Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Podcasting?
Podcasting is a fancy way of saying that you've placed an audio file (mp3) on the World Wide Web for people to download. Podcasting combines audio with a technology called RSS, or Really Simple Syndication, which lets you automatically notify people when your sound file has changed.
The steps to podcast are:
- Create your sound file in mp3 format
- Upload it to a website
- Create an RSS "feed" file which includes your mp3 information and put it on the web
- Let people know about it, so they can subscribe to your feed with their feed reader
- Your subscribers will get automatic updates, whenever you update your audio, so all the work of notifying them is done for you.
- Your subscribers can then listen to your podcasts at a time that suits their schedules. With mobile mp3 player technology, there's no limit to when -- and how often -- they can listen to your podcast, and it's at their convenience, on their time schedule.
Podcasting really comes in handy when you want to broadcast an internet radio show or create some other kind of audio, which will change frequently. There are many podcast radio shows out there which are either talk or music or a combination of both. Podcasting is very easy to do, if you have the right tools, and you can now do it at very little cost. There are a lot of great introductory articles about podcasting on the net. Do a web search for "podcasting" to learn more. Or visit Wikipedia for more in-depth information.
What Can I Use Podcasting For?
Podcasting is perfect, if you want to create your own internet radio show, or if you need to publish audio online. Podcasting is also great if you need to create online training audio, or if you want to send out audio messages to people on a regular basis. It's great for customer relationship management, becuase you can convey with your voice more information than you can, with the written word. The human voice is much more expresive than a web page, and podcasting lets you get a spoken message out to the people you need to reach on a regular basis, without a lot of extra work on your part.
One of the great things about podcasting, is that once you update your feed file online, there's nothing else you need to do, to let your subscribers know that it's changed. When you rely only a website to communicate with your customers, you never know if they're going to come back and visit the website, when you have something important or meaningful to tell them. And if you rely on e-mail, you never know if their spam-blocking software will block your message, or if they'll read your message as soon as you send it.
Podcasting lets you communicate with all of the people who have subscribed to your podcast without a lot of extra work. Once you change your feed file and their feed reader checks your feed, all the work is done. And they know that a new message is waiting for them.
Some other uses for podcasting are: putting sermons online, putting research (financial or other kinds) online, putting advertising online, and just about any other audio content that can be delivered to people while they are online... so they can listen to it later.
What Is A Feed?
A feed is a file which tells a feed reader (or a "feed aggregator") that your audio has been updated.
What is RSS?
RSS stands for "Really Simple Syndication" or "Rich Site Syndication". RSS is a format for a "feed" file which holds certain information -- the name of a file, links to where to find it online, a description, when the file was last published, where it can be downloaded, etc. Feed files communicate with RSS readers (or "aggregators") behind the scenes, to automatically notify you of updates. Really Simple Syndication lets you update content and have it be picked up by interested parties (who subscribe to your feed) without additional effort on your part.
Are There Any Restrictions On My Podcasts?
That depends on your podcasting. You should always abide by all US and international laws regarding copyright and broadcasting of content. That includes the regulations of national and international licensing authorities. If you're planning on podcasting music, and that music is covered by a license such as ASCAP or BMI, you are responsible for paying ASCAP and BMI fees. You can find links to their sites on our Resources page to calculate how much those fees will be.
Another option is to podcast music that is published under a Creative Commons License. This is music created by individuals who do not require you to pay a licensing fee in order to broadcast their music. Many podcasters go with this option because ASCAP and BMI fees can add up to hundreds of dollars each year. Music licensing doesn't need to keep you from podcasting though. You can podcast talk shows where you and guests or your friends gather and talk about things that matter to you. Again, you need to be mindful of any broadcast regulations which might prevent you from saying what you want to say. Some podcasting hosts, including Podtopia.net, prohibit the creation of hate rhetoric and language which insights others to discriminate or act out violently against members of a particular group. It's one thing to record your opinions and send them out to the world, but it's another if you are inciting people to violence or hateful behavior. Above all, good taste should be your guiding principle.
