Podcasting 101

by David Czepanski May 01, 2006

So you want to make a podcast?

Podcasting is really just an old thing with a slight twist and a new name.

Many *ahem* people thought that podcasting was a fad that wouldn’t last but it looks like it’s here to stay—at least for awhile.

If you’re reading this on a Mac then you probably already have everything that you need to do this.

Here’s a basic checklist to make sure

1. Some material you want to record (most important!)
2. Something with which to record and edit your material
3. An online space to share your podcast

Let’s expand these a little further.

1. Content
You have to decide what you want to do before you start to do it. It sounds simple, I know, but so often we launch into a project and muddle our way through, making up things as we go along.

That’s OK to a point but in the long term it’s much easier to have a target to shoot for. Deciding what your podcast is going to be about also let’s you know what it ISN’T about, which is helpful to both you and your potential listeners. If you aim at nothing then you’re sure to get it.

Things to consider are:
- What length will the podcast be? 5 minutes? 30 minutes? An hour?
- How often will it be broadcast? Daily? Weekly? Monthly? Remember that it’s better to start small and increase rather than start big only to have to downscale.
- Where will the podcast be hosted? Podcasts are essentially the same as mp3 songs so it’s no surprise that they are the same sort of file size. If you intend to have a lot of them, you will want a web host who has a reasonable cost/space ratio. Thankfully, that’s pretty easy to come by these days.

Once you have the “what” sorted out, the “how” is next.

2. Something with which to record and edit your material
GarageBand is the first choice here for a couple of reasons. It’s probably on your Mac already, it’s drop dead simple to use and delivers great results for what it is.

Of course you can use other applications if you want but if you’re starting out, GB is a great place to start. If you find yourself bumping into the limits of GarageBand, you can always move up to a more comprehensive application, but it’s a bitter pill to swallow if you buy an expensive professional application only to find that a free one would have met your needs.

eMacs, iBooks and iMacs (others?) all have built in microphones that can record your voice at a pinch but most people will be unhappy with the quality of the sound with this method. Having said that, this is the method Steve Jobs used to demo the new podcasting feature built into GB earlier this year!

The problem with this is that these built in mics pick up a lot of noise from their surroundings. This also happened to Steve as he recording his podcast—the crowd laughed at something he said and drowned out what he was saying.

A better solution is to use a proper microphone together with some sort of interface to get the recording into the Mac.

Keeping things simple and costs to a minimum, I have outlined before how our setup here at home works.

Microphone—> Small Mixing Desk—> iMic—> Mac

I won’t go into the full setup here but rather point you to Derek Miller at Penmachine because he has a comprehensive post about how he does his pod casts and home recording.

Again, I suggest starting small and seeing how it goes. If you find that you’re really enjoying podcasting then you may want to get some more professional gear. If you find that it’s not really your thing then you haven’t lost much.

That said, keep in mind that all you really need to do in this step is turn the content, usually your voice, into a digital form. Most new mobile phones, PDAs and iPod variants can do this!!

Ironically, the iPod, the very device which spawned the Podcasting name, needs an attachment to be able to record voice.

3. An online space to share your podcast

Once you have your podcast, it’s time to share it.

You can simply upload it to a web site for people to download and make a link to it, in which case you’re done. In that case though, your Podcast is little more than stand-alone file on the great big interweb thing. It’s not really a Podcast per se.

The real strength of Podcasting comes when you take advantage of one of the online services specifically aimed at podcasting.

Tags and keywords can be assigned to your podcast to make them easy for search engines to find them. People can “subscribe” to your podcast and download it automatically when there is new content rather than having to go to a page to see if there is anything new.

Think of the difference between these two methods as looking at each of your favorite sites in a web browser every day or subscribing to them using an RSS feed reader.

It is this feature that makes your file a podcast rather than just another audio file to download.

There are numerous sites that will host your podcast for free and, of course, Apple/iTunes is one of them.

There are others as well, among them blip.tv and odeo.com I imagine that one of these sites will emerge as the king and do for podcasting what Google does for searching the web. If you know of others, share the love and tell us about them in the comments!

If Podcasting sounds like something you want to do and want to know more, check out Podcastalley. It’s a great resource with lots of advice and links to help make your podcast something special.


  • “There are numerous sites that will host your podcast for free and, of course, Apple/iTunes is one of them.”

    That’s not true.

    From the iTunes Podcasting FAQ you link to:

    “Does iTunes support the serving of podcasts?
    No. The iTunes Music Store podcast directory will only contain references to the RSS feeds available on a podcaster’s website. A podcaster must be running web-server software in order to host their podcast. When a user subscribes to a podcast through the iTunes Music Store, iTunes accesses the podcaster’s RSS feed and downloads the enclosed audio files directly from the podcaster’s website.”

    JJJJJ had this to say on May 01, 2006 Posts: 7
  • ^ Yeah, I noticed that, but, although while in web terms it’s incorrect to call iTunes a podcast ‘host’, that’s really the most fitting name for it. Unless someone has a better one?

    Nice article, David, with some very handy links to check out. Could’ve gone a little more in-depth with some graphics and stuff, but it’s good for the absolute beginners. *thumbs up*

    Now I just need a comprehensive guide as to how to record Skype interviews. I’ve tried so many times using different methods and tutorials but nothing works :(

    Luke Mildenhall-Ward had this to say on May 01, 2006 Posts: 299
  • Thanks for pointing that out Julian and Luke….and yes, perhaps there’s y.a.a.w.d.n* to describe the service that Apple is offering? Maybe PTAP - Pointing To A Podcast??

    * yet another acronym we don’t need


    WHERE WILL IT END!!!!???


    David Czepanski had this to say on May 01, 2006 Posts: 25
  • WWIE - Where Will It End, or World-Wide Internet Explorer? smile

    Luke Mildenhall-Ward had this to say on May 01, 2006 Posts: 299
  • And, Luke, how’s your Italian (I think?)

    Check out these links for what other people are doing to record Skype interviews.

    It looked like this was going to be the ticket…..


    But they claim what you want to do is not really supported (might be with a plug in).

    But there in the forums was this link to a site in Italian….


    Hope it works out.

    David Czepanski had this to say on May 01, 2006 Posts: 25
  • Of course you could even try Babelfish…..


    It makes it a bit easier….. sort of.

    David Czepanski had this to say on May 01, 2006 Posts: 25
  • Thanks David! I think I found the English equivalent of that tutorial already. It’s a shame they all require audio hijack pro. I found an awkward open-source solution, but it was so long-winded that it just always crashes one of the links in the chain - there was audio being routed all over the place.

    I think I’ll give hijack a go and see what it’s like.

    Luke Mildenhall-Ward had this to say on May 02, 2006 Posts: 299
  • On the iTunes “isn’t a host but what else to call it” debate; iTunes is a piece of software, the iTunes Music Store includes a directory of podcasts.

    (I think in some cases, iTMS caches podcasts for downloading but in essence all it does is provide a front-end for people to find out about podcasts).

    So, personally speaking, I’d take out the para suggesting iTunes might host your podcast cause it’s not true however you want to define/spin “hosting”.

    hitchhiker had this to say on May 02, 2006 Posts: 48
  • Nah, it doesn’t cache it. I don’t think the termination is that big of a deal to care about though :D

    Luke Mildenhall-Ward had this to say on May 02, 2006 Posts: 299
  • Page 1 of 1 pages
You need log in, or register, in order to comment