Call it the new underground radio, or perhaps the next step in future media, but “podcasting” has all but conquered the Internet. By offering Web users a new dimension in obtaining news, fringe entertainment, and music from up and coming and/or established artists, the podcast is yet another way the Internet expands its interactivity. We can do more than see, we hear and we listen…and are introduced to new ideas and cultures that miss the mainstream.
Simply defined, a “podcast” is an audio clip, a miniature radio program focusing on a topic like travel, art, news, sports, or just about anything of interest. The term comes from a combination of “broadcast” and “iPod”, as these short clips are primarily downloaded for use iPods and portable MP3 players. Clips may range from five to twenty minutes long to allow for easy downloading, and may be found through specific websites that offer podcasts or through specialized portals like Libsyn, that host podcasting communities. Web users interested in listening to podcasts may use a specialized search engine like Odeo or iTunes to find thousands currently available.
For website owners, authors, musicians, and others interested in a unique method of reach, a podcast can be a valuable marketing tool. Whether you are selling a book by reading an excerpt or reporting on a favorite travel destination, adding a podcast to your existing website can help drive more traffic to your site, which in turn can increase your visibility and business. There are countless advantages to offering a podcast to existing customers and possible new visitors who enjoy this new technology.
In Part I of this article we looked at the reasons why you should be podcasting. Once you have made the decision to record a podcast, next comes the fun part, actually making it! You might think there is a long, involved process in creating a podcast, and it may seem daunting at first. However, once you become accustomed to recording shows you may find podcasting as simple as creating a website itself. Just a few steps to observe and you are on the way to becoming an Internet podcast personality.
Step 1: Write the Script
Even if you want your podcast to have a casual tone, you will want to compose a script before you hit record. The reason for this is two-fold: you want to stay on topic, and you want to stay within a reasonable time frame. While it’s nice and comforting to introduce a playful voice to your website, you want to be sure your podcasts stay on topic and that you don’t ramble off into tangents that may otherwise distract listeners. If your podcast is about writing poetry, don’t drift off into an anecdote about the day’s shopping. Also, having a script before you as you read is very helpful in curb uncomfortable pauses and stuttering.
Write out what you want to say, then read your script aloud one or twice for practice. This is important to do, because you may need to adjust your voice to the script so that it doesn’t give out halfway through the podcast. Talking for five minutes straight can be a chore, so keep some water handy for rehearsal and the recording. You may find you’ll ad lib a line or two, and that’s fine. The spontaneity adds to the flavor of the program, but for the most part you want to stay focused on your topics. Above all else, be sure to promote your URL in the script, so that listeners who find you through podcast portals will know where to go.
Step 2: Record the Podcast
When you are comfortable with your script, you are ready to record. Find a quiet spot in the house with good acoustics (some have recommended to me using the bathroom or even sitting in the car, just make sure you’re comfortable), and make sure there are no alarms or phones nearby that can go off and disrupt your train of thought. Test your recording software and microphone first, make sure you have quick access to the pause button in case you feel a cough or sneeze coming on, then go for it!
Speak clearly and just relax. Take caution not to talk too fast, and you will discover this helps cut down on awkward “ers” and “ums” as you record. Above all else, have fun with the recording and inflect your unique style into the subject matter.
When you are done recording, save the file as an MP3 and play it back. If you detect any noises or gaps you want removed, check if you recording software allows you to edit. Don’t be discouraged if your first podcast turns out less than stellar, as the recording process takes time and energy to perfect. Once you are satisfied with the end product, it’s time to share it with the world.
Step 3: Upload the Podcast
Listeners will only be able to download your podcast if it is available through the Internet. Hence, you must have a place to upload your MP3 files. If you have a website with ample space on the server, you might want to create a separate folder for your podcasts, then link to them from your website. If you find your webspace is limited, you may want to look into either a site that offers virtual storage for large files, or a site that specializes in hosting podcasts. Shop around, as some storage sites may charge monthly fees. Sample podcasts they host…do the files download in a timely manner? Are they easy to obtain? Wherever you decide to host your files, always make sure you keep copies on disc in a safe place.
Step 4: Promote!
Don’t just sit back and expect people to find you. Make sure you promote your podcast and attract the listeners you want. The obvious first step, of course, is to link your podcasts from your main website. Create a separate page as a podcast archive, with links to each file. If you have a blog, announce new casts as they are uploaded, and use a special embed code to include podcast URLs in your posts. Especially if your blog is syndicated through RSS, aggregators will pick up on the podcast URLs and distribute them with your blog content.
Wherever appropriate, have your podcast listed on podcast and audio directories. Whatever the topic of your cast, seek out relevant websites and announce new programs. Build relationships with other webmasters by offering the content to their sites in exchange for the link. If you are a romance author, seek out book review sites and offer them the podcast for promotional purposes. In time, listener-ship will grow, as will the opportunity to expose your products and services to a wider audience.
Podcasting is simple to do, simple to plan, and simple to promote. Devote the time and enthusiasm to a podcast for your website, and you can easily watch your site’s traffic soar.
Kathryn Lively is The Write SEO, a published author and editor offering free marketing assistance to aspiring writers. She writes content for CINIVA Systems, a Virginia Beach web design company.
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