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How to Create Your Own Podcast

But first, what is a podcast?

Podcasting is a relatively new type of technology, so here’s a little background information for those new to the term. Wikipedia has a very good definition:

“Podcasting” makes audio files (most often in MP3 format) available online in such a way that software automatically downloads the files for listening at the user’s convenience.

The way I see a podcast is a cross between a radio show and a blog. The great thing is that anyone can create a podcast with little investment and only very basic IT skills. Once you’ve created a podcast, you can let people subscribe to your updates when they’re uploaded to your website. This is done in a very similar way to using an RSS reader to syndicate blog/feeds (more on that later).

How did I create and publish my first podcast?

The first step for me was research. I wanted to find out what other podcasts sounded like and what other people were already doing (especially in my personal finance area). It was also a useful activity to allay fears that the podcasts I’ve already produced are all going to be extremely professional quality – some are, but most aren’t!

After establishing that no one else was doing what I had planned (apart from Martin Lewis, the money saving expert, but that’s more about saving money than financial planning), it was time to work out how to record my first show. .

I planned to record ten-minute shows, which cuts production time and keeps the file size fairly small. Since this is an audio file hosted on our website, I wanted to make sure it wasn’t too big (to keep the download time fast, but to reduce bandwidth limitations).

To record the content of my podcast, I first tried the “Sound Recorder” that comes with Windows XP. This was not ideal for several reasons. Recording time is limited to 60 seconds, which would have meant cutting my planned show into ten perfectly timed segments and then editing them all together. He also wouldn’t allow me to speak with background music (which I felt was important for a professional sounding show/presentation).

I searched the web and found some free software to try on download.com. This software is called Propaganda 1.0 and it offers a complete solution for podcast creators. I downloaded the free trial to make sure it did everything I wanted and then paid $49.95 to activate the full version.

I wanted to make sure my podcast wasn’t ten minutes into pensions, so I asked my sister to record some audio for me. These were just simple audio snippets that I could use to introduce the show, break up the content, and end the podcast (my regulatory warning/disclaimer).

In terms of hardware, I just used a headset with a microphone; it’s the same system I use for Skype. This cost £10 at Dixons and does a good job of picking up a single note.

With Propaganda, I was able to record content for the show, line up up to 16 different audio tracks (including some background music), and play with the timing. This whole process took just under 2 hours before I was happy with the final version.

Publish my podcast

The Propaganda software makes this quite easy as well. There are essentially three steps to publishing a podcast.

1 – create an MP3 file from your podcast. MP3 seems to be the most common file format for podcasts, so I stuck with tradition. Propaganda allowed me to convert the 16 audio tracks I sequenced into a single MP3 file and select the best file quality. I chose something mid-range, not too low as the sound quality would suffer, and not too high to keep the file size reasonable (under 4MB).

2 – host the MP3 file on your website. I use MS Frontpage to design my website and use some free FTP software to transfer files from my computer to the Internet. I’ve also created a basic website to house the file that tells prospective listeners a little more about my podcast in general and more about this podcast show.

3 – Creating an RSS feed. Propaganda has done this to me again with their publish feature. An RSS feed is the feed that allows podcast players to find your podcast and subscribe to updates. When you create a new podcast show, you update this RSS feed (located on your website) and various podcast players notice the update and download the new podcast for the listener.

I’m promoting my podcast

Now that I had a podcast, I had to get some listeners! I posted a request for help on an online network called Ecademy.com and got very helpful responses. The main podcast library seems to be Apples iTunes, so that’s where I started. It’s very easy to get listed as all they need to know is links to your podcast, website and RSS feed. There is a vetting process so I had to wait a few days to get listed, but by Sunday morning I found my link and was able to download, listen and subscribe to my podcast using iTunes.

There are tons of other podcast directories out there, but one that caught my eye was Britcaster.com. Since this only includes UK podcasts (most libraries, including iTunes, are US-centric), it should result in a more relevant audience.

In addition to being listed in various directories, I added a blog to my website and a mention to my Ecademy signature. The combined effect of these two elements is that you get a high result on google.co.uk for the term ‘personal finance podcast’.

I guess I had a pretty good story to tell the press as it’s a first for a UK podcast (Personal Finance from an Independent Financial Advisor). I have already received some positive feedback from the trade press, so this week I intend to turn to the consumer finance press.

What’s the next?

Well, in addition to working on show number two, I plan to improve the production quality of the show as time goes on. I might consider making some ‘bells’ to mix into the show to add to the feel and quality of the production. There is of course a business motive for doing this podcast as it will (hopefully) lead to new inquiries and more exposure on the web and in the press.

For anyone who is considering starting their own podcast (or has read this article and thinks they might), I encourage you to do it! Podcasting is still in its very early stages and not many people in the UK have yet been introduced to the technology. With the explosion in ownership of iPods and other MP3 players, all predictions are for a massive growth in the podcast market.

Since relatively few people are creating their own podcasts, now is a good time to get your own exposure before the competition catches on.

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