3 Rules of Podcasting

Okay, you’ve done the hardest part. The cold plunge is always the toughest, and you’ve taken it. However, what comes next is equally difficult. The overwhelming majority of podcasts do not become successful overnight. Like anything in life, success in podcasting comes with time, patience, and commitment. With that said, here are three keys to successful podcasting.

1. Be brief. People are busy. And as much as they may want to listen to your podcast, there will always be something more important for them to do. So, the less of their time that you take up, the more popular you will be. If you can deliver what you have promised in the space of a television commercial break, you will likely reach more people than you would with a thirty minute or hour-long podcast.

2. Be consistent. After the first few episodes of your podcast, you should settle on a release schedule that works for you. Whether it is every weekday, once a week, or on the fifteenth of every month, decide on a regular schedule and stick with it. People will begin to depend on that schedule. If you are consistent, they will begin to look forward to to each new release. Just as you do not like it when your favorite TV shows decide to go on hiatus in the middle of the season, your viewers don’t like finding out that you haven’t done a podcast on the day that they have come to expect one. Does this mean that you can’t take breaks? Of course not. If you plan on taking a few weeks or months off, just announce it ahead of time on your podcast, your podcast website, and your social media accounts, so people will know what to expect.

3. Be real. Authenticity is a valuable trait, but one that is rarely seen. No one likes to bare their heart and life to the world, but people who are honest about their failings are able to help others much more than those who aren’t. If, on your podcast, you are talking about a topic that you have had experience with, you will have a greater impact on your listeners by telling your story. Don’t whine (or brag). Simply say, ‘This is what happened to me, this is what I did, and this is what I learned from that experience.’ You will find that people will come back to listen to you.

Godspeed and best of luck in all of your podcasting endeavors.

This post concludes the PODCASTING FOR MINISTRY blog series.

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Promoting Your Podcast — Podcast Directories

Below are the top seven podcast directories, listed in order of importance. On all of these places, it’s free to get listed. The steps to submit your podcast are pretty self-explanatory. Just make sure you have basic details such as your RSS Feed, the purpose statement of your podcast, and your e-mail address handy. Continue Reading

Promoting Your Podcast — Your Podcast Website

While having your podcast on iTunes and Google Play is great, you want to have a place on the internet where you have complete control over how your podcast is presented. While your podcast host will provide a page for your podcast, it is a good idea to have a website or blog for your podcast as well.

You can create a free blog for your podcast on WordPress.com. Once your blog is set up, you would publish each episode as a blog post. In order to include your podcast audio file in your blog posts, just copy and paste the URL to the MP3 for each episode into the post editing screen. WordPress will automatically convert it to an audio player.

If you want to start your own website with your own web address (mypodcast.com), you will need to order a domain and a hosting package from a good web host. Below are a few good ones that will work great for a podcast website.

  • HostGator (hostgator.com)
  • BlueHost (bluehost.com)
  • DreamHost (dreamhost.com)
  • SiteGround (siteground.com)
  • A2 Hosting (a2hosting.com)

All of these companies have low monthly fees. Once you sign up for a domain and hosting, install WordPress on your site. WordPress is the best platform for blogging and podcasting sites, hands down.

Once your website is all set up, be sure to include the following in each of your blog posts.

  • Audio player so people can listen online. You can just paste the MP3 URL from your podcast host. Alternatively, some hosts provide an embed code that you can copy and paste.
  • Clickable link for people to download the MP3 file for your podcast episode.
  • Brief description of each episode.
  • A longer description that goes into more detail about what the episode discusses. These are called show notes.
  • Links to any relevant online resources that you discussed in your podcast. Remember, people may be driving, exercising, or doing other things while they are listening. They won’t have time to write something down. So, tell them in your podcast that they can go to your website to get any resources that they may have missed.
  • Links to your podcast’s page on iTunes and Google Play. Encourage listeners to subscribe on their mobile device.
  • Encourage listeners to share your podcast with others. You can include a statement that says, “If you enjoyed this episode, please consider telling a friend.”
  • Invite listeners to send feedback and questions via e-mail. This can be a great way to figure out what topics your listeners are most interested in and whether they have any questions that they would like for you to explore further in future episode.

This post is a part of the PODCASTING FOR MINISTRY blog series.

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Publishing Your Podcast — Getting On Google Play

While Apple has a much longer history as a marketplace for podcasts and while most mobile podcast listening is done on Apple devices and via Apple-created programs, the Google-backed Android platform is used by a larger number of people. According to stats by Kantar Worldpanel, Apple devices are used by 29% of mobile users in the U.S., while Android devices are used by 65% of people in the U.S.

