Podcasting: How-To

In my blog post on Tuesday, I spoke about the uses of podcasts in an educational context and shared some basic facts about podcasting. Today I want to explain how to create an audio podcast.

Once you decide upon the focus of the podcast, the first thing to do is write a script. I’ve tried speaking off the cuff, but for me, in most instances, I am much more focused in what I say if I have taken the time to write out my remarks beforehand. If you happen to be a good extemporaneous speaker, give it a try, but in my experience, working from a text is the best way to go so that you are not fumbling for words or rambling while the record light is lit up.

After you have a script, you are ready to record. Let’s talk about microphones. For general purpose podcasting, you don’t need anything more than a basic headset. What you use for seminars at KU will likely do the trick. I do not, however, recommend using your computer’s built-in microphone, for one’s voice tends to be distant and often tinny.  I’ve recorded podcasts using an Andrea (Kaplan-issued) headset and found the recording to be fine. If your basic use is going to be to create podcasts (audio content) for your students, then a standard headset should work. (If your intention is to create a podcast series with a wider audience than students, you may want to explore higher quality microphones.)

In terms of software for recording, you have lots of options, but I would recommend GarageBand if you use a Mac and Audacity if you use a PC. Both pieces of software are free and easy to use. GarageBand is software that is included with Macs and Audacity (also available for the Mac) can be downloaded at http://audacity.sourceforge.net/download/

Like any new piece of software, one has to learn the ins and outs of the software, but each program has a clean interface and intuitive features, so the learning curve will be short. Apple has some terrific tutorials that can be accessed from within GarageBand; Audacity has tutorials available on YouTube. Both GarageBand and Audacity allow for recording, editing, and creating mp3 files for easy distribution. My preference is GarageBand as it’s a more full-featured piece of software (not available for the PC), but Audacity is no slouch when it comes to basic audio recording and editing.

Editing is the next step and how you edit will depend on the process that works best for you. Some folks record the entire script and then edit as necessary; this approach works well if one makes very few miscues when reading. My approach is to read a few paragraphs and then edit. If I misspeak and butcher the pronunciation of a word, I’ll usually start over (take 2), but I do not strive for absolute perfection; indeed, there is something to be said for wanting to sound authentic, like a real person, flaws and all. Usually what I do when I edit is tighten up the recording so there is not so much dead air between segments. What I want is a sense of seamlessness between one recorded segment and the next. On occasion, I may need to boost the output level of my recording or splice in some content that I thought to add after the initial recording, but those are exceptions and don’t occur frequently.

Once the editing is done and the work saved, it’s time to export the file to mp3 format for distribution. An mp3 file is a universally used audio file format that will play on anyone’s computer or mobile device. Depending on the software used, the steps will vary, but what you need to do is get the recording into mp3 format. GarageBand’s functionality in this regard is simple. Audacity requires one to download software that works within Audacity to convert files to mp3, but once done, the process is a breeze.

The last step is to upload your file to a file-sharing service such as Screencast, Dropbox, or MediaFire (there are others). All three services offer a free basic account, which affords a reasonable amount of storage space. For me, Screencast (http://www.screencast.com/) works best. Just create an account, upload the mp3 file, grab the link to announce the podcast, and pass it along. That’s it. You can also get the code to embed the podcast on a web page or blog if you choose.

Depending on your purpose for the podcast, getting the word out (that’s right, marketing) is the biggest challenge. I’ve found Twitter to be an effective tool to plug podcasts and generate listenership as well as word of mouth from those who have direct access to the podcasts (e.g., students whom you make the podcast and/or series available to). What is important, though, is to let folks know about your podcasts whenever appropriate and in time, you will see the number of views increase.

Podcasting is a fairly easy way to let your voice be heard, something that students will undoubtedly appreciate. The hardest part is getting started, but once you do, you will not look back.

Best wishes,

Kurtis

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