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Christopher’s Savvy Guide to Podcasting – Part Three: Outline of Producing a Show

ARTICLE: CHAPTER TWO: Outline of Producing a Show — Choosing to create your own Podcast can be approached in several ways, which will vary depending on your goals. For the kinds of Podcasts we’re going to cover in this article series (originally intended for a book) and this chapter, it’s generally assumed you have a personal computer with an Internet connection, which would be the primary necessity for the typical form of Podcasting.

Podcast Station 2005Although it’s technically feasible to record a Podcast from any telephone by setting-up an account with a Podcast Hosting provider, and use an Internet Cafe to check the show, this would be the least likely method used by the average person reading this article series. On the other hand, this method might be ideal for a “world traveler” who is doing a show about a journey or simply on the road a lot.

In this chapter:

  • Getting Organized
  • Overview of What’s Involved in Producing a Show
  • Scripting a Show and Creating Guest Questions

Getting Organized
Starting the journey of producing a show might involve evaluating the best process for recording and hosting a program.

Things to consider in getting organized:

  • Pick a topic or focus for your program
  • Evaluate and determine if you will use an online Podcast posting service, or host your show on your own Website
  • Choose how to record (on your PC, or online, with free or commercial software)
  • Acquire tools needed such as microphone, audio interface, phone interface (for recording phone interviews), software, determine how to generate RSS Feed File, either through software or by hand
  • Sign up for online Podcasting account, or Web hosting account and domain name (if you don’t already have one)
  • Prepare possible list of program “episodes” and guests
  • Record Program(s)
  • Optimize for Web including META data
  • Get content online and into iTunes
  • Advertise and promote show
  • Measure and track audience
  • Live happily ever after

Overview of What’s Involved in Producing a Show
In the following flowchart (Figure 2-1), you will see an overview of a possible procedure for first evaluating how to produce the show, then upon choosing the appropriate method, moving forward with production, implementation, testing, and marketing.

As you can see from the flowchart, the first step is to decide what your show is going to be about. Actually, if you’re a prolific person with lots of interests, or a business owner with many diverse offerings, there is no reason you can’t create multiple shows for different audiences.

Chapter 2, Figure 2-1
Figure 2-1: Flowchart of program development tracks. (CLICK for larger version.)

This process can include evaluating existing programming using a Podcatcher (see Chapter One, Part Two of this series) to see if you can do something better. For a business you might check out what the competition is doing. For a personal show, you might decide to do something different if there is already a glut of the topic you were thinking of doing. Of course, just because there are other shows out there on your chosen topic, there’s nothing to stop you from bringing your own “flavor” to the idea. Think of ice cream, there are more outfits offering ice cream each year, and it’s still pretty much the same thing, but each new offering brings its own customer base.

So, looking at Figure 2-1, the left “track” involves evaluating program topic(s) and recording methods, while the right “track” involves evaluating the best way to put your show online.

In this chapter we’ll take a look at choosing the best way to produce a show for your needs, and in the next chapter we’ll get into the actual steps in recording a show. By evaluating these two chapters you should have a very good sense of which approach to use. Chapter Seven also has additional information on the hard costs, and hidden costs, to all methods of hosting a Podcast, as well as some how-to information on managing content that must be uploaded to a Web server via FTP (File Transfer Protocol, which is a special way of sending files to the server’s hard drive from your PC).

The Three Likely Production Methods
In the following comparison chart, you’ll see a quick look at the three most likely methods of producing a show which are also noted in Figure 2-1.

Basic Overview Chart

Scenario One
The first choice would be to add a program to an existing business or personal Website (as in but with your own site name). Under this scenario, you would either be adding the show to a site you already have that describes your services, or is a personal blog or company entertainment site; or, you would be creating a new site specifically for the Podcast(s), where you could build supporting content and information about your show and each episode.

The benefits to this approach are enormous from a marketing perspective because the content lives in one place online over which you have total control, belongs to you, is portable from one hosting provider to another, and allows for building support pages for each show and tracking the audience of all your materials in one system. The downside is that this takes some planning, some ongoing maintenance of your account, and content management completely separate from your Podcast .

Some of the other benefits include peace of mind. For example, if the free Podcast hosting provider or your Website hosting provider goes out of business, you have all your content, you own your domain name, and you can easily simply point the domain at another hosting provider and your downtime would be as little as 48 hours. For advertising and marketing purposes, it makes way more sense to invest your time and money into promoting your own domain name over something like

If you want to earn immediate revenue from your Podcast site, you definitely need your own Website, because you can add Google’s AdSense program to your pages, and when people come to your site, relational advertising is shown and you earn a commission on each click. For example, if your Podcast site is about animal rescue and pet nutrition, and you have a page for each program episode that describes information about the guest or the references that inspired your episode, the AdSense program would automatically put pet nutrition related advertisements on your site pages. By having a unique page for each episode, the page can more likely be found in search engines which drives people to discover your show, and for your audience members who found the show through a Podcast directory, it leads them to your site to learn more about the program.

Scenario OneWhat would you put on an episode page? Well, you could have a page that includes photos of what you’re covering in an audio program, such as an interview; for a music guest, you could have a bio and CD covers, and you can include bibliographic information that might be tedious to listen to or write down for a listener to your show.

For another example, let’s say you have a Podcast program about digital photography. For one episode, you might have a program about how to find the best deal on Nikon digital SLR cameras, and your experience as a new owner. On your episode page, you might include sample photos taken with the camera, list all the accessories and options for the camera model (e.g., flash, lenses, cases), manufacturer image of the camera, and sample pricing from different vendors. This can be a huge benefit to an audio-only Podcast because it invites your audience to visit your site and interact with you, perhaps even leave comments about the episode, or click advertiser links to “support” your program. Then, in your Podcast, you end each episode with “for more information about this episode, visit our Website at ….”

