How to Podcast

"The definitive step-by-step guide on how to podcast
without breaking the bank."

This is the home of the free podcast tutorial that will take
your podcast from concept to launch fast and for minimal cost."

Podcast Hosting

Let’s talk about podcast hosting and how to publish your podcast to the internet. There are a number of podcast hosting solutions available. There are also a number of important things to know about hosting your podcast to avoid future problems or excessive money drain.

First I’ll explain what you need to do in order to publish your podcast online. Then I’ll give you my recommendations for hosting tools and services. This will save you a lot of time and big headaches. I can even suggest a way to get your podcast online for free.

The Basic Steps of Publishing Your Podcast

To publish your podcast to the internet, you usually need to do the following:

  1. Register a Web Address – also called a domain name
  2. Find/Buy Web Hosting – to store your blog/site and your audio files on the internet
  3. Start a Blog - this is your web site for posting your show notes, links, etc.
  4. Create an RSS Feed – this is the feed that your listeners subscribe to so they can automatically download new episodes of your podcast

These four things make up a typical podcast hosting setup for publishing your show to the internet: web address, hosting, blog & RSS feed. There are a number of tools and services you can use for each of these four things.

I have created three recommended solutions for you to choose from depending on your podcasting goals & needs. Each solution includes suggested tools or services that provide you with each of the four things listed above.

Let’s go over the four podcast hosting steps in more detail. Then I’ll give you my recommended tools and services for each.

Register a Web Address

To have a web address that points to your podcast’s site, you have to register and pay for what is called a domain name. Google.com is an example of a domain name. It’s the web address that takes you to Google’s search site.

This is also sometimes called a URL. Just to be clear, when I say “domain name” or “URL”, I’m just talking about your web address.

Some podcasters use a free service like Blogger or Libsyn for their blog. These services give you a web address that looks like this:

yourpodcastname.libsyn.com

or

yourpodcastname.blogspot.com

This works fine, but it’s not the most convenient web address for telling people where to find your podcast. It’s a little harder to remember a URL like that. For marketing and promotion, it’s best to register your own web address that’s easy for people to remember.

Fortunately, Libsyn and Blogger also give you the option of registering your own web address and using it with their service.

You can usually register your own web address for less than $10/yr. I’ll show you where do this for less than $5/yr. This is really very little to pay to have a web address that is easier to remember and use in your marketing.

If you want to save the expense of registering your own domain name, then skip the next section and continue on reading about your blog.

How to Register Your Web Address (Domain Name)

Before you can register a web address, you have to see if it’s available. Then you sign up with a web address registry and pay a small yearly fee. Then you tell the registry where your site is located on the internet.

The most popular kind of domain name is dot-com although there are also dot-net and dot-org and many others. Some people type or remember dot-com even if you tell them dot-net or dot-org address just because it’s a more common and recognized type of web address.

Here are some tips for choosing your web address:

I check web address availability using 000domains. I have to be honest. I don’t ever register domains through them, but I like their search tool because I can check the availability of several domain names all at once.

You might already have a few ideas of what you’d like your web address to be. Go to 000domains, type your web address ideas into the box, click “start searching” and it will tell you which are available.

Once you choose your web address, I suggest registering it with 1and1. They are very inexpensive and have dependable service. I’ve registered many domains with them.

Your web host should give you instructions on how to point your web address to your web site.

Web Hosting

Web hosting gives you a place on the internet to store the files for your blog, web site and podcast so they are available 24/7 for your listeners and site visitors.

I’ve used many different web hosting services and had lots of web sites over the last several years. Here’s what I’ve found that you need in a web host.

Support: You need easy access to technical & billing support from your web host. Often I choose a web host based on their great support alone. There are thousands of hosts that all have similar prices. Support is often what sets them apart.

Some web hosts don’t have phone support, but are still very quick with email questions or have live online chat with technicians. As long as I can get a good answer fast, then I’m happy. Other web hosts are just slow to respond. You want to avoid these hosts. There are a lot of cheap hosts out there, but usually you get what you pay for.

Storage: At the very least I recommend you have 1 gigabyte (GB), which is equal to 1000 megabytes (MB), of storage. You need to be sure you have room for your site/blog files, your images and your audio. Many of the web hosts that I use and recommend give you a gigabyte or more of storage. Eventually you may need more than this.

You’ll need enough storage to keep as many episodes online as you want to make available at a time. You may want to archive several, or even all, of your past shows for your listeners to download.

The amount of storage you need for your audio files will depend on the following:

If you used the raw audio data that you record into your computer, the files would be way too big for people to download fast. That is why you save your final podcast audio as an MP3 file. This process is also called encoding an MP3 or compressing your audio file.