According to the 2016 Internet Trends report, the previous five years have seen 28% growth for Android devices, but only 10% growth for Apple devices. Markets for mobile devices (phone, tablets, phablets, etc.) in the U.S. and other developed countries are quickly reaching a saturation point, and there is no reason to believe that there will be any major shifts in this trend going forward.

So, while many of your podcast listeners will be discovering your podcast through iTunes or the Apple Podcasts app, it stands to reason that, in the future, most of this activity will take place on Android devices. And Google has an iTunes-esque app for Android. It’s called Google Play. Like iTunes, it carries apps, music, ebooks, movies, and TV shows. But it also has a special section just for podcasts. Here is how to get your podcast listed.

  1. Go to play.google.com/music/podcasts/publish. If you are not logged in to your Google account already, you will be asked to log in. If you use an Android device or any Google product (such as Gmail), you already have a Google account. If not, create one.
  2. Click the orange “Publish” button. (You may also have to click a blue “Add a Podcast” button on the next page.)
  3. You will be asked to agree to Google’s Terms of Service. Click “I Accept.”
  4. Enter the RSS feed for your podcast and click “Submit RSS Feed.”
  5. The next step will be for you to verify ownership of the podcast. Google will send an e-mail to the e-mail address listed in your RSS feed. This e-mail address will be the one you used to sign up with your podcast host. Google will display this e-mail address onscreen. Click the “Confirm Email” button.
  6. Go to your e-mail and get the verification code that Google sends. It may take a few minutes to come in. Once you get it, go back to the Google verification page, put in the code, and click “Verify Ownership.”
  7. Google will take a few days to review your submission and then it will be listed in the Google Play Store.

You can manage your podcast details at any time by logging in to your Google Play publishing account at the link above.

This post is a part of the PODCASTING FOR MINISTRY blog series.

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Publishing Your Podcast — Getting On iTunes and Apple Podcasts

Apple iTunes is the biggest marketplace for podcasts.  The virtual media library launched in January 2001 as a music download service tied to the popular iPod device. However, it soon grew to include movies, TV shows, e-books, audiobooks, and of course, apps. Hundreds of thousands of podcasts are also published in iTunes. iTunes has so many podcasts that, in 2012, it launched the Apple Podcasts app just for podcasts.

According to 2015 data, 82% of all mobile podcast listening occurs on an Apple device — iPhones, iPods, and iPads; and 78% of that listening occurs via the Apple iTunes or the Apple Podcasts app. So, no matter what you are podcasting about, a large part of your audience will be listening via iTunes.

Most podcast hosts (such as Buzzsprout and Libsyn) will provide you with step-by-step instructions for getting your podcast in iTunes. (There are some minor technical details that you must adhere to.) But, just in case you chose a host that doesn’t make this clear, below are the steps to getting your podcast listed (no matter who your host is).

  1. Go to podcastsconnect.apple.com and log in with your Apple ID. If you use any Apple products, you likely already have such an ID. If not, click the link to create one. (You will have to agree to Terms & Conditions, Privacy Policies, and such.)
  2. Once you are logged in, you are going to see the title “My Podcasts” and a “+” symbol. Click the “+” symbol.
  3. Apple will ask for your RSS Feed. An RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed is a syndication file that is used to tell various services when new content is available. In this case, your content is your podcast episode, and the service you want to update is iTunes/Apple Podcasts. (RSS feeds are used all throughout the web — for blogs, news headlines, and video content too.) Your podcast host provides you with an iTunes-compatible RSS feed for your podcast. And that is what you need to get ahold of right now. So, log in to your hosting account and find it; it won’t be hard. (If you use Buzzsprout, you can find it under iTunes & Directories > RSS Feed.) It will look like a regular website address such as this one: http://www.buzzsprout.com/3192.rss. (It may or may not have “.rss” at the end; that’s not required.)
  4. Once you have your RSS feed URL, paste it in the box, and click “Validate.” Apple validates RSS feeds before allowing you to submit it so you won’t waste your time or theirs with things that need to be fixed before your podcast is included in iTunes.
  5. If all is well (and it should be if you followed your host’s instructions), the validation will be successful. Apple will display your feed’s content onscreen.
  6. Click “Submit.” Apple will show you a confirmation of your submission and you can go on your merry way. You will also receive a confirmation of submission at the e-mail address linked to your Apple ID.

In a few day (about five to eight), your podcast will be live on iTunes and the Apple Podcasts app.

