Podcasting - From Basics to Feed

This is also published as a Knol on Google.

Most people approach podcasts as something that is hard to do and put together and when you start talking about their feeds, it goes right over their head. This is a simple process in reality and is easy enough to do for anyone. You can also make a podcast out of a radio drama, informational material, or discussing something that is important to you.

Not everyone will tell you what you need to do after you've recorded your audio. I will.

Getting Started
First off you are going to need a topic. A podcast can be anything from a hobby you like to following your favorite TV show and commentating on it. The dictionary definition of a podcast is a "Web-based audio broadcast via an RSS feed, accessed by subscription over the Internet" so it can be about anything or for anything as long as you keep up with it. Once you have the topic set in your mind you are going to need to get an idea of how many episodes you will have, how often you will record, and how often you will release them (to keep an audience hooked, having a regular schedule of releases helps).

Supply List

  1. Microphone (possibly other accessories like a preamp, sound card with XLR connections and XLR cable)
  2. Computer
  3. Recording Program
  4. Web space for uploading media (there are some that are free which I'll explain later)
  5. Pop Filter (not required, but helpful to get rid of plosives - see glossary)

I have a Shure KSM27 microphone that I use for voice acting but anything that keeps background noise to a minimum is good (I've heard that the Snowball is a good choice as well). A condenser mic is your best choice as well as one that is cardioid (picks up when it's pointed in one direction) as it keeps out background noise from behind itself. You can record with any mic, but the better the quality, the less distracting it is for the audience that is listening so I recommend you work with better equipment to get better results.

If you are using something like the Shure, you will need a preamp (A device that detects and strengthens weak signals, for more powerful amplification) in order to power the microphone. Shure uses Phantom Power (it needs power from an outside source rather than internal batteries) so the preamp powers it. I personally use the TubePRE. Then I have XLR cable that goes from the mic to the preamp and then one from the preamp to the sound card (I have the SoundBlaster XFI so the plug-in is on the front of the computer where my cd drives are).

You need a computer or some other way to record the audio and a program as well. One of the voice actors in my own podcast audio drama, Lady From Day records using a keyboard. Audacity is a free recording program that is easy to get set up. There are others of course that are more elaborate like Adobe Audition, but Audacity will do the basics fine. If you are planning on doing an audio drama then something more elaborate makes mixing easier. If you are the only one speaking into the mic or have people with you in the same room, Audacity will be fine.

Recording

When you record, you want to be sure that your microphone is pointed in the right direction (some aren't completely obvious). Based on the recording software you have, I've found that the frequency of 44100 at 16 bit and a bitrate of 192 is best. In Audacity you will see the frequency at the bottom left and when you click on it, you can change it. In Audacity you can edit the ID3 tags directly in it. You just click on Project in the menu and Edit ID3 Tags.... When you are finished recording, be sure to save it as an MP3. When you have finished saving and if you aren't using Audacity to record you can edit the ID3 tags this way: find the file (in Windows) you right click on the file, choose Properties, and then go to details and click to edit.

Make note of the length of the podcast (in my case as you can find from the Details tab, it was 6 minutes and 12 seconds (6:12).

After recording and saving be sure to look at the General information in the file Properties. You need to get the data of the file size as well. You need this is byte format. Mine in this case is 8941568 (I use the bigger number).

Publishing Online and Making a Feed
If you don't have a place to upload your MP3 file, no worries! I personally have not used these services but I'm letting you know they are available. Ourmedia is free for podcasters to upload their files. You need a spot to be able to upload the MP3 and XML file or be able to create an XML on the site that you can link to.

There are plenty of places that offer an all-in-one solution but I'm here to give a walkthrough for people who want to do it themselves without the help of a third party. First, you need to upload your MP3 files to your server. Once there, you need to make the XML feed which is the core element to a podcast. This is the information that iTunes and other podcast directories will pull to get your graphic (if you put one for the production) and you podcast episodes.

The basics of the XML feed are here (I can't paste here due to the blog's limitations): http://knol.google.com/k/april-sadowski/podcasting-from-basics-to-feed/1ubp4172sf1v3/3?pli=1#Publishing_Online_and_Making_a_Feed

One you have all that done, the only thing you need to do to add episodes is repeat the item contents.

When you have finished with your XML file save it as .XML. Upload it to your web space. XML requirements are always changing. Validate your feed to make sure you haven't missed anything.


Submitting to iTunes and other Podcast Directories
If you have a valid feed, head on over to FeedBurner (which is now owned by Google so it's all streamlined with Google Accounts). Create an account if it's required. If not, log in and then input your Feed XML file where it says Burn a feed right this instant. Type your blog or feed address here: and then check I'm a podcaster and click next to be walked through the addition process. You can add ads to your feed or subscription buttons and links to your page through Feedburner.

You will have a link something like this: http://feeds2.feedburner.com/LadyFromDay



In order to find your link, just click on My Feeds and click the RSS icon next to the Feed title. Go to Podcasts, and then scroll down to the bottom left where it says Learn More and then Submit a Podcast. It will ask you to put in your feed URL (use the one from Feedburner) and then it will show you a preview of your podcast. If everything looks good click submit and you've got it submitted to iTunes. It takes a day or two to be approved and listed.

From then on, I recommend submitting to podcast directories. Typically all you do is sign up on the site and plug in your feed (xml file link) and possible add in some Here are some to get you started:

* Podcast Blaster (they also offer a feed generator)
* Dramapod (for audio dramas)
* Digital Podcast
* Podcast Alley
* The Podcast Directory


Additional Resources
These are great resources for podcasters and an easy way to get yourself out there.

* Feedburner (excellent way to track subscribers, send email updates, etc.)
* iTunes Tech Specs
* Feed Validator
* Audacity


Glossary of Terms (Courtesy of Wikipedia/Dictionary)
Bit Rate - The speed of data flow over time (ex. bits per second). Also refers to the amount of data bits in one second of audio file.
Cardioid - Unidirectional microphone with a heart-shaped sensitivity pattern
Condenser Microphone - Condenser microphones span the range from inexpensive karaoke microphones to high-fidelity recording microphones. They generally produce a high-quality audio signal and are now the popular choice in laboratory and studio recording applications. They require a power source, provided either from microphone inputs as phantom power or from a small battery. Power is necessary for establishing the capacitor plate voltage, and is also needed for internal amplification of the signal to a useful output level. Condenser microphones are also available with two diaphragms, the signals from which can be electrically connected such as to provide a range of polar patterns (see below), such as cardioid, omnidirectional and figure-eight.
Feed - Data provided to users to give them frequently updated content. The source content is linked to.
Frequency - The number of occurrences of a repeating wavelength per unit of time.
ID3 Tag - Data such as the file's title, performer, category and even cover art to stored directly in the file.
Plosives - Of, relating to, or being a speech sound produced by complete closure of the oral passage and subsequent release accompanied by a burst of air, as in the sound (p) in pit or (d) in dog. When applied to recording, these words can overload a microphone (see this article)
Preamp - It functions to increase the input audio signal strength. In some cases, it provides a power source to the microphone.
Podcast - A broadcast of multimedia information (usually audio) over the internet. For example, music, lectures, and announcements are often podcast.
RSS - The XML format used in feeds.
XML - A markup language for documents containing structured information

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