Starting a podcast is a great way to communicate your ideas and connect with an audience. If you are looking to start a podcast this article will show you how. We will go over all the tools and resources you need to get the perfect podcast setup in WordPress.
The actual word “podcast” is a combination of the words iPod and broadcast. The fact that the name for proprietary product (iPod) is synonymous with the term MP3 player is is a testament to the success of Apple’s marketing campaign.
This is analogous to the way people refer to tissues as “Kleenex” or how the term “Jet Ski” is used for personal water crafts. There are countless others including: onesies, Jacuzzi, crockpot etc. Okay now that we’ve covered the epistemology of the word lets define it.
Podcasting is a type of audio broadcasting on the Internet. Its name was linked to iPod in the first place because people would use their iPods to download and stream audio programs to listen to. The truth is a podcast doesn’t need to have anything to do with iPods at all. Anyone with a device that connects to the internet and streams audio can listen to a podcast. You can stream podcasts from your car, smartphone or internet browser.
MP3’s are the most common file formats to transmit audio from your podcast. MP3 is a type of encoding for an audio file. MP3 files are created using a type of compression known as lossy audio compression. A lossy audio file (ogg vorbis, WMA, AAC) means that the audio is compressed in such a way that much of the information recorded is removed. Mp3 files are manageable in size compared to lossless compression files such as .FLAC or WAV files.
The difference in quality is not discernible to the average listener. MP3’s are the most common audio format for podcasts and music files because they offer a good balance between quality and file size. If this confuses you don’t worry, I am familiar with audio editing and recording and it still confuses me. We don’t have to get deep into the physics of sound, after allthis isn’t a graduate course in psychoacoustics. All you really need to know is that MP3 files are the most common format for podcasts.
How does a Podcast Work?
A podcast is a type of RSS feed, which stands for Rich Site Summary and is often called Really Simple Syndication. According to Dictionary.com RSS is defined as:
“Really Simple Syndication: an XML-based standard and format used todistribute recent news and other frequently updated content appearingon a website: an RSS reader; RSS files; RSS feeds.”
In its most rudimentary form, an RSS feed is a text file. It isn’t meant for people to read directly but for machines. For podcasting, the RSS feed is a file that a points to podcast media files that a subscriber can listen to. If you subscribe to a podcast from iTunes, the podcast that for that particular RSS feed will display on that users dashboard.
There are many ways to make an RSS file. Sometimes the server generates these files dynamically or you can manually code the file, which isn’t too hard but there is really no need to.
Setting up Your Podcasting Site
Before you start, there are some things that you need to bear in mind. First you need to create a podcasting site. If you already have a self hosted WordPress site then you are already off to a good start. If you need to find a host, we recommend BlueHost.
WordPress officially recommends BlueHost and they provide seamless hosting for WordPress. See our guide on How to Launch a Self-Hosted Site With BlueHost to learn how to setup a WordPress site with BlueHost. There are also plenty of other great hosting options to get you started off.
After you have your WordPress site ready to go, you will need to find a solid media hosting provider. Podcasts are large media files, and serving large files on a shared host will take up a lot of server space, which can require an upgrade in service.
You don’t have to deal with any of that though. There are many free, open source media hosting platforms such as Soundcloud, Blubrry and Podbean among others. It’s a smart idea to create an account with one of those media services to host your MP3 files.
Since you are just starting out, you won’t have to dive too deep into the complicated world of audio interfaces, microphones, filters, mixers and other types of audio recording equipment. As your podcast develops you will learn more about the tools you need to produce better quality podcasts. As a beginner you should focus on a couple things. Microphones and recording software.
For hardware all you need to start out is a good microphone. Using a built in microphone or a really cheap one is not recommended. You will just annoy people with the terrible quality of your podcast. As for recording software there are many options available.
You will need a decent sound card on your computer for quality audio recordings; if you don’t have one you can always get an external audio interface, or upgrade your internal sound card. If you can afford it and you plan to get serious, consider shelling out around $100 for a decent microphone. If you aren’t ready for that yet, just use a basic headset/microphone combo and a stock sound card will do.
To start off with, Audacity is perfect. This software is free and has all the tools you need to record and edit audio. Don’t forget to check your computers specifications (RAM, memory etc.) to make sure that you have adequate RAM and memory to accommodate audio recording.
Don’t worry too much about making a flawless first episode, the idea is to get your podcast going, you can smooth out the bugs later on. Audacity is easy to use and there are many free tutorials online to help you get familiar with the program.
After you install Audacity, you will need to open it and create a new project from the file menu. Simply press record to record your voice. After you are done recording, you can go back and edit as much as you need to. Remember to export your finished episode into MP3 format when you are finished recording and editing.
Audacity is an extremely powerful tool for audio recording/editing and it’s beyond the scope of this article to cover even the basic features it provides. Fortunately there is plenty of documentation and free tutorials online for Audacity users. It may take just a bit of time and effort to get used to but it’s totally worth it. Once you have used one DAW (digital audio workstation) you can pretty much figure out any other ones much easier.
Publishing your Podcast
One of the best ways to have your podcast heard by the masses is to put it up on iTunes. Check Apple’s documentation and guidelines to figure out the best way to upload your podcast. Keep it simple at the beginning.For the first couple episodes, you may just want to post them on your WordPress website.
It’s a great way to get the ball rolling and it’s also a lot of fun. Once you get used to recording and posting your feed, you can easily figure out the logistics of mass distribution.
If you go on to decide that you are going to podcast and you can commit to publishing episodes regularly, then you can begin publishing on iTunes.
Podcast Plugins for WordPress
There are plenty of free plugins you can use to help you setup your podcast in WordPress. We’ve listed a couple of them below.
This is a free WordPress plugin that offers premium service as well. It’s got a strong rating and includes iTunes support and an integrated HTML5 audio and video player. Use it to create catagories for your podcasts and even manage multiple podcasts from a single WordPress site. There are lots of handy options in this plugin that will save time and effort while yielding great results.learn more & download
This plugin is great for beginners. If you want something direct and easy to use than you will enjoy the simplicity of Seriously Simple Podcasting. It uses WordPress’ native user interface. It provides all the essential functions you need to publish your podcasts.
Add widgets with shortcodes to post your podcast anywhere on your site easily. This plugin also has easy subscriber links for iTunes users and listeners using RSS readers.learn more & download
As you can see it’s pretty easy to get a podcast started. Adding this type of RSS feed to your site is a really smart way to grow an audience and gain exposure. It costs almost nothing to start out and you don’t need a bunch of expensive auxiliary equipment. All you need is a microphone and recording software, which can be as little as $20 for both.
This is not to say that there isn’t plenty of cheap, midrange and high end gear that can take your podcast to the next level. The possibilities for gear is endless. You can upgrade software as well, using the industry standard Pro Tools or opting to go with Ableton Live, Fruity Loops, GarageBand, Logic and a slew of others.
The most important thing is to do it. As with blogging and most other things in life you will gain the most insight from experience. First get a quick and dirty solution working before you go buy an expensive external mixer or a 16 channel audio interface.
If you have something you want to share, starting a podcast is the perfect way to do it. It’s a very intimate medium and can also pave the way for video blogging. Setup a podcast today to reach the masses and promote your message. Let us know any of your podcasting tips and tricks in the comment section.