Of course, good taste isn't always what people are interested in. Some individuals choose to broadcast adult material discussing sex or other intimate details of their lives. Because the internet is not governed by the same rules as radio, people can say pretty much whatever they like. Just remember, if you're putting intimate details of yourself into your podcast, you never know who is going to listen to them. You may not care, but just keep in mind.
Who's Listening? And How Can I Tell?
One of the nice things about podcasting is that you can tell how many people have subscribed to your podcast feed. If you've got a web host that provides stats (and your host definitely should -- or find another host!) you will be able to tell how many people have subscribed to your podcasts. Stats reporting can var, depending on the host that you use. You'll be able to see how many people have downloaded your feed, and how many people have downloaded your MP3 files each month.
How Much Bandwidth Will I Use?
That depends on a number of things: how many people subscribe your feed, how many people download your new file whenever there's a new version, and how large your MP3 files are. The the larger your MP3's, the more bandwidth you will use. The more subscribers you have, the more bandwidth you will use. You can calculate the amount of bandwidth by multiplying the size of your file times the number of susbscribers times the number of times you publish new audio each month.
You can reduce the size of your files by recording at a lower bit rate. But a lower bit rate is only recommended for talk odd casts. Music podcasting require a higher bit rate, in order to sound like the music you want to play. If you record your music MP3's at a lower bit rate, it may sound like it is being recorded in a tin can. This might not bother you, and if it doesn't you can certainly record a whatever bit rate you please, but check your sound file for quality before you upload it. If you want to recorded a higher bit rate and want to get higher-quality sound, you can record shorter podcasts. We recommend 30 minutes as a good length for a podcast. That gives your listeners just enough to listen to. It doesn't take up a lot of space on their hard drive or your Podtopia account, and he keeps folks coming back for more. A 30-minute show is also easier to produce than 60-minute show. And if you're going to be creating brand new shows on a regular basis, you may want to consider going with the shorter length of time.
How Can I Record My Podcasts?
You can record your podcasts on your computer with a microphone and a sound editing program. Podtopia.net recommends Audacity, which is a freeware program that gives you a great deal of control over your sound file. Audacity is easy to use. Even better, it's free.
If you want to get good sound quality for your spoken podcasting, you should invest in a good microphone. We have a collection of microphones listed on Podtopia.net at our gear page. We recommend you purchase a microphone that's specifically for recording on a computer. Sennheiser makes excellent sound equipment for professionals, Logitech has been in the PC microphone business for a while, and Plantronics has been making headsets for some time. Podcastingnews.com also has lots of useful information on podcasting gear. We recommend checking out different user reviews, so you get the kind of mic you're looking for.
When it comes to recording quality, Audacity lets you set the "bitrate" of your recording -- higher is better. It basically sets how many bits are used to render the sound, and if you set it lower (9600 or lower), you can sound like you're in a tin can. Lower bitrate files are also smaller, so you'll find some podcasters who put out long shows going with a lower bitrate. I always recommend that folks do a shorter show with a higher bitrate (especially if they're playing music). Shorter shows keeps your listeners coming back for more on a regular basis, which is what you want, for sure.
Will Podtopia Work With iTunes?
Yes it will. The Quickfeed RSS feed editor lets you enter extra information that iTunes needs to properly classify your podcast with other music it plays. You can subscribe to podcasting through iTunes, and if you create your special iTunes feed with Podtopia.net, it will contain extra information for iTunes to display, such as categories and subcategories, whether or not the content is explicit, subtitles for your episodes, and so on.
How Do I Make Sure People Get My Updated Podcasts?
You don't have to do anything other than update your file and republish it on the server. People who subscribe to your podcast will automatically be notified that a new podcast episode is available, and they can downloaded at their leisure. Once they have subscribe to your feed, their feed reader keeps them up-to-date on new shows. That's the beauty of podcasting. That's the beauty of RSS.