Yet another benefit to managing your own site is that you can solicit donations for your efforts, by setting up a PayPal account (an eBay company,, and putting a “donate” button on your pages. Over the past several years this has proven to be a viable way to earn some money for your efforts, and tens of thousands of people take this approach to letting their audience contribute to the continuation of the show versus charging some kind of subscription fee. It’s much like the “shareware” approach to software, where programmers offer their applications for free, and people are encouraged to pay for it if they find it truly useful. It won’t pay your rent (most of the time), but if people want to support your pet rescuing or digital camera testing efforts, it sure doesn’t hurt!

Finally, another superior benefit to this first approach to creating and managing your program is that you have access to what are called the “raw log files” on the Web server. If a hosting provider doesn’t offer this, go elsewhere immediately. Although many hosting providers offer some basic “site stats” monitoring (often a popular program called Webalizer, see Chapter Ten), the raw log files are the big daddy of information about what is going on every time somebody visits your site, reads a page, downloads a Podcast file, or tries to hack into your site maliciously (yes, this will always be going on no matter what kind of Web presence you have — it’s primarily a nuisance and not a fire alarm to worry over).

Being able to obtain, download and generate reports from your log files is critical to measuring your audience from any Website. The log files do exactly as the name implies, it “logs” every visitor to your site and tracks all kinds of information such as where the visitors are coming from (such as a search engine, other Website link, advertisement, and country), which page or other file is viewed the most, and obscure things like kind of Web browser used, operating system, and even the keywords used to find a specific page from major search engines. And there’s more! The log file even gets down to the level of how long each visitor stays on your site, the average number of pages they view, and what day and time of day has the most visitor “traffic.”

Your log file — well, log files actually — are explored using a software program called a Log Analyzer, and this subject is covered in more detail in Chapter Ten. The Log Analyzer slices and dices all the data so you can look at specific months, generate reports to court advertisers, and determine if an online advertising or search engine marketing strategy is effective or not. A log file is not a hit counter, which can count page visits and some other data, instead it’s the in-depth logging of everything going on with your site every hour of every day.

The reason I’ve dwelt on this for a bit, is that with any free or inexpensive Podcast hosting service you may not receive any tracking, or the cost of adding tracking options might put the cost at about the same as having your own Website to begin with. On the other hand, some sites like do provide an option for pretty good basic tracking reports when you switch from a free account to a $10 per month account.

Again, this may be adequate for a personal or start-up show, but not a commercial site, or for those wanting to do some serious online marketing through search engines.

Scenario Two
If you’re doing a fun “home brew” program about a topic that interests you, or for which you are an expert or experienced person with opinions to express, you might not be overly concerned with initially want to sell advertising or getting a sponsor. In this scenario, you may or may not want to set-up a special Website for your program as I’ve outlined in the previous section, above.

The benefit of having your program hosted through a Podcast-specific hosting service, or with something like Apple’s .Mac service, is that you don’t have to worry about things like domain names, creating pages in HTML programs, or learning to FTP files to servers. With some Podcast hosting services, you can even record your show by phone, and you don’t even need to deal with software, microphones, or the like.

Scenario TwoOne of the downsides to creating a program that lives on any kind of “free” or “hosted” Website that is not your own, is that when promoting your show, you are actually promoting the site where your show lives as much as your own program. When you have your own site, all of your promotion efforts will always be towards getting folks to visit your site, and if you launch new shows, retire old shows, or “remix” content, it’s all under your control, which is not the case with a “hosted” solution.

Still, it’s ridiculously easy to set-up a Podcast within half an hour with a site like,, or (to name a few). In an upcoming chapter I walk you through setting up and recording a show with Podomatic. If you’re a musician, Gcast is a good choice because it’s tied into which, as the name implies, is a wonderful portal for independent and unsigned musicians. Podomatic and Gcast are free, while Hipcast has a base fee of $5 per month to get started (free trial period) but has some neat tricks for those wanting to do video ‘casts or tie in a personal blog on the same site. If you have a new Mac, it’s wise to look into the options included with a .Mac account.

If you don’t want to have your own domain name, don’t want to learn to build Web pages supporting your show(s), or deal with optimizing files, uploading files, or the like, then this second scenario of doing it all online may be the perfect choice. And, you can always change tracks later if you wish.

One real downside is that if the free Podcast site goes out of business (so many “free” Web ventures of the past decade have disappeared that it’s a genuine concern) you might lose all your content, your subscribers, and all the hard work you put into it. Thus, it’s critical to make sure you subscribe to your own show, and download all the files you create online to your PC, and then back-up the files to CDR or DVDR for posterity and security.

Scenario ThreeScenario Three
In this scenario you combine the best of both worlds. For instance, if you have an existing site where you may have hired a designer or Web firm to build it for you, it might be time consuming to learn to record audio and implement a Podcast and add a new content section on your site.

However, it’s relatively easy to record a show on a free Podcast site, then simply have your Webmaster or site manager link to that on your existing homepage.

This approach can allow you to “test the waters” with minimal or no investment, and then decide if you have the time and inclination to pursue creating regular content, and if your customers or audience find it valuable.

Scripting a Show and Creating Guest Questions
One element often overlooked by new ‘casters, is the idea of scripting your show. This can include writing the intro/outro for each show which stays the same, so that you don’t have to re-record it each time (such as “Welcome to the Sten and Rimpy Show, where cartoon animals tell you what to watch on TV”) and the copyright info and plug for website which might end each show to fade out.

A program lineup can be a rundown of possible show topics, placeholder titles, and possible guests, and even target publication dates (“air date”).

These elements can be tracked in various ways, such as in Microsoft Excel (or similar spreadsheet program), or using index cards on a bulletin board, with one card per program episode.

