Podcasting—Taking On Radio

Got a lot to say but can't find anyone who cares to listen? Wish you had your own radio show but don’t want to do the corporate ladder thing? Podcasting might be the outlet for you.

Podcasting is where blogging and radio meet, allowing average Joes to have a radio show right off their home computer or phone. This creative outlet is more than just the new technology on the block; it's evidence of a culture shift away from big media outlets toward the individual. Podcasting allows a person to download an MP3 and play it on his iPod or computer or burn it on a CD. Unlike streaming audio, this radio alternative is without geographic limitations. No longer will you have to tune in at a certain time of the day, and unlike XM radio, there is no cost for getting your podcast.

Podcasting could eventually hurt radio stations’ incomes as people tune in more and more to their iTunes playlist or commercial-free iPod. Just imagine listening to your favorite radio show for free over the Internet and being able to pause, fast-forward and save it as you wish.

Before your mellifluous voice gets crackling, you'll need some tools and useful pointers to get you rolling.

To start, you’ll need:

-Audio recording software that records MP3 file format (Audacity, Sound Forge, iPodcast Producer)

-Microphone

-Computer with Internet connection—no computer? For $5 a month at audioblog.com, you can record your audio via phone.

Things to keep in mind:

-Listeners’ attention span—It might be good to have segments to hit upon specific issues, possibly include music or a custom intro/intermission. Having an upbeat show doesn't hurt, either.

-Ad/commercial time—Where you or some friends can pitch their website, blog, products, etc. Limit the amount of ads, considering that most people are turning to podcasting to get away from the commercial over-burden radio market.

-Time—Enjoy your newfound freedom, but limit yourself to a 10- to –15-minute frame.

Space saving—To save hard drive space and bandwidth, save the MP3 quality at 16-24 kbps.

The process:

-After editing and saving file, enclose it within a RSS feed (feedburner.com).

-Subscribers will need a feed reader (aggregator) to check updates on the blog or feed address. To save time, get a program (feed reader/aggregator) from ipodder.org.

-Subscribers can then enter the blog/feed address of the podcast you subscribe to.

-After setup, the podcast will check your subscriptions for updates, then download and stick it on your iPod. All for free. For those who don't want the automatic method of getting a podcast, you can and should have a link to download the MP3 from your blog or website.

After the fact:

Visit a podcast directory such as podcastalley.com and tell people about it. There are a lot of categories—ranging from politics, technology, spirituality, etc. Make sure you have kept these directories updated if you changed blog/feed locations.

Now it’s time to clear the frog out of your throat and start talking; you never know who might be listening. You just might make a career out of podcasting.

[Thad Hawk (thadhawk.com) is a frequent contributor to the emerging show (emergingshow.com). Hawk is the Visual Arts Director of Designer’s Covenant Church in Nashville, Tenn.]

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