly different, but they are all self explanatory.

After subscription, the software checks for updated podcasts from that source, usually called a feed, and will automatically download the file. Most podcasts are free and you can unsubscribe at any time, just click the ‘Clear’ or Unsubscribe’ button.

How to make your own podcast?

The essential equipment for producing a speech-based podcast is:

• a microphone
• headphones
• a computer
• audio recording and editing software
• podcast publishing software
• an Internet connection.

Many people use a mixing desk but this is not always necessary because recording levels can usually be controlled by the recording software. Mixing different sound sources can be done using the editing programme. Use headphones to check whether the levels are not too loud and the sound is not distorted. It is worth spending money on a good microphone as this alone can greatly improve the quality of your podcast. Try to record in a room with soft surfaces as this will reduce the echo. If that is not possible then hanging jackets or blankets on a circle of chairs can really help a lot. Also, the microphone can pick up noise from computers, electric lighting or other sources not always audible to the human ear. Therefore, use the headphones to listen for any annoying buzzing or whining background sounds.

Software

Audacity records and creates audio files. You can also use it to edit long pauses or mistakes which will improve the quality of your podcast. Audacity is free to download as is EasyPodcast which you need to publish the final podcast There are several other programmes that perform the same functions, plus programmes that combine these tasks, for example ePodcastcreator.

For a list of podcasting software, look at Podcasting News.

Producing and publishing a podcast involves the following three steps:

1. Create content
The recording software records audio from the microphone, or other sources - CD player, portable recorder - directly onto the computer via the sound card, usually at the back of the computer where you also plug in external speakers.

2. Convert audio files to mp3 format
MP3 is the standard format for podcasts and all the recording programmes allow you to save or export audio files in mp3 format. Before exporting, add information tags to the file: title, year, genre, brief introduction. Use podcast publishing software to publish the file on a website.

3. Create a podcast feed and publish it on the web
To ensure your audio file is automatically downloaded to subscribers, it has to be syndicated as an RSS file. This describes your podcast and includes information on each audio file. An RSS file is relatively simple to make, any text editor can do it, but it is easier to use software that automatically generates newsfeeds. Post the RSS file onto your website and include one of the recognizable icons above.

For a brief introduction of to RSS, check the article Understanding RSS Feeds.

All that is left is to publicize the podcast by adding it to one or more podcast directories for listeners to find.

The process is relatively simple but can be time consuming. You can follow these steps yourself, but it will be much quicker if someone with experience helps you with the first podcast.

10 July 2007

Copyright © 2014, CTA. Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (ACP-EU)