Guest questions can be far more effective if you make yourself a short list of ten topics to cover, with possible follow up questions. This keeps you from flailing about with things like “how’s the weather down there,” which you’d likely need to edit out later.

By having some actual questions in mind, you can also help steer the path of the interview so that it doesn’t meander all over. In coming up with your questions, it’s a good idea to do some background on your guest and locate possible past interviews so that you’re not asking the exact same questions he or she has already spoken about over and over. By having more “involved” questions from you, it’s more likely you will elicit a far more human response from your guest, which will be more interesting to your audience.

While it’s certainly a learning adventure to produce a personal podcast without any pre-planning and just “run with it,” you may find that in order to produce a regular consistent show, you need to consider some of these processes in order to maximize your own time spent.

For a business program, or marketing effort, it’s also essential to treat the program as a project with deadlines, structure and consistency in order to sell advertising or generate revenue through a subscription model.

Organization and planning can help make your program more consistent so that your audience has a comfort level that they can come back for more, and that there will actually be more. If you do programs at oddball times, skipping weeks, or months between, you run the risk of being dropped from subscription lists in Podcatchers. If you plan to do a regular weekly or monthly show, some of the topics found in this and upcoming chapters may help you in keeping on track.

Coming in Chapter Three (Part Four in Series)
CHAPTER THREE — Recording Options for a Program
* Tools You May Already Have
* Two Track or Multi-Track Audio
* Choosing and Set-up a Microphone
* Make Your Own Podcast Kit

Article is Copr. © 2005-2007 Christopher Laird Simmons – all rights reserved. This article series, including text and images, charts, and glossary, is protected under U.S. and international copyright law – unauthorized reproduction or republication, online or offline, in whole or part without express written permission of the author is strictly prohibited. Originally intended for a book, “The Savvy Guide to Podcasting,” this content also appeared on

Articles Music and Recording

Christopher’s Savvy Guide to Podcasting – Part Two: The Basics

ARTICLE: CHAPTER ONE: The Basics — If you’ve read the introduction to this series of articles, you may have an idea of what a Podcast is all about, but now we’re going to start getting into the details; the specifics of what, where and how to listen to or build a Podcast program.

In other words, this chapter will give you some of the basics about what is going on when a Podcast is being created and listened to.

In this Chapter:

  • What is Podcasting
  • Podcatching 101
  • The Difference Between Internet Radio and Podcasts
  • Where Did Podcasting Come From?

What is Podcasting
The simplest explanation is that a “Podcast” (iPod + broadcast = Podcast) is an audio or video program which can be viewed online or offline, and which can be “subscribed to” using special software on any personal computer and selected media players like Apple’s iPod. Through a subscription mechanism called RSS (Really Simple Syndication, or Rich Site Summary), Podcasting provides a simple way for interested parties to find, subscribe to, retrieve, and listen to (or watch) Podcast “shows.”

A Podcast can be a talk show where guests are interviewed, political commentary about government issues, a movie review program, lifestyle tips for new parents, tutorials on how to fix a car, or just about anything you can imagine. It can be a slick, Entertainment Tonight style program with background music and high production values, or a personal journal of places to stop on Route 66 recorded on a pocket audio recorder. Pretty much anything than can be recorded in audio or video format can be made into a Podcast by converting the content into a Web-ready format, and creating a RSS “feed file” that tells people how, where and when they can get your show.

Web directories, like the Apple iTunes Music Store, can sort and categorize Podcast programs based on “tags” found in the RSS feed file that describe program episodes and other data about the overall program such as who created it and where to find it on the Internet.

You do not need an iPod, or any portable entertainment device, to listen to or subscribe to a Podcast, but many devices, including Sony’s PSP and Motorola iTunes-capable phones (or any MP3 capable phone), can play Podcasts. A Podcast is “subscribed to” using a “Podcatcher” (or news aggregator), which is a computer program designed to regularly “check in” with a particular Podcast’s RSS feed file for updates, and “catch” the latest “episode” for a subscriber to listen to.

Figure 1-1 (c) Simmons
Figure 1-1: Relationship between PC with Podcatcher, connecting to a Web server and RSS feed file that points at the actual program episodes.

To be clear, almost any media device which can play a MP3 format audio file can “play” a Podcast, since it’s essentially no different from a song file “ripped” from a music CD. What makes Podcasting different is the ability to get updates automatically via RSS using a “feed file.” So, your Motorola RAZR phone with Web browsing can be used to download and listen to a Podcast episode “on demand,” but does not have the ability to (yet) run a Podcatcher application to go out and grab new episodes automatically. Some folks are calling this kind of ‘cast a “Mobcast” or “Mobicast” (mobile + Podcast/broadcast = Mobcast).

The Podcatcher is used to subscribe to a “feed” which is a small file using XML “tags” that tells the application when your Podcast has been updated, and where to obtain the latest file, which is typically a MP3 audio file, but can really be any type of audio or video file format including RealMedia, Apple’s AAC, QuickTime or even Windows Media. Note that using certain formats will limit the audience, as some formats won’t work with every device or software.

It’s important to be aware that a “Podcast” is simply a term for a movement which began on the Internet long before Apple’s iPod music player existed or the term was coined. It’s about the sharing of rich media (audio or video) information in such a way that anybody can easily find and subscribe to such content without having to manually return to a specific Web page over and over to see if there’s something new.

Some folks who are disparaging of the term “Podcast” prefer to call them audio blogs (Web + log = blog), or video blogs (or “vlogs”). However, we’re going to stick with the term “Podcasting” for the remainder of this series. Chances are that people will be far more likely to know what you’re talking about if you say “I launched my own Podcast” versus “I started my own audio blog” unless you’re in the inner circle of mega-geeks who eschew anything which smacks of populist branding or consumerism. Ironically, many of the original pundits who became semi-famous for their blogs have left the blogosphere now that blogs are considered mainstream.

