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Podcasting

Podcasting is one of those multimedia terms that means different things to different people. The most simple definition is that it’s an audio file—most commonly an MP3 file—distributed by way of the Web. 

 

Distribution can be passive—the audio file sits on your Web site—or it can be more active—the file can be pushed to a listener by way of an RSS feed.

 

The “cast” part of podcasting reminds us of “newscast,” but podcasts can be created for training, marketing, or any other kind of information you create. 

 

The more disposable your use, the more streamlined you’ll want your production process.

 

If the highest priority is to quickly turn around the podcast, you might not want to invest time editing out “ums” or other stumbling.

 

If your podcast will have a longer shelf life, cleaning it up with editing will make it easier to listen to.

 

Typical phases of production

Media production is a collaborative process. Phases of production will probably involve different staff during the different stages:
  • Development and writing
  • Acquisition (recording in studio, office or the field)
  • Editing
  • Distribution

Franklin McMahon at Creative Cow has and excellent three-part series podcast creation. (Note when you arrive at Creative Cow, you'll need to scroll down and click on the image to launch the tutorials.)

  1. Submitting Your Podcast To itunes. This tutorial also covers tagging it to improve its search hits.

    http://library.creativecow.net/articles/mcmahon_frank/pod3.php


MP3 Settings and File Size

MP3 is a compression algorithm for audio. The more you compress your audio, the more clarity and richness it loses.

But because you’re distributing by way of Web, file size matters in how convenient it will be to download. You'll have to strike a balance between quality of sound and quality of download.

The way to make your file size smaller is to lower the data rate. For most basic podcastsvoice with a little musica data rate of 64 kbps is adequate. It’s possible to go as low as 32 kbps.

You can compensate for some loss of quality by manipulating the audio’s dynamic range and EQ settings (more on this subject in the future).

Distribution

If your listeners hear the podcast straight from your Web page, distribution is straightforward. If your listeners will download the podcast to an MP3 player, your job becomes a little more complicated. This area of the podcast page is being developed by a collaborative conversation of Munigov 2.0 members. More to come on this subject soon. (July 6, 2009)
 

Content Tips

If you can hook your audience with an intriguing opening, they're likely to continue listening. Your podcast introduction should include speaker introductions, identification of the producer or sponsoring organization and its location. 
 
If your podcast follows an interview format, remember to use open-ended questions to avoid answers of merely "yes" or "no."
 
If your podcast is scripted, then
  • use active voice
  • use short sentences
  • avoid clauses as they're difficult to track when being heard
  • identify speakers (especially if the voices are similar or if the podcast is long)
  • credit information but remember to make the reference concise
If you think your audience is multitasking while listenting to your podcast, then write appropriately. A Canadian Broadcasting Company radio producer once suggested a "tying your shoes rule." Someone listening to your story should be able to understand it while tying her shoes. Long clauses and phrases are even less acceptable when your audience multitasks!
 
If you add music, make sure you have copyrights to it. Music is available from different royalty-free sources such as www.iStockphoto.com and www.digitaljuice.com
 

Recording Tips

If you record in your office at your computer, then here are some reminders:
  • turn off your phone(s)
  • put a sign on your office so that coworkers are quiet
  • close any software on your computer that might ring with an alarm
Headset microphones can cause problems with popping "Ps" and sibilance because the mic is so close to your mouth. If you can use a microphone that allows distance from your mouth, put it at a distance of five open fingers, and put it at a slight angle from your mouth. Distance and the angle help minimize popping.
 
A common problem with recorded narration is that people begin sentences with greater energy and then fade. Try to keep your vocal energy consistent. Rehearsing helps. Smiling helps, too.
 
Sample Podcasts (more to come!)
Economic Development Department, City of Virginia Beach at
http://www.yesvirginiabeach.com/podcast.aspx
Inside the press room on their web site, yesvirginiabeach.com, Economic Development is using podcasting as an alternative distribution platform for news, announcements, and business developments concerning Virginia Beach, Virginia.  Potential business prospects can receive updated information on Virginia Beach via their RSS reader.
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