Re: Validation Errors

As I mentioned before, if you are using one of the recommended podcast hosts, you should not have any validation errors. However, the most common error is podcast artwork not being the right size. Apple requires that all podcast artwork (or logo, if you prefer) be 1400 x 1400 pixels. (If you use iTunes regularly, you’re probably rolling your eyes right now because Apple never displays artwork at this giant size. All you get is a tiny square less than 400 x 400 pixels. But Apple is just picky that way.)

To abide by Apple’s rules, you need to create a logo at that size to go along with your podcast. Here are a few tips.

  • Go for clean and clear over cluttered and colorful.
  • Make sure the title of your podcast can be clearly read when the logo is small (because it will be small). You may create the logo on your laptop or desktop, but most people will be looking at it on a phone.
  • If you must include a picture, include one — only one.
  • If the picture is of you, make sure it is a professional photo and that you are smiling reasonably. (Oprah tip: If smiling for a photograph seems unnatural to you, say “money”, not “cheese”, as the photo is being snapped. It works.)
  • If you have no graphic design skills, get someone who has such skills to design your logo. Services such as Fiverr come in handy here.

Here is an example of a good podcast logo.

This post is a part of the PODCASTING FOR MINISTRY blog series.

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Publishing Your Podcast — Uploading and Publishing

Once you select and sign up for a podcast host, it’s time to publish your first episode. You will do this by uploading the MP3 file you exported earlier. Log in to your podcast hosting account and click the button to create/submit/upload a new episode. (Each host has a different interface, but they all follow the same basic process.)

Select the MP3 file on your computer and upload (just as you would an image on Facebook or an attachment on an e-mail).

Then, you will need to fill out a few details about the episode.

  • Title. Format your title as follows: “Title For This Episode (Title Of Your Podcast #1)“. So, for example: “Parenthood, Death, and Loss with Devin Shelton (The Bad Christian Podcast #256).” Keep your titles short and descriptive. People want to know what they are getting into.
  • Description. Write a brief one- to three-sentence description of your episode. Here, your purpose is to get potential listeners to say, “That sounds interesting. I think I’ll take a listen.” Here is an example: “Having lost his mother in October, Devin Shelton adds profound insight to our reflections on last week’s untimely loss of Matt’s mother. Death really makes you think deeply about life and draws out appreciation for things we normally take for granted. And in the news, we ask if it is disrespectful, dishonoring or even evil to pay top dollar for the phone that Hitler used to sentence millions of Jews to death?”
  • Tags. Tags are a series of keywords that describe the topic and content of your podcast. Depending on which service you use, tags have varying importance. They mean more on podcast hosts that have built in content directories such as Soundcloud, BluBrry, and LibSyn. They mean less on hosts like Buzzsprout that don’t have these directories. You want to be targeted and specific in your choice of tags; five to seven is a good number. Here are some appropriate tags for our running example: “death, parenting, dying, life, gratitude.”

That is all you need to publish your first episode. Click ‘Submit’ or ‘Publish’ to take your audio masterpiece live.

You’ve done it.

This post is a part of the PODCASTING FOR MINISTRY blog series.

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Publishing Your Podcast — Podcast Hosts

So, you have a shiny new MP3 file sitting on your computer—a completed podcast—your first episode. What do you do with it? You publish it. Publishing your podcast is the process of making it available via the internet so that listeners can find it and listen to it.

The first thing you need is a podcast host.

Podcast Hosts

If you already have your own podcast or blog, you may be thinking that you can just upload your podcast episode there, and you’ll be good to go. No! Erase that thought from your mind. Even the shortest podcast file is hundreds of times larger than the average website or blog page. Popularly available and low price hosting plans are simply not designed to handle mass downloading of audio files. (And you are aiming for mass downloads, right?)

What you need is a podcast host. These guys have set up their servers specifically for audio file hosting, distribution, streaming, and downloading. They also help you meet the standards set by podcast distribution outlets such as iTunes and Google Play. There are many services you could choose from, but I will review the top three here and list some honorable mentions.

Buzzsprout (buzzsprout.com)

By far, this is the easiest and most user-friendly podcast hosting service. They are extremely simple to get started with, and I highly recommend them for any first-time podcaster. They charge by the month, with their lowest plan being $12 for six hours of audio content each month. (So, if each of your podcast episodes is about 15 minutes long—and I highly recommend keeping most episodes around that length—you could publish up to 24 episodes per month. If your episodes are about 30 minutes long, you could publish up to 12 episodes each month. If you publish more than your plan allows, you will be billed for the amount of time you go over.)