It is advisable that before considering creating your own Podcasts, that you first explore a little bit what is already out there, and how others are doing it, to get a better sense of not only what is possible, but also perhaps how you might do something better (see Chapter 2, part three of this series, for Podcast Business Plan tips).

If you’re new to the world of Podcasts, the next section will show you how to locate and listen to Podcasts on your PC.

Podcatching 101
While “Podcatcher” sounds like somebody from a crack team of government agents trying to track down pod people from Invasion of the Body Snatchers, in actuality Podcatching refers to a software application which is capable of subscribing to and playing a Podcast.

For instance, Apple’s iTunes software, when running on a PC, is a Podcatcher because you can subscribe to programs, and listen to them on your computer (see Figure 1-2). What makes iTunes so “insanely great” (to quote Apple’s founders) is that it is also a superb directory of programming, both free and fee-based, especially if you’re an iPod owner. And, unlike the majority of other Podcatchers it handily plays video “inline” without needing to launch external video players.

If you’re not already using iTunes, it’s easy to get, and if you don’t want to use iTunes there are a huge number of Podcast directories you can explore simply by pointing your Web browser at a URL (see Appendix in the final episodes of this series for a listing of such directories).

To get the free iTunes software, simply go to and follow the directions found there for your particular operating system. Of course, if you own an iPod, you’re certain to already be using iTunes.

To find Podcasts in the iTunes Music Store, simply click the Music Store link found in the left menu in iTunes. Then, in the “Inside the Music Store” menu, find the text link that says “Podcasts.” (The layout in the store does change from time to time, so you might need to look at the menus on the left or right side of the store to find it.)

Once you’re in the Podcast directory (Figure 1-2), you can use the various navigation elements to browse by topic, new and notable, Today’s Top Podcasts (right side of screen), or other options like fan favorites (again, this section of the iTunes Music Store changes frequently and may differ today from this screen shot). There is also a search box on the left side where you can do searches for topics you’re interested in. For example, try doing a search for “music” with the choice “Search Podcast Titles.” This will bring you to a search result page for Podcasts with the word music in their title.

Figure 1-2 © Simmons
Figure 1-2: Apple’s iTunes Music Store is an example of a Podcatcher, as well as a Podcast directory.

You’ll find this can be a lot of fun, real quick. For example, I’m a big fan of musician Joe Satriani, and while writing this article series (originally a book project) I ran across his Podcast on iTunes promoting his new album “Super Colossal.” Instead of just doing a weekly or periodic rant about rebuilding his garage or the new car he was thinking of buying (you will find celebrity Podcasts of this nature, sadly), he created a program where each episode he talked about the inspiration and production of each song on his new album. This allowed fans (like me) to get a taste of the thinking behind the new album and where his head was at while making each song, with a taste of each track. I was able to watch the clips and listen to the music while working out on the elliptical machine at the gym thanks to the video capabilities of my iPod.

Juicy Podcatching
It would be rude not to mention the grandpa of Podcatchers, iPodder (which is now called “Juice Receiver”), created by the folks who brought the term Podcast into the public sphere. Developed by former MTV “veejay” Adam Curry and his pals, iPodder was what brought the concept to many of us who got our feet wet before the media knew what we were doing.

Today, Juice Receiver (see Figure 1-3) is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux and the lead programmers are Erik de Jonge, Andrew Grumet, and Garth T. Kidd; with the interface design by Martijn Venrooy. Since the program is free, you are encouraged to use the “donate” option on the Juice site if you end up making the program your primary source of enjoying and catching Podcasts.

This application contains the pedigree of iPodder, but has been updated to be more user-friendly for the average person, and now spotlights the numerous popular directories of program content. Once installed on your computer, Juice allows you to subscribe to programs found online or from within its built-in search features, and then download them to your computer and/or portable media device.

Figure 1-3 (c) Simmons
Figure 1-3: Juice Receiver is the latest iteration of the “original” Podcatcher.

Juice has a very simple interface, where there are tabs across the top, then windows below. On the “Subscriptions” page (see Figure 1-3), there are two boxes (or “panes” of the window), where the top box has a list of Podcasts you have subscribed to with the Location URL (URL = “Uniform Resource Locater” or Web address) of the feed file.

The bottom box shows the episodes of the program selected in the top box. Thanks to the uncluttered design, you can easily see the size of the program files, its episode title, and the URL where the audio/video file lives (which can be entirely different from the URL of the Podcast’s RSS “feed file”). I find the URL feature useful, since it helps to know that I’m not subscribing to a Podcast by singer Jason Mraz that then says it’s coming from someplace in Russia or Korea, which might be an indication it’s potentially some kind of “spyware.”

TIP: It’s wise to keep an eye on the URLs of Podcasts you subscribe to, to ensure you know where the content is coming from, since the content is going to be downloaded to your computer. Having a robust anti-virus program on your PC is a must. I’ve found Avast ( to be the best choice overall for Windows XP, since it scans downloaded content, also has protection when visiting actual Websites, and does a full boot-scan of the system without launching Windows. If you’re ultra-paranoid, you might consider using iTunes for Podcatching, since the iTunes Music Directory system automatically checks submitted program feeds to ensure they actually work, which is not the case with many of the Podcast “directories” out there.

One of the technically impressive aspects to the program is that you can have it run in the background “listening” for new programs and downloading them to your PC while you work on other things and can be set to launch automatically when your computer starts up, where it can spring into action for you while you’re checking e-mail, newspaper sites, or your stock reports (see the TIP on this page for a caveat).

Another feature that makes Juice a step above some of the free Podcatchers out there is that it integrates a wide variety of Podcast directories within the program (see Figure 1-3) where you can search for content, automatically find categories of content, and even see specific show lists in a simple browsing mode. In some ways, this is actually easier to use than iTunes, albeit without all the fancy graphics and listener ratings and feedback.

