Well, I’m going to be doing a bit more work with podcasting over the next few months to prepare for a presentation. So, I’ll be posting a few of my ongoing thoughts and notes here to keep organized. All you 2.0ers out there feel free to comment and let me know of tools, sites, and tricks that work for you. First off, I like to start things by watching the Common Craft video, if there is one. In the case of Podcasting, here we are:
But that’s just to get the concept down. Nuts and bolts, and the whole mechanics of actually doing it is another matter. I’m a pretty practical person, and I know that when it comes to using new technology, simpler is better for most people. So, the more equipment, software, and training needed to initiate a new technology, the less likely people will be to adopt it into their daily lives. Therefore, I look for ways to do podcasting as simply as possible.
The easiest podcast ever:
Get a drop.io account. Upload sound files to it. Instruct people to subscribe to the drop.io URL in their RSS reader of choice. No microphone? Call the phone number for the drop, and leave a voice message. The voice message is recorded at the drop, and will go to people’s RSS reader just like any other file. Want to write people a note or send them a document, along with sound files? That’s doable, too. I like drop.io, but there are some limitations, like you can’t make it look all fancy nice and unique to your personality or library. Also, if you want to record something other than your own voice, like a speech, an interview, or an event, you still need other equipment.
More control means not quite as easy, but maybe worth the effort:
Podbean is like a blog, with good audio capabilities. You can write a post and add a sound file to it, or just post the sound file. A little player appears in the post, which visitors can click on to hear the audio. People can subscribe to it in their RSS readers, and keep track that way if they want to.
BlogTalkRadio is a bit different, in that you attempt to operate on a schedule, so that people can call you and become part of the podcast. Instead of recording a short speech or interview, you go live, talking into a microphone that is connected to your computer. Your voice is heard by your listeners, who have tuned in at that time to hear you speak. They can call you, and you can answer the phone and talk with them, and have that part of the interview be added to the program in realtime. This type of podcast is more like a radio show, and requires a lot more organization and scheduling – you have to let people know when you will be broadcasting, you have to start on time, you have to be prepared with 15-30 minutes of material, and (if you choose) you have to answer the phone and talk with callers live about your topic. Your shows are recorded and archived at the site, so people can hear them later if they missed the show.
So, that’s the output end of things. In the Information Transfer Cycle, that’s the dissemination part. Probably before we get to that point, we should talk about Creation and Production – actually making the sound files. How does that work?
Making a sound file:
Well, aside from the super easy ‘dial drop.io and record your voice’ most other methods require that you have a microphone that you can connect to your computer, and some type of sound recording software on your computer. Microphones aren’t terribly expensive – 20 dollars can get you a basic mic. Get one that plugs into a USB port – that way you know your computer can work with it.
As far as software goes, check to see if your computer has something on it already – if you have Windows XP or Vista, there’s a good chance that you’ve got something on there somewhere, though it might not be the greatest sound recorder ever. But as far as starting out practical, cheap, and simple, it might be just right for some early experiments.
Audacity is an open source recorder, and it takes a little bit of practice to figure it out, but all in all it’s a pretty user-friendly program. When it comes to saving your newly made sound file, you run into a little difficulty – if you simply save the file, you’re actually saving the project, meaning that you can’t listen to the file in some other audio player – you can just bring it back when you open Audacity later. To actually make the sound file available for use, you have to Export it. When you export it, you have the choice of several file types. The best file type to choose will by mp3, unless you know for sure that another file type will work well with what you’ll be doing. mp3’s are files that can go to a lot of different places, and most people’s computers can listen to them. Plus, if you want to upload your file to Podbean, mp3 works best there too.
Of course, when you try to export your file from Audacity as a mp3 file, you are stopped from doing so because… Audacity can’t make mp3’s! There is light at the end of the tunnel. Audacity will instruct you to download the LAME encoder. The LAME encoder is more open source software that changes sound files into mp3 files. When you download the LAME encoder, make sure you know where it is on your computer – on the desktop, or in the program files, or wherever. Once you have LAME, you can export files to mp3 format, and then upload those files to places like podbean.
So, in brief, here’s 2 different step-by-step plans for your first podcast:
- Go to drop.io
- Set up a URL that you like.
- Make yourself the administrator of the URL, and make it so that only you can upload to it, but that others can still see/hear the files that are there.
- Dial the phone number for the URL. It’s New York area code, so there might be a long distance charge.
- Record your message and hang up.
- After a few minutes reload the drop.io page you made, and there will be a new sound file there. If people are subscribed to the URL, when you record your message it will show up in the RSS reader.
- Check for recording software on your computer. If you need to, download Audacity and the LAME encoder.
- Acquire a microphone with a USB connector.
- Open Audacity and turn on your microphone, hit the record button and start recording your voice. When you’re done, hit stop.
- Highlight parts of your recording that you want to cut, and click on the little ‘scissors’ icon to cut it out. Record more if you need to. Cut more if you need to.
- Export the finished product as a mp3 file via the LAME encoder. This should happen automatically as part of exporting the file, provided you know where LAME is on your computer.
- Get a podbean account.
- Publish a podcast.
- Upload your sound file.
- Add the sound file to the podcast.
- Publish the uploaded sound file as an episode of your podcast.
Now, of course this whole thing is starting to feel backwards, because now i want to talk about what podcasts are good for, and what kinds of projects librarians might be interested in pursuing with podcasts. Really, that’s the first thing you should do who looking at a project – what do you want to do, and what is the best way to do it?
Podcasts seem to work best when recreating a radio environment. Interviews are especially appropriate for podcasts, where video isn’t really needed and a written transcript doesn’t deliver the feeling or emotion of the speakers. Program announcements, lists of community events, daily diversions, soundbites of speeches with commentary. Something libraries and librarians might be able to have a lot of fun with might be reading a little of a book, play, or poem – something to entice readers to find new and interesting things at the library.
For more reading on the subject, here are some articles and other things you can find online: