Do you have a message that needs to be heard? Have you looked through the iTunes podcast list and wished that you could be among the podcasting legends like Ricky Gervais, The Absolute Peach and top BBC DJ’s?
Well the barriers of entry are surprisingly small. Everyone is able to create and submit podcasts to iTunes, and this guide will explain how.
Podcasting can be broken down into many different considerations. While all are important, below is a rough order to how I would go about starting a podcast.
Content and Audience – What kind of a podcast do you want to do, and who is it aimed for?
Production – What hardware/software will you use in the actual making of your podcast?
Hosting – The online server you upload the audio/video file to
Distributing – How will your target audience find and access your podcast?
Feedback – Do you want the audience to engage, and if so, how do they do that?
Content and audience
To many this may seem like an obvious consideration, but it is amazing how many people dive into a podcast without really knowing what they want to get out of it.
For example, is it meant to be humorous? Informative? Are you hoping for wide appeal, or is there a particular type of person you want to listen? How long should each podcast be?
Knowing the answer to these questions, and keeping it in mind should prevent you from going off focus, and alienating the listener. Your podcast should have a mission objective, even if it is something simple like “making people laugh by anecdotal discussion”.
People will not listen to a podcast if they do not find it interesting!
Amateur podcasters can often be put into two camps. The first think they are actually internet DJ’s and spend literally hundreds of pounds on microphones, mixing desks, and professional software. The second are completely the opposite, settling for the inbuilt mic of their computer, and do no post processing at all. Both of these have benefits and limitations, namely quality and cost.
I personally think it’s best to be in the middle. You don’t want to have a completely shoddy sounding podcast as nobody will listen, meaning you will never grow a receptive audience. However, investing a lot of money on something when only just starting out is a huge risk.
I podcast using a simple dictaphone. It’s lightweight, easy to transfer to a computer, and records in a widely recognised format. Alternatively, if you wish to record straight to a PC, always use an external microphone, preferably one that plugs into a USB port as it provides better sound quality.
There is plenty of software to use to edit your podcast for cutting out interference, adding sound tracks and leveling the sound. Apple are kind enough to include GarageBand for free on their computers, which is more than enough. If you use Windows, try Audacity, a free, open source audio recorder and editor. (http://audacity.sourceforge.net/)
Once you have processed your audio, it’s time to export it. It is best to export as a .mp3 file, as that is the most universally played format.
For the technical – When exporting, you should aim for between 64kbps and 128kbps. This is because it keeps the file smaller, while not sacrificing sound quality.
This is a very important decision, as an unreliable host means that your podcast will be unavailable to the listener. You should study what each host offers closely.
Most hosts will talk about bandwidth. Simply put, the more bandwidth you have, the more people are able to download your podcast.
You should also consider monthly charges, the ease of use, and the reviews of their customer service. If there should be any problems, you will want to be able to talk to somebody on their technical team.
My host of choice is Jellycast (www.jellycast.com). I find their technical support is fantastic, as is their pricing. For a one off payment of £10 + vat, you get 25GB bandwidth, enough for 450 people to download an hour long podcast recorded in a reasonable sound quality. The ability to have more than one podcast series attached to your account for no extra charge is also great. However, their dashboard could really do with an overhaul, as it can be a bit complex! This is the company used by Ricky Gervais, but bare in mind others are available, and may be better suited to your needs.
Once you have signed up to your host, you can start uploading files. This may take time, so if your host allows FTP transferring that may be preferable.
Then it is just a simple case of ensuring all your metadata (the file name, artist, and description) are all in place, add an eye catching cover image and you are ready to start distributing.
There are a variety of methods for distributing podcasts, but for all intensive purposes if you want a successful podcast, it needs to be on iTunes.
Submitting a podcast to iTunes requires both the client installed on your computer, and an iTunes account. You will also require the raw RSS feed of your podcast series, which you should be able to easily find somewhere on your podcast hosting page.
Apple have a somewhat complex and convoluted “how to submit a podcast” guide (http://www.apple.com/itunes/podcasts/specs.html). Although I recommend reading it, the essentials are; don’t plagerise, have good metadata, ensure your cover art is appropriate, correctly identify if your podcast is explicit, and have at least one episode already on the feed.
In Apple’s how to guide, you’ll also find a link to submit the podcast, which I have copied here. Be advised that this will open iTunes, so ensure you have it installed! https://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZFinance.woa/wa/publishPodcast
Once you have submitted your feed, your podcast will be reviewed, and if accepted, they will email you. The process takes a few days, and your podcast will first appear in the search bar, before finally appearing in iTunes browse.
The best advice is be prepared, and have all the correct metadata on your podcast before you submit it. This prevents hold up, or rejection.
Congratulations! You have a podcast an iTunes, but now what? Hopefully people are listening to you, but don’t you want to hear from your fans? By directly engaging with those who listen you are creating a bond, which is fantastic from both retaining listeners, and potentially attracting new ones. There are several ways to do this.
Set up an email address for your podcast. NEVER give out your personal email address on the podcast, or anything too personal, you never know who is listening!
Twitter and Facebook pages offer a degree of instant feedback, and as a lot of people are on them, it is a perfect forum for discussion. G+ is not very occupied at the moment, but the range of tools at it’s disposal are great, and if you have a gmail account it is very easy to set up a page for your podcast without signing up for a different service.
As your popularity grows you could consider starting a blog, or a fully fledged wesbite, which could open the doors to moneterising your content. There is no shame in dreaming providing you remain realistic, walk before you run so to speak.
The most important thing to remember when podcasting is to have fun, you have creative freedom over your work, exploit and explore!