Juice is also a great choice if you have a media player that is not compatible with Apple’s iTunes, such as a Windows Media Player device, or Sony music players (Sony added support for the iPod music format in Spring 2006, but the iTunes software only directly supports iPods). Or anything that uses memory cards (SD, Memory Stick, etc.). Juice allows you to get audio and video Podcasts and download them to your portable media device in the same way iTunes works with iPods. It cannot “purchase” programs through the iTunes store, but if you’re looking to listen to the bazillions (which is more than a hundred, but less than a trillion) of Podcasts out there that are free, or sponsored in some way, Juice is a terrific choice. If you have a Sony PSP, then you might look at the special software that Sony offers for about $20, specifically for getting both audio and video Podcasts into your PSP as simply as possible (it may even be free with a new PSP by the time you’re reading this).

To obtain the program you need to start at the open source home for the application, which is: (if this link does not work, start at then click link on right side to “Download iPodder”). Downloading the application is a little confusing, but is almost identical to downloading and installing Audacity (see Figure 3-7 in Chapter 3) and so won’t be illustrated here. If you are inexperienced at downloaded or installing software on your PC you should look at iTunes first.

Possibly one of the coolest things about Juice Receiver, from a marketing standpoint, is that for about $100, you can create a custom version of Juice ( to post on your Website, which is pre-loaded with your Podcast feed(s) and includes your own logo (graphic of your company name) and main Website URL. This is a wonderful way to keep your brand in front of your audience, and can make it simple for those who want to hear your show but don’t want to spend a day getting an education on how to listen to your show. This is very highly recommended if you are launching a business or money-making Podcast hosted on your own Website, and particularly if you have multiple programs on different topics, with different hosts, or which you classify by “channels,” since the custom version of Juice would give your listeners just one download to be able to stay up to date with everything you do.

Like everything else that is Internet-related, these offerings may change over time, or be discontinued or seriously altered by the time you read this.

Podcatching in your Web Browser
If you happen to use the Firefox Web browser ( instead of Internet Explorer to surf the Internet on a Windows XP machine, you can get a very nice extension called “Wizz RSS News Reader” by Mike Kroger that allows you to subscribe to and enjoy Podcasts. If you look at Figure 1-4, you’ll see the three windows at left, where programs are listed in top box, episodes of a selected show in the middle, and information about a selected episode in bottom box. In this image you can see my site, where I have just subscribed to the program using Firefox, simply by dragging the orange XML logo onto the top left box. The plug-in is free, but the plug-in may direct you to the author’s site in the Web window from time to time. You can find this and other News Reader extensions at the Mozilla Website; you can install an extension, try it, and if you don’t like it simply disable it using the Tools function (see Help topics in Firefox).

Figure 1-4 (c) Simmons
Figure 1-4: The Wizz RSS News Reader extension running in the Firefox Web browser.

Microsoft is including “instant RSS feed” support in version 7 of Internet Explorer, which is being developed side-by-side with the new Windows Vista operating system for 2007. Although with Microsoft’s competitive stance toward Apple and vice versa, you might not actually find the term “Podcast” anywhere in the new versions of either Internet Explorer (also used by AOL) or Windows Vista.

If you own a “modern” OSX-based Apple Mac computer, your included software from Apple for Web browsing may support subscription to RSS feeds. In fact, Apple includes a wealth of tools like the Safari browser, iLife, iTunes, and .Mac, many of which can be used to subscribe to and even create and host a Podcast.

Getting it On-Demand
Most Podcasts are also available to listen to “on demand” when the Podcast is located on a dedicated Website. For example, for my own entertainment Podcast, I allow people to view a menu of my shows, with photos and background information on guests, and visitors can choose to click links to listen to the shows in MP3, or RealAudio that “streams” from the server. The RealAudio version is 1/3 the size of the MP3 and is right on the edge of sounding poor, but is still very listenable if somebody has a really slow modem connection. This allows interested people to listen to a specific show without having to subscribe to the show, or use a Podcatcher in any way.

Ideally one should consider making a program available in multiple formats, such as MP3, RealAudio, and Windows Media. In some cases, the Windows Media version can end up being no better sounding at the same size as a well-produced MP3 file, which can be redundant (as on my own Website). On the other hand, future versions of Windows may inherently have some kind of preference for the Windows Media format, so if you have the space and bandwidth, it does not hurt to make the programs available in all possible formats.

See Chapter 4 for specifics on file formats, data compression and the “gotchas” related to program downloads.

TIP: If you are building (or have built) your own Website around your Podcast, it’s a good idea to consider building a portable Web (e.g., “WAP”) compatible version of your site, with simple navigation, that allows people using increasingly popular mobile Web applications on their cell-phone or PDA/Treo/Blackberry to easily view and click links for your programs by episode with different levels of compression (more compression means smaller file size, but poorer sound quality). A common way of doing this is by creating a sub-domain, such as, and then identifying that URL to your prospective audience if they want to surf your program on their phone.

Finding Podcasts and Podcatchers
In addition to the software programs noted above, there are many other Podcatcher applications out there, including some which run on a Website for tracking programs and use a small player application you download, and others which don’t require you to download or install anything on your computer.

There are so many out there now, that you could spend an entire weekend sorting through all the options and possibilities. If you’d rather just get on with your life, then the programs mentioned above will get you going with the least possible suffering.

* For a list of Podcatcher applications and Podcast directories, see Appendix, which will be part of the final chapters of this series.

The Difference Between Internet Radio and Podcasts
What makes a Podcast different from Internet radio, or regular downloadable “on demand” audio files, is the wide acceptance of the RSS (Really Simple Syndication) file format. RSS is an offshoot of XML, which has transformed the way people can share and acquire information. RSS is similar to an HTML file used to create Web pages but with different “tags” that describe information and links to rich media files.