Buzzsprout provides easy to follow instructions on how to get listed on iTunes and Google Play. They also produce a podcast home page (and a mobile web page) so all of your audio files have a permanent home on the internet. A word of caution: If you suspect that you may leave Buzzsprout in the future, be sure to have a backup of your completed MP3 files on your computer or on a cloud file hosting service such as Google Drive or Apple Cloud so you upload them to another provider if you need to.

LibSyn (libsyn.com)

LibSyn (Liberated Syndication) is the oldest podcast hosting service. They hold the honor of being the first real podcast hosting service. They are not as easy to use as Buzzsprout, and their interface can be a bit daunting for beginners. But they are super-reliable and have plenty of options for publishing and distributing your podcast. Their lowest plan costs $7; it’s a good starting point. Unlike Buzzsprout, they charge by the amount of space your audio file uses, not the length of the episode. Generally, one minute of audio in an MP3 file equals one megabyte of disk space.

The amount of space LibSyn allots you for file uploading is not the only thing that goes up with their higher-priced plans. Higher levels also include the creation of apps for the Apple App Store and Google Play. (An app for your podcast sounds like a great idea, but it is not a necessary investment. Most people do not download apps for individual podcasts, and unless your podcasts gains a loyal fanbase of millions of people, a dedicated app for a podcast is not a worthy investment.) With LibSyn, it’s a good idea to start small and then work your way up as your needs grow.

Soundcloud (soundcloud.com)

You may have heard of Soundcloud as a music sharing service. That is what it started out as, and that is what it is most-known for. Recently, however, they have adjusted their offerings to accommodate podcasters. They have one plan which is $15 per month, but it allows you to upload an unlimited number of podcasts regardless of length or file size. If you plan on doing a bunch of podcasting, they are another great choice. Their uploading process is very simple and their site has a built-in audience giving your podcast a boost when it comes to reaching listeners. They also have a free plan, but you are limited to only six hours of content.

Any of the companies above are excellent hosts. Here are a few honorable mentions.

  • BluBrry (blubrry.com): Like LibSyn, this is one of the older companies in the industry and they have a solid reputation. They also have a built-in directory that helps get your podcast in front of listeners.
  • Podbean (podbean.com): This is another company which allows you to get started for free. Their lowest plan is $5/month with 100 megabytes of upload space per month. They also have a built in podcast directory.
  • Podomatic (podomatic.com): This company focuses on the social reach of your podcast. So, if you have a large following on Facebook that you would like to leverage, this may be a good choice for you. They have a plan allowing you to start free which has 500 megabytes of storage (a surprisingly large capacity for a free plan).
  • Spreaker (spreaker.com): Spreaker has a growing reputation in the podcasting industry, and they have a solid, easy-to-use platform. My only complaint is that the hours they provide you per plan are accumulatory, meaning that your capacity is not renewed on a monthly basis. So, if you use up the 100 hours available to you on your monthly plan, you will be forced to upgrade to a higher plan (or delete some of your older content). Still, a good choice if you don’t plan on doing that much that fast.

This post is a part of the PODCASTING FOR MINISTRY blog series.

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Your First Episode: After Recording — Exporting

The final step you need to take in the recording phase of your first episode is exporting. Exporting is simply converting your raw recording into an audio file format that listeners can easily download and listen to.

By far, the most popular audio file format on the internet is mp3. It is the standard form of audio file distribution on the internet. It was made commercially popular by Apple’s iTunes program, and is now used by Amazon’s MP3 store, and audio-sharing services such as Rhapsody. When downloading or listening to any audio on the internet, 9.5 out of 10 times, you will be dealing with an MP3 file.

So, here’s how to get your podcast file converted to MP3 in Audacity.

  1. You should still have your podcast audio project open. If not, open it.
  2. Click File > Export Audio.
  3. Under ‘Save As Type’, click ‘MP3 Files’.
  4. Type in an appropriate ‘File name’, such as PodcastTitle-1.
  5. Click Save.

When you do this for the first time, Audacity may show a message stating that it cannot locate the LAME MP3 encoder. This is something you should have downloaded when you downloaded and installed Audacity. If not, go to this link and download the version for your computer: lame.buanzo.org/#lamewindl. Download the ‘recommended installer package’ and install it immediately. Take special note of the directory the program installs into. Ideally, Audacity will automatically find the encoder, but if not, you will have to tell Audacity where the encoder is by

  1. Go to Edit > Preferences
  2. Click ‘Libraries’
  3. Click ‘Locate’ beside ‘MP3 Library’, and put in the location of the encoder.
  4. Click ‘OK’

Now, go back and select Export Audio again. Depending on how fast your computer is and how long your podcast is, it will take a few minutes to export.

