The Internet has leveled the playing field and removed many barriers to entry in a wide variety of industries. Creating your own broadcast for radio used to be a highly complex and expensive undertaking. Now anyone with an internet connection and some inexpensive equipment can produce a podcast and make it available online.
People podcast for many different reasons. Most people podcast because they have a love (or a hate) for something that they want to express. Here are a few:
- knowledge about technology
- love for a certain tv show or topic
- marketing – a band could do a podcast to get more listeners for their music or a technology company could do a podcast to advertise itself
- radio stations use podcasting as an alternative way to distribute their content
What Topic Should My Podcast Be About?
Podcast.com lists podcasts by category. Once you begin to explore the world of podcasts you’ll discover very quickly that there are niche categories you never thought existed. The most important thing is to pick something that you are passionate about.
What Kind of Equipment Do I Need to Create a Podcast?
When it comes to choosing the equipment for recording a podcast, there’s no right or wrong. You can spend as little or as much as you want on equipment, with the primary differences showing up in sound or video quality and ease of editing. There are some key pieces of equipment you’ll absolutely need to create a podcast, however.
- Microphone – There is a huge variation in the price and quality of microphones. While it’s possible to record a podcast with the small plastic microphone that probably came with your computer, the sound quality will not be very good. If you’re serious about your podcast, you will want a durable, dynamic microphone. If you plan to conduct interviews with two or more people using one microphone, an omnidirectional mic is key. The Shure SM-58 is a very good all-purpose microphone that won’t eat your entire podcasting budget. If you plan to record in the field or record musical performances, you will have different mic requirements.
- Recorder/mixer – You’ll also need a recorder or mixer to mix multiple inputs, if you have them, and actually record the podcast. There are hundreds of mixers available, but smaller units with around four inputs will suit all but the most ambitious podcasts. Some mixers have outputs designed for sending data to a computer via USB or Firewire. The recording can also be sent to a separate recording device — either a tape or a hard disk recorder — then transferred to the computer later. These are especially helpful for recording away from home. Some mixers come with built-in recorders. This area is where you will find the most variation between podcasts, because there are several possible mixer/recorder/computer input combinations.
- Sound Card – Simple podcasts can be recorded directly into the computer, but if you plan to have multiple people on your podcast, you might need a more robust soundcard that can handle multiple inputs (more than one microphone)
- Telephone Connections – Many podcasts follow a talk-show format with people calling in and asking questions. This type of podcast needs a way for multiple people on multiple phone lines to hear each other and a way to record the conversation. One solution is to use a phone service capable of running a conference call, then run a tap from the phone to the recording device.
- Audio Software – Software is a key element of recording a podcast, and it serves multiple functions. Good audio software allows you to set the proper recording levels, record the podcast and save it in a useful audio format. You can also edit the podcast using software. Very few podcasts are recorded live in one take and sent straight to the Web. We recommend that you visit iPodder.org. They review most of the podcasting software.
How Do I Broadcast My Podcast?
Once your podcast is mixed, recorded and edited, and you’re ready for the world to hear you, there’s one crucial step remaining: getting it out there so other people can listen to it. The podcast itself should be saved as an MP3 file. The higher the encoded bit rate, the higher the sound quality. A bit rate of 128 kbps is probably sufficient for a talk-show podcast, but podcasts featuring music will want bit rates of 192 kbps or better.
Then you have to upload the podcast to the internet. If you have your own website, you could upload the podcast to your website, but it’s important to remember that every time someone downloads your podcast they are using up bandwidth and you could easily exceed bandwidth limits by doing this.
One of the cool things about podcasting is that once someone subscribes to a podcast, they don’t have to continually check back to the podcast’s Web page to see if a new episode has been posted. Software known as a feed aggregator automatically downloads new episodes when they appear. This is done by creating an RSS feed for the podcast. The RSS feed is what people will click on to subscribe to your podcast.
There are many services that automate the process of creating RSS feeds. You simply plug in the link to the MP3 file, and the feed link is generated for you. Some services, such as LibSyn, even host the MP3 file and give you cool tools like an app creator so you can add a smartphone app to your podcast (for a monthly fee – Libsyn starts at $5/month. $20/month gets you the app package as well). Feedburner is another service that offers additional features to podcasters. Many blogging Web sites have integrated RSS feed plug-ins as well. Apple’s suite of productivity software, iLife, includes the programs GarageBand and iWeb, with podcast creation and feed creation integrated with iTunes.