RSS adds the “subscription” component, enabling PC software and music devices to find new content by simply reloading the RSS file at specific times. So, if your software is “subscribed” to a specific RSS file (or “feed”) then each time that file is updated, your software sees that and acquires the latest content described and linked to in the RSS file (see Chapter 5 for example RSS files used for Podcasting). This software is often called a “Podcatcher” because it is catching the new content (Podcatchers are described in detail at the beginning of this chapter).

Because a Podcast is not live (being broadcast in real-time), but on-demand, it works the same way the Cable TV providers offer movies on-demand, where the movie is downloaded to the cable box then played back when asked for.

Podcasts are also different from Internet Radio in that Web-based radio is a point-to-point streaming method, that requires a software “port” (or “seat”) for the listener to “plug in” to (see Figure 1-5). Internet radio stations have a finite number of such ports and so if there are 1,000 ports, then the person attempting to plug-in (or connect) after 1,000 people are already connected, would not be able to do so. Or, another way to look at Web radio is that there are 1,000 “fixed” copies of the audio file that can be accessed at any one time. By having this “port” method, it allows for a single user or “seat” to view the file exclusively without interruption since nobody else is asking for that same copy. During playback the radio server is talking (or “hand-shaking”) with the PC that is connected to a port, to balance the playback based on the speed of the Internet connection so that you don’t hear gaps or interruptions (depending on what else you might be doing at the same time on your PC).

Figure 1-5 (c) Simmons
Figure 1-5: Illustration showing difference between Internet radio (left), which requires one port/seat per listener, and Podcasting (right), where any number of listeners can “subscribe” to a feed file that points at episodes of a program.

On-demand files are basically limitless, because each person who asks for it (or “demands” a copy) is just downloading the file data on the Web server to their own PC and because the server can “cache” the data in memory. Playback is handled on the PC of the person downloading it (or on an iPod) and is not “talking” to the server in real-time while the file plays back.

Of course, “limitless” really means up to the limit of what the Web server can handle and is sometimes directly limited by “throttling” which is the method Web hosting providers use to limit the amount of system resources used by any one domain on a shared server.

For very popular video content, like the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, a file network is used and provided by companies who are set-up for this, like Akamai ( File networks use multiple servers to “scale” the number of streaming seats to the actual demand, so when 5,000 people want the file, there are resources to handle that, and if 50,000 people want the file at once, the system “scales up” to meet that demand. This is, of course, not inexpensive.

Normal “on-demand” files require you to ask for the file, hence the term. With Podcasting, you are subscribing to a single “feed file,” which then asks for any new content for that show without you having to ask for each new episode manually.

So, the upshot is that on the listener (or “client”) side, Podcasting is like an automated on-demand system; each time a new show is made, your Podcatcher will go get it for you. For the show producer, Podcasting on the “server” side is much more affordable to set-up, and requires no special “streaming” capability since it is not live content. See Chapter 6 for more information on issues related to Podcast Web hosting, and “gotchas” for managing Podcast content online.

Where Did Podcasting Come From?
The “invention” of Podcasting as a phenomenon is generally attributed in the media to former MTV “veejay” Adam Curry in 2004. However, many of us were doing regular online audio programs on our Websites (I had one in 1999, and was interviewed on another in Aug. 2000) which are identical to today’s “Podcasts” except without the subscription model facilitated by RSS.

In actuality, Curry created a software application called iPodder, to work with RSS “feeds” created by Dave Winer for some interviews that had been posted online in MP3 format, and building on work by Userland Software (Radio Userland). Some historical Websites on this topic claim that Danny Gregory coined the term “Podcast” itself. But there was a lot of pre-existing work done by others related to Internet Radio and RSS, and so the exact date of creation is not so simple.

The early history of Podcasting and the mechanics involved in its evolution would require an entire book of its own and is better left to Web historians. This article series is focused on those of us more concerned with making a Podcast and getting it out to the ears and eyeballs of our potential audience.

In fact, even as this (originally a book, now an article series) is being written, Podcasting continues to evolve. Other terms such as Screencasting, Mobcasting, Mobicasting, Nanocasting, Businesscasting (allegedly coined by the author of this series), Microcasting, and iPodcasting have been used and even trademarked. After all, applying a subscription distribution model to audio or video content does not have to be related to an iPod in any way.

Since you don’t technically need an iPod to create or listen to (or watch) a Podcast, it’s not unreasonable to assume the terminology may change over time and a future version of this series may not even contain the word “Podcast” as it is used today. On the other hand, Podcasting might become the default term for any audio or video subscription content in the some way that trademarked brands like Xerox and Kleenex have become generic terms for similar products produced by others.

However, for our purposes we’ll assume you are interested in learning more about Podcasting, and so let’s get started.

Continued in Chapter Two (Part Three in Series)
CHAPTER TWO: Outline of Producing a Show
* Getting Organized
* Overview of What’s Involved in Producing a Show
* Scripting a Show and Creating Guest Questions.

Copr. © 2005-2007 Christopher Laird Simmons – all rights reserved. This article series, including text and images, charts, and glossary, is protected under U.S. and international copyright law – unauthorized reproduction or republication, online or offline, in whole or part without express written permission of the author is strictly prohibited. Content originally intended for book, “The Savvy Guide to Podcasting,” but also appeared on

Articles Music and Recording

Christopher’s Savvy Guide to Podcasting – Part One: Introduction

ARTICLE: INTRODUCTION — Podcasting is only the latest social and economic trend to be born on the Internet, which over the past decade has brought online shopping, auctions, dating, movie rentals, and blogs to individuals and businesses who need nothing more than a PC (personal computer) and a phone line to get access to this more-and-more interconnected global village.

Want to create a Podcast? This series of articles will walk you through the process. What do you need? In reality, all you will need to create your own show is a PC, an Internet connection, a microphone, and this article series or comparable book (and, naturally, something to say).

