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How to Create Your Own Podcast


Putting the Cast in Podcast
Apple iLife '06 is a software suite that includes GarageBand and iWeb, which you can use to create both the podcast and its feed.
Apple iLife '06 is a software suite that includes GarageBand and iWeb, which you can use to create both the podcast and its feed.
Photo courtesy Consumer Products

Once your podcast is mixed, recorded and edited to your satisfaction, 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.

Variable bit rate (VBR) is another option -- the bit rate drops for quiet or spoken passages where not much audio information is present and increases for music segments. Note that talk-only podcasts can be mixed down to a single mono track, since stereo sound isn't really necessary. This reduces the size of the file, making downloading the podcast easier. Be careful to name the audio file so that the name of the podcast and the date of the episode are clear. You may also want to edit the ID3 tags of the MP3 file to help people find and catalogue your podcasts.

You have to then upload the MP3 file to the Web. You can use any Web space available to you, whether it's provided by your ISP or another hosting service. Be aware, however, that every time someone downloads your podcast, it is coming straight from your Web host. If the host has limits on the amount of bandwidth you can use, you could incur overage charges if your podcast becomes very popular.

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. A feed acts like a "container" for the MP3 file that tells feed aggregator programs where to get new episodes. It can be done manually with some XML coding. Check out Search Engine Watch: Making an RSS Feed for more information. However, most podcast networks and many blog sites can generate RSS feeds automatically.

The RSS feed is what people will click on to subscribe to your podcast. The feed link (usually a small orange button, the semi-official RSS icon) can be posted anywhere on the web. Put it on your website, your blog or on a site that collects links to podcasts.

There are numerous 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 (for a monthly fee). 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.

The Top Podcasts page in the iTunes Store.
The Top Podcasts page in the iTunes Store.

A crucial way to make your podcast available is to make sure it appears in Apple's iTunes store. iTunes' Podcast section allows users to subscribe to and download hundreds of podcasts from around the world. All podcasts on iTunes are available for free. However, Apple doesn't host or serve the podcast itself -- it only links to the RSS feed.

Submitting a podcast to iTunes is fairly simple. The podcast page in the iTunes store has a large button that asks for the RSS link and some additional information about the podcast. A podcast can also be submitted via the Web through the link in the iTunes FAQ.

Podcasts are reviewed before inclusion in the store, so they can take a few weeks to show up. You can also use podcast networks and syndication software to add a podcast to iTunes automatically.

For lots more information about podcasting and related topics, check out the links on the next page.