File compression uses a special program to shrink the file to a tenth of its size or even smaller. This makes the audio file more manageable to upload and download on the internet. The tradeoff is that the more you compress the file, the lower the audio quality will be.

The quality is determined by what is called the bit rate of the MP3. Don’t worry too much about what this means. You just need to know that a higher bit rate gives better audio quality which means the file contains more data which produces a bigger file size.

Click here to see a chart that shows how this works.

To give you an idea of typical file sizes, an MP3 of a song that you download is probably 3 to 5 MBs. Music MP3s are usually encoded at a bit rate of 128 kbps.

The size of a podcast MP3 file depends on the length and audio quality (amount of MP3 compression) of the show.

Click here to open the chart from above again to help you estimate how big your podcast files size will be.

To determine how much storage you need:

1. In the first column, find the type of podcast you plan to produce. The second column tells you what kind of MP3 encoding to save your podcast with. The third column gives you an idea of what kind of audio quality to expect from that type of encoding.

2. In the last column, take the size figure and multiply it by the typical length of your podcast. If you’re just getting started, you’ll have to estimate this. This will give you an idea of how big (how many MBs) each of your podcast files will be.

3. Multiply this size of each podcast file by the number of podcasts you want to be able to store on your site at once.

Example: I encode GothamCast at 96 kbps (talk with some music). At this bit rate, the file size is about 0.7 MB per minute. My average show length is 30 minutes. My average MP3 file size is 30 x 0.7 = 21 MB.

I release about 3 episodes per month. So I fill about 63 MB of storage each month. If I want to be able to have a whole year’s worth of episodes available on my site at once, I need:

12 months x 3 episodes per month x 21 MB per episode = 756 MB

I need 756 MB of storage for my audio files (or about ¾ of a GB). If you do a similar show but release an episode 2-3 times a week, you can see how the storage can start adding up quickly.

Bandwidth: Bandwidth is the amount of data that your web host allows to be transfered to and from your web site each month (some hosts also set daily limits).

This is a big issue in podcasting because the audio files that are being downloaded by your listeners are large. This means you’ll have a lot of transfer from your web site. You have to be sure that your host allows you enough bandwidth to accommodate your audience.

Using the storage chart above, you should have already calculated how many MBs each of your podcast files will be. You’ll also need this to calculate how much data transfer you’ll have from your web site.

To calculate your monthly bandwidth usage:

1. Take the average size of each of your podcasts files
2. Multiply that by the number people that download each episode
3. Multiply that by the number of shows you release each month

If you’re just getting started, you’ll have to estimate how big of an audience you want to be able to handle from your site.

Example: If you have 300 people download a podcast that is 20 MB you will have about 20 x 300 = 6000 MB or 6 GB of data transfer for each show. If you release four shows each month this adds up to 24 GB of transfer per month.

You have to make sure that your web host allows you enough bandwidth (data transfer) each month. There are a couple of hosting solutions that allow you unlimited bandwidth. This comes with a couple tradeoffs, though. We’ll talk more about this.

Start a Blog

Using a blog is the easiest way to publish your podcast. I don’t want to get into a definition of a blog (short for weblog), but if you aren’t familiar with blogs, here’s a quick overview.

A blog:

NOTE: If you would like to read more about what a blog is, click here.

Your podcast is basically just a blog with audio. Podcasting uses the same feed technology as many blogs. Your audience receives the audio file through the feed in addition to the text.

Usually each blog entry/post is one episode of your podcast. The post consists of your show notes (an outline of the episode’s contents), links to any related information or sources and probably a link to the MP3 file for the episode. The feed from your blog tells the subscriber’s podcatcher where to download the audio file.

There are dozens of ways to create and maintain a blog. Some are free and some cost some money. I’ll give you some suggestions for blogging tools. If you already have a blog, then you can just adapt it to use with your podcast.

Create an RSS Feed

One of the great things about listening to podcasts is that you can subscribe to what’s called an RSS feed. Once you’re subscribed, your podcatcher will check the feed regularly for new episodes. When a new episode is posted, the podcatcher will automatically download the audio file for you to listen to.

As a podcaster, you create and update your RSS feed for your listeners to subscribe to. Don’t worry. This is easier than it sounds. I’ll show you what you need to do, but first let’s talk about what an RSS feed is.

An RSS feed is nothing more than a specially formatted text file. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. This is just a set of rules that outlines how the information in the feed fill needs to be formatted.