This series is written for both the savvy business person who wants to explore ways to add Podcasting to a marketing or customer support program, and for anybody who is interested in understanding not only what a Podcast is, but how to create, enable, and even market one to an audience. For musicians, this guide will help showcase some interesting “quick start” options available online today through social networks and music posting sites, that can help side-step the learning curve of yet another software application — using instead a simple web browser and file upload and click-point procedures.

blue snowballIf you’re a Gen-Y, or Gen-Z, you can even print this out and give it to your parents so they have a clue what you’re up to in your bedroom, spending so much time online while wearing a headset mic and brandishing a “Quiet – I’m recording” sign on your bedroom door (an eBook will be available will all the series parts, for easy reading/printing).

What is Podcasting?
What is Podcasting? In the simplest possible terms it is a way to put audio or video content onto the Web, and through a subscription mechanism called RSS (Really Simple Syndication), provide a way for interested parties to find, subscribe to, retrieve, and listen to or view such content on a PC or portable media device (like Apple’s iPod, Sony’s PSP, and multimedia telephones than can play MP3 files).

But, in a very real sense, Podcasting is actually a misnomer. While the advent of what we call Podcasting, a combination of the words iPod and broadcasting, was inspired by folks who wanted to generate and listen to audio programming on Apple’s iPod media player, you don’t actually need an iPod, or even any portable device to enjoy a Podcast program — all you need is a PC and some software, sometimes called a “Podcatcher,” which allow you to subscribe to a particular program and listen to or view it.

A Podcast can really be any type of programming. A talk show, audio blog (Web + personal log = Blog), newscast, a music performance, or any combination of these things. A Podcast is not “live” as with AM/FM radio, or the nightly TV news, and is really more akin to “on demand” programming you might find with your modern Cable TV company.

podcatcher devices
Modern portable media devices that can play Podcasts include Apple’s iPod, Sony’s PSP, and Web-enabled mobile phones (L-R). Image is courtesy and © Christopher Simmons.

Podcasts can be almost any audio or video file format. For audio, content will most often be MP3 (technically MPEG-2 Layer3) audio file. For video: either H.264 video or MPEG-4 format video, which are compatible with video-capable iPods and Sony’s PSP (the helpful glossary provided as part three of this series can help you sort out some of this tech jargon, but I’ll provide short explanations where appropriate to keep your mouse button finger from getting chaffed zipping back and forth).

If you are a TiVo user, you’ll understand the concept of subscribing to a Podcast immediately, since it’s almost identical to a “season pass” for a TV series, except you’re using PC software to set-up your “subscription” to the Podcast. Since TiVo has announced support for moving video content to iPods, it’s likely by the time you read this that you will be able to subscribe to Podcasts with the TiVo ToGo service if your TiVo has a Cable Broadband connection.

If you already have an iPod, and/or have Apple’s iTunes software on your PC, then you have a Podcatcher, and may already have explored Podcast programs by clicking the Music Store link in your library menu, then the Podcasts link from the “Inside the Music Store” menu. If not, the next edition of this article series will explain what “Podcatching” is and how to get started in exploring the world of Podcasts.

What makes this series different from others is the overall view of creating a program, and helping to get you past the tricky bits, including the pitfalls of actually hosting your Podcast on the Web, and “getting the word out” about your show. I call it a “savvy” guide to Podcasting, because once you finish reading it you will be “more savvy than the average bear” (with a nod to Yogi Bear) on everything related to Podcasting!

A Blip or a Movement?
While I was writing this series during a period that starting in late 2005, and much of 2006, a number of Wall Street and venture capital types began to weigh in on Podcasting as a blip in the business and entertainment culture, versus a true movement of change. I, and many others who have been at the forefront of past technology shifts, strongly disagree with this view. I remember being on the launch team of an e-commerce Web site in 1995 and then going to business seminars in 1996 where various business and financial opinion leaders were stating emphatically that online shopping would not take off, and cited the example that women preferred to lay on the couch and dog-ear pages in fashion catalogs — which could not be done online. Ten years later, I think that notion has clearly been disproved. (Many online sellers did add “wish lists” to their stores which is a definite response to the dog-eared page crowd.)

Podcasting is not simply a label for yet another marketing buzz concept, but the first step in a different kind of social movement for creating and sharing ideas and content, and making it easier for people to find the content without relying on branded search portals like Yahoo! or Google, or an entertainment empire like Time-Warner or Disney, to control who sees what and how.

Certainly some are using Podcasting as a way to troll for money to start new ventures, which may or may not be viable business models, but entrepreneurs looking to spend other people’s money on a business gamble is nothing new, and this is not the core of the Podcasting movement.

Because the RSS mechanism that makes Podcasting work can be used in so many different ways, virtually anybody can set-up their own directory, and even create “re-casts” of content from favorite sources. This is so far outside the established mechanisms of TV, Cable, or print subscription models, that it’s too soon to even speculate on how far this will go, except to say that there are now millions of folks who are expressing themselves and getting their message in front of the exact same audience that normally would only see something from a major corporate conglomerate — this is both freedom and power for “the little guy” (and girl).

Because video is now cheap and easy to make, even with some cell phones, the video blogger is spreading “vlogs” of their ideas, music, and extemporary thoughts, onto social networking sites like and, and mini-celebrities are being made every day. The distinction between a video blog (or “vlog”) and a video Podcast is subtle, but technically both use RSS feeds to help people to subscribe to recurring content from the same place. Video which doesn’t include an RSS feed would simply be a video, and neither a vlog nor a video Podcast.

Podcasts are really “food” for portable devices like the iPod, just like a DVD is food for a DVD player.

