Saturday

Small Business
Podcasting Demystified



Much has been written lately about the subject of podcasting. Podcasting is
a very powerful small business tool but, some are kept away because it all
sounds so technical.

In this article I will attempt to simplify the subject.

Let's start with the Podcast definition from the growing resource Wikipedia:
What is a podcast - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Podcast.

The definition provided by Wikipedia is a good place for you to start, but
let me just add my take. A podcast is little more than an audio file
(usually an mp3) placed on a website and combined with an RSS file that
allows people to subscribe and automatically download any new content
recordings.

From a technical standpoint, there's nothing really too complicated about
podcasting so don't think this is some geeky tech stuff. From a marketing
standpoint, I didn't get too excited about the concept until Apple decided
to make a podcast directory a primary component of iTunes. When that
happened the market for podcasting on any subject imaginable was born.

Podcast Basics

Podcasts are typically published with a blogging tool like Blogger, TypePad,
or MovableType. If you already use one of these blog services, creating your
podcast is as simple as linking to your audio files and using a service like
FeedBurner to automatically convert it into a podcast friendly feed. (More
on that in a minute)

Create Content

Most podcasts are formatted much like radio shows. Hosts will interview
guests or simply decide to talk about a subject that they feel is of
interest to someone. From a business standpoint it can be a very powerful
way to produce content that will make your website more interactive.

The plumber that records simple how to fix it podcasts will own the world!
(Videocasts are just around the corner too.) There are a couple other very
good reasons to host a podcast that may not directly have to do with content
per se. Think about interviewing your clients on the benefits of using your
service and posting those interviews as a podcast. Think that might make
your best client even more loyal?

What about referral partners? What if you identified business owners that
also serve your target market and invited them to be guests on your podcast.
My guess is that you could instantly build a network of leading businesses
with you as the hub. When you publish a podcast, whether you have a local or
national audience, you become a member of the media. The tables are suddenly
turned when you approach prospects and influential individuals. When you are
the publisher of a podcast you have the opportunïty to gain access to the
decision makers inside your biggest prospects – by simply requesting an
interview. Do you see the potential in that?

Record

As I wrote earlier, a podcast is a digital recording so one of the steps you
must complete for each session is to record your podcast. There are many
ways to accomplish this task. You can use a portable mp3 recorder, use a
service to record a telephone interview, record an interview using any
number of VoIP services or create a recording set-up for your computer.
(Obviously, you can go into a professional recording studio too.)

This article is not meant to explain in great detail every element of
working with digital audio files but there are many ways to accomplish this
step when you determine what your podcast needs are.

A great set-up for recording you own voice is to use a professional mic and
a frëe software program called Audacity (Audacity has some very useful
editing functions as well)

For telephone interviews you can use a service such as Conference Calls
Unlimïted. CCU offers a telephone bridge line, recording, editing and
hostíng of your mp3 file.

VoIP is a PC to PC or PC to telephone service led by a service called Skype.
This is a particularly good option for International calls. A host of
add-ons are cropping up to build even greater functionality into Skype.

Evoca
Gabcast
Skype VoIP calling
Conference Calls Unlimïted
Audacity free audio recorder and editor
Skype recording that interfaces with Outlook

Edit

You may find that after you conduct an interview you want to add some music
or cut out segments. Again, look no further than Audacity (It's frëe and
works very well).

File Host

Once you record your podcast you must upload the file to a server. There are
services that offer recording and hosting options but, all you really need
is enough space with your current web host to upload your mp3 files. Either
way, you will simply link to the mp3 file from a blog post or web page.
Below are some other options.

Podblaze
OurMedia
Audioblog
Liberated Syndication

RSS Feed

One of things that makes a podcast something more than an mp3 file is the
addition of a podcast format RSS feed. This is simply a file that is updated
every time you add an mp3 file so that subscribers through iTunes or some
other Podcast service can automatically download your new content.

Podcasts do require a specific kind of RSS feed but, the only thing you need
to do is go to a frëe service called FeedBurner and allow them to convert
your blog feed or other RSS feed to work for podcasting. They can also set
your feed up the way that iTunes and Yahoo Podcast want it set-up.

FeedBurner - Enhance a blog feed
Feed for all - Create a feed

Submit

Just like websites and blogs, podcasting has its own set of directories. You
need to make a point of submitting your podcast or podcast feed (the one you
formatted with FeedBurner) to the major podcast directories and engines.

ODEO
iTunes
Podcast.net
Singing Fish
Podcast Alley
Podcast News
Yahoo Podcast
Digital Podcast

Apple's Podcasting FAQs
Apple's Podcast technical specifications

Music and Intros

Maybe you want a cool music beat to kick off your show or a big radio voice
type intro.

Royalty free music
Professional intros and outros

Listening and Searching

You should subscribe to and listen to podcasts to get a good idea of some of
the ways people are using this tool for business. You will need what is
sometimes referred to as a podcatcher to subscribe. If you have iTunes you
already have one. (Most of the time you can visit a podcast site and simply
listen to the mp3 file if you have an mp3 player like Windows Media Player
or RealPlayer installed on your computer.)

iTunes
Juice
Doppler

Misc. Podcast Gear
Search audio files

Podcast Tutorials and Forums


Podstrigs
About.com
Podcast Alley
Podcasting News
FeedBurner's Podcast Guide

My Set-Up

Just in case you are curious, here's how I podcast. I use Conference Calls
Unlimïted to provide my recording and editing. I hook up with a guest by
telephone, conduct the interview and about 24 hours later receive a link to
the edited mp3 file to link to from my podcast blog.

My intro was produced my AudioBag.com.

My RSS feed was created and enhanced by FeedBurner.

There are lots of things that you can do to make your podcast even more
professional. In this article I've attempted to demystify the major points
and get you interested in producing your own podcast.

John Jantsch

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