This post is a part of the PODCASTING FOR MINISTRY blog series.

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Your First Episode: After Recording — Editing Your Podcast

Now that your first episode is recorded, there are a couple of things you have to deal with before it is ready to present to the world.

Editing

While recording, it’s natural to make mistakes — stuttering, stammering, clearing your throat, or saying something you didn’t intend to say. Often, these mistakes are small enough that they don’t warrant starting the recording over from scratch. But, they are big enough (in the host’s mind at least) that they deserve to be edited out of the final version of the podcast.

In Audacity, and most audio recording programs, it’s pretty easy to remove unwanted sound from your podcast. You just click and drag to select the erroneous audio and hit Delete.

There are some things you should always edit out of the final audio:

  • A baby crying in the background
  • The sound of a truck rumbling by on the street
  • Your spouse opening the door to your closet studio and yelling that the neighbors have arrived

Such interjections take away from the quality of the podcast, and they suggest to the listener a lack of professionalism and care. When such an interruption occurs while you are recording, pause, wait for the noise to subside, and then pick up a phrase or two back from where you were interrupted. Once you are finished recording, you should be able to easily spot those areas where the interruption occurred by the variation in the sound waves indicated in Audacity. Click and drag to select the erroneous audio and hit Delete.

However, there are some things that you may consider not editing out.

  • Mild stammering or stuttering
  • Throat clearing
  • Saying something askance and then quickly correcting it

The reason why you may decide not to edit these things out is because such minor mishaps occur in everyday conversation and we don’t think less of those whom we are talking to nor do our partners in conversation think less of us. Podcasting is a medium that values authenticity and realness. Thanks to headphones, most people listen to podcasts alone. It is a mass media platform that still has the effect of a one-to-one relationship between the host and the listener. The listener will not hold it against you if you have the occasional verbal snafu.

How much or how little you edit is really  up to you. Obviously, you want to produce as clean of a podcast as possible. But it is desirable to achieve a balance between uber-polished and authentic.

This post is a part of the PODCASTING FOR MINISTRY blog series.

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Your First Episode: Ready, Set, Record!

With your hardware and software in place, you’re almost ready to actually hit the record button. First, you need to secure a quiet place where you can record undisturbed. Ideally,

  • This place should not have a window facing a busy street
  • This place should not be a room that is heavily trafficked.
  • You may want to consider a closet, a basement, or an attic. You want someplace you can go and not be disturbed by the noises of others.
  • You also do not want a room that is too large with too little furniture. Recording in a space that is too open will make your voice sound distant to the listener, as though you are talking in a vacuum.

Battling noise while recording a podcast is nothing to be alarmed or disturbed about. Sarah Koenig, host of the highly-acclaimed Serial podcast, recorded her show in a basement. Unfortunately, the basement was directly underneath the first floor bathroom, and she often had to pause her recording when someone flushed the toilet. If you, like many podcasters, are recording in your home, it is helpful to let members of your family know what you are up to so they can give you thirty minutes or an hour of undisturbed time.

Make sure your mic is plugged in and working. You can verify that your mic is working by taking the following steps.

  1. Right click on the volume icon in the lower-right hand corner of your screen and click Recording Devices.
  2. In the dialog box that pops up, you should see your microphone and a volume level indicator beside it. You may have multiple mics listed; that’s fine.
  3. Speak into the mic. Make some noise with your mouth. The volume indicator levels should fill up with green. If you see green, then your mic is working.

If you see only a sliver of green at the bottom of the volume indicator, your microphone levels may be set too low. Take these steps to raise your mic’s volume level.

  1. From the Recording Devices dialog box, double-click on your microphone.
  2. A new dialog box pops up. Click the Levels tab.
  3. You should see a Microphone and/or Microphone Boost indicators. Raise your Microphone level to about 70, and your Microphone Boost level to about +20 dB22

Once you are sure that your computer is detecting sound from your mic, start Audacity. Press the Record button (the one with the red circle). You should see a blue line move across the screen. If you do, start talking. The blue line should begin jumping up and down in a dense voice-recognition pattern. See it? Congratulations.

Proceed with your recording. Talk calmly, slowly, and naturally. Don’t try to change your voice or tone to talk like some other podcast host. People want you to be you. (It helps to read your script aloud once or twice to lock down the feel of the words before the actual recording.)

Once you are finished recording, depress the Record button in Audacity. The blue line stops moving, and your first recording is complete. Make sure you save it on your computer.

This post is a part of the PODCASTING FOR MINISTRY blog series.

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