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The term “podcasting” came into being in 2004 (from an article in The Guardian by Larry King). The word is an amalgamation of “pod” from Apple’s audio player of choice (the iPod, in case you’ve been living under a rock) and “casting”, having surgically removed the “broad” part of broadcasting. It is indeed more of a “narrowcast” as it has a more focussed listenership than most broadcast media – with the exception of broadcasts that are converted into podcasts – but that’s cheating 😉
So how do you go about taking your initial steps into the world of “narrowcasting”? Firstly you need to have a purpose for your output; are you providing an editorial piece on the merits of the latest reality TV show or producing an outlet for your comedic genius to be unleashed on an unaware world? Whatever you have a passion for podding you need to observe the same maxims as followed by the (successful) broadcasting fraternity and that is to keep it interesting and keep it focussed on the subject matter. If you ramble on, stumbling through different subjects, you’re likely to lose any following you have, unless it’s not the subject matter but YOU that is the attraction!
Once you know WHAT you’re going to talk about you’ll need the equipment to capture your “magic”. Starting out, a simple microphone / headset (the kind of thing online gamers wear) would get you by; its audio quality won’t set the world alight but it’s the bare minimum needed to get your voice into the computer (and to hear it played back). Moving on from that, and especially if you’re working on the quality aspect of your production, you would be better to invest in a good quality USB microphone which plugs straight into your computer, thus getting round the need for a mixer. These microphones are able to achieve high quality when compared with standard computer microphones as they effectively have a built-in professional quality soundcard (ADC = Analog to Digital Converter – for all you technerds). This, coupled with pro audio quality microphone hardware (renowned manufacturers such as Audio Technica, Rode, Beyerdynamic, Audix, Shure, Samson and sE have USB mic products), ensures the quality is maintained throughout the signal path.
If you’re going to be undertaking a talk show or musical performance based podcast then you may want to look into multiple microphones at which stage you’ll also need to consider a good quality mixer to combine everything into a stereo feed (left+right) for your LINE IN ports on your computer’s soundcard. That opens up a whole realm of devices that can improve the overall sound (compressor/limiters, graphic equalisers, digital effects processors, DI boxes, mic stands, cables, active monitors, passive monitors, amplifiers and headphones)! On a serious note if you were to be heading in this direction then you’d be wise to cut your computer’s soundcard out of the equation and record to a device with high quality ADCs (remember that term?). You can adopt a portable audio recorder or studio audio recorder depending on your requirement for mobility (that said, the rackmount devices can be transported in rackmount flightcases if you require). These devices, also known as “solid state recorders”, record direct to memory cards in an audio file format of your choice such as MP3 or WAV. Once you’ve finished recording you just copy the file to wherever you’re going to host your podcast.
Before uploading (the process of sending your file from your computer to an internet accessible server) your audio you may want to edit out the coughs, splutters and embarrassing pauses from your podcast. There are many sound editing software programs available ranging from the free (Audacity), the “bundled with hardware” (Cakewalk Pyro LE which is included with the Edirol R09HR and Cakewalk Sonar LE which is included with the Samson C01U Pak, the Samson C03U Pak and the Samson G Track) and the expensive (Pro Tools) – ok, so I did skip a raft of DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) software packages there but that’s not the focus of this article!
Once your edits are complete it’s just a matter of finding somewhere to host your podcast (an internet accessible server) and advertising it. This opens up a whole other area, but the simplest method is through the mighty Google corporation. For hosting, open up Google and search for “podcast hosting” – there are a number of free services but it is outside of the scope of this article to recommend any particular service. In regards advertising your podcast, if you have a Google Account then you’re half way there. If you go to Google FeedBurner it will walk you through all the necessary steps, including creation of a blog to advertise your podcast.
So what are you waiting for? Get the gear and get podcasting!