As I write this introduction, Apple has sold well over 60 million iPods worldwide and will likely surpass 100 million in early 2007 (the U.S. has about 300 million citizens). That’s no “blip” by any sane measurement.

To further illustrate the popularity of the iPod, one need only look at online auction sites like, where in any given week, the iPod was in the top ten most searched for terms; in fact, during the week surrounding Mother’s Day 2006, the #1 most searched for item on eBay was for used iPods.

There is no age range or social class that defines the Podcasting culture, either on the producer or listener side, and that is what makes it such a compelling social change.

Who is Creating Podcasts?
As you might expect, those folks with an expertise in some area are doing Podcasts about what they know; whether it’s tending to a sick pet, or how to custom build a “Gamer” PC. Others are creating interview programs with industry experts and celebrities, much like a radio talk show. Museums are adding Podcasts for walking tours, and at some museums you can even buy the iPod on your way out of the building.

Still others are creating audio diaries for world travel tours or other adventures using phone-in free hosting services like And, as you might expect, commercial interests like traditional radio and TV broadcasters have joined in with their own original and repackaged content.

On my own Podcast, I interview unusual people doing interesting things, whether it’s writing a book about pop culture, or being a counter-culture champion (see:, which is being rebuilt as I write this, so depending on when you read this it may be a dull page or a flashy one – relaunch ETA is Spring 2007. You can find one version of the show in the site where you’re reading this article, here: ).

To give you an idea of how widespread this movement has become, in the first 60 days of Apple adding Podcast support to the iTunes Music Store in August 2005, over 15,000 programs had been added to their Podcast Directory. A year later, the numbers had tripled. For example: 2,600 Business Podcasts, 3,300 Comedy Podcasts, 7,700 Entertainment Podcasts, 7,200 Music Podcasts, 3,000 News Podcasts, 3,900 Talk Radio Podcasts — and this is just a tiny sampling of the programming available.

During the past year and a half some “home brewed” Podcasts have even broken into the mainstream, and have acquired advertiser support from corporate America. Others have become so popular that they have moved from being “free” (as most Podcasts are), to being offered to paid subscribers only. Other entrepreneurs are creating subscription fee-based video Podcasts for education and teaching purposes, and replacing the old-school (pun intended) CD-ROM delivery model for on-the-go e-learning.

Some quick examples of notable Podcasts:

    * “Five Minutes with Wichita” — hosted by amateur bluegrass musician Wichita Rutherford, features interviews with Nashville performers (created with a Mac notebook, two microphones, and an online Podcast hosting account). Between March and November of 2005, his audience grew to 200,000 regular listeners (

    * “MommyCast” — features two mothers from Virginia, Gretchen Vogelzang and Paige Heninger, talking about child rearing topics for 20 minutes per episode. This program gained some notoriety in late 2005 for acquiring a corporate sponsor, the Dixie Company (makers of Dixie cups) — one of the first privately produced Podcasts to acquire major sponsorship. The MommyCast site had 200,000 downloads per month at the end of 2005. In 2006, they added a MommyCast Music Show (

    * “This Week in Tech (TWiT)” — is a Podcast from the former hosts of TechTV’s “The Screen Savers,” Leo Laporte and Patrick Norton, along with Kevin Rose. The Screen Savers, which was arguably the best ever program on cable TV for people who wanted to know things like how to “overclock” a PC, or change the system registry of Microsoft Windows, was sorely missed by many when G4 took over TechTV and retired the show. TWiT brings back all the good things about their show, and is one of the most popular “techie” Podcasts out there (

    * “The Ricky Gervais Show” — is one of the most popular celebrity-fronted Podcasts, hosted by actor Ricky Gervais (of “The Office”). This show became so popular in February of 2006 (the #4 most downloaded Podcast on iTunes), that it moved from the free space of most Podcasts, and became a “paid subscription only” program powered by the Audible network. The second season of the show was offered at $1.95 per episode, or $6.95 for the entire season.

    * National Public Radio — Daily and weekly Podcasts from NPR and member stations ( I particularly enjoy “World Cafe” from WXPN in Philadelphia, hosted by David Dye, that combines new music with interviews and often features guests as diverse as David Bowie and Yo Yo Ma.

These examples illustrate that the fundamental “success” of a Podcast is the same as with any entertainment medium: content that comes from the heart, as well as developing and sustaining an audience. For an instant look at many diverse kinds of Podcasts being created by people around the world, visit

Using this Series
This series is organized, and may be approached, in several ways. If your interest is in learning how to create a Podcast, then you can explore the series chapters on creating content, and getting a program onto the Web (chapters will be posted every other week starting March 2007). If you already have a program and want to get an audience for your Podcast, then this series will help you there, too, with how-to help on advertising and promotion. If you’re a marketing VP or work for an agency in the advertising or entertainment fields, this article series may help enlighten you on the whole process to better explain to clients or to prepare an internal company proposal for launching a Podcast.

The “chapters” have been organized based on the path one might take in first formulating and developing an idea for a Podcast, to choosing how to create a program, to optimizing and encoding for the Web, creating the feed file, and publishing on the Internet (note that “Web” and “Internet” are used interchangeably in this series), to promoting a program, to measuring who your audience is.

Also, throughout this series we will consider PC to mean “personal computer” and not a Microsoft Windows-based computer.

Coming up next:
* What is Podcasting
* Podcatching 101
* The Difference Between Internet Radio and Podcasts
* Where Did Podcasting Come From?

Continued in the next part:
CHAPTER ONE: The Basics (click to continue)

Copr. © 2005-2007 Christopher Laird Simmons – all rights reserved. This article series, including text and images, charts, and glossary, is protected under U.S. and international copyright law – unauthorized reproduction or republication, online or offline, in whole or part without express written permission of the author is strictly prohibited. Blue Microphones graciously provided a review unit of their wonderful Snowball USB microphone (“mic”) which has been used during the creation of this article series.