Before you start sweating, you don’t need to worry about understanding RSS or writing out the feed file by hand. There are ways to create it automatically. You won’t be writing code or trying to remember the RSS format. This will be done for you.

In a blog feed, the RSS feed text file includes a list of the recent posts and information about each one such as title, date, author, etc. An RSS feed for a podcast is the same, except it also includes information about your MP3 file such as its web address and file size. The podcatcher uses this information to find and download the audio file.

Each time you post a new podcast episode, you need to update your RSS feed with information about it so your listeners’ podcatchers will detect and download the file.

NOTE: RSS feeds files are written in a language called XML. I just mention this so that you know that if the term XML is mentioned in relation to podcasting, it’s probably referring to the RSS or podcast feed.

My Recommended Podcast Hosting Solutions

Whoah! That’s seems like a lot. How do you get it all up and running?!?

Fortunately there are a number of tools and services that take care of it for you and make it easy! Let’s talk about my favorites.

I have three podcast hosting solutions that I recommend. I’ve divided them into three levels ranging from just dabbling to big time personal or business goals in podcasting.

Choose which of the following three descriptions best fits you and your podcasting goals right now. In each section I give my recommendation for setting up your podcast hosting.

Casual Hobbyist Level

The hobbyist level is for those who are just podcasting for fun. This is you if you don’t want to spend much (or any) money right now. You’ll be satisfied with a small to medium sized audience.

You don’t need to spend money on the better services since a little downtime on your web site or podcast won’t cause any major problems. Your podcast is not critical to what you are doing. Keeping accurate subscriber and download stats is not important at this level.

For this level of podcaster I suggest some tools and services that will get you up and running quickly and conveniently and won’t cost you a dime.

For your blog, I suggest using Google’s free Blogger service.

To create an RSS feed that is podcast-enabled, I suggest using Feedburner. This is also a free service that adds a lot great features to your feed including subscriber stats.

Blogger by itself uses what is called an Atom feed. This is the wrong kind of feed format. Feedburner converts the feed to a podcast-ready RSS format.

Finally, for storing your podcast files online, you can use Ourmedia. This is a non-profit service that allows you to store media files for free. You just register an account and start posting.

Ourmedia provides a way to upload your files to their site through your web browser. They also have software that you can download and use to upload your files.

Once you upload a podcast file to Ourmedia, you will be provided with a link to that you can use in your blog and feed. Your listeners will download the MP3 from Ourmedia through your site and/or feed.

Ourmedia gives you unlimited downloads and bandwidth for free! Sounds too good to be true! Well, there are downsides.

The first limitation is that your media cannot be copyrighted. (I've now discovered that your content can have a traditional copyright on Ourmedia, although, it makes most sense to use a Creative Commons license.)

A big limitation on Ourmedia is that the podcast file may not be available right away after upload. This won’t work for you if your podcast is time sensitive.

Also, there will be very little support with Ourmedia & no uptime guarantee. Again, it's a non-profit site.

If you have other questions on how Ourmedia works or their mission, here is their Frequently Asked Questions page.

NOTE: Ourmedia also gives you a blog and a feed for the media you post. You could just use your Ourmedia feed with feedburner to make it a podcast feed. I prefer the look, feel and features of Blogger blogs. I will be using a Blogger blog for this tutorial.

The rest of this tutorial will mostly focus on using the Casual Hobbyist solution for launching a podcast. This solution will get you started very quickly and for free.

Casual Hobbyist Recommendations:

Blog Service/Tool:
Blogger
RSS Feed Generation:
Feedburner
File Storage/Hosting:
Ourmedia
Pros:
Free, quick to get started, easy to use
Cons:
Minimal support, no stats, no guarantee for uptime of your files for download, limited customization of your site/blog, podcast not available right away after upload

Hobbyist or Small Business Level

At this level your goal is to have a small to medium-sized audience. You’ll need plenty of bandwidth as you gain more subscribers.

For this I recommend a podcast hosting service called Liberation Syndication (Libsyn). Libsyn offers unmetered bandwidth. This means there is no limit on the amount of data that is downloaded or transferred from your web site. This means as your audience grows you will not be charged more for bandwidth.

You pay according to how much data you upload each month. This depends on show length, quality and frequency. For example, with Libsyn's Podcast Basic account, you can upload 100 MBs each month. This is enough to upload a 20-minute high quality music program once a week.

For the most part, the guys at Libsyn have done a great job at providing hosting to a lot of podcasters. Their prices are hard to beat. It sounds too good to be true, right? Well, it comes at a bit of a trade off in my opinion. They’ve had some trouble with downtime here and there.

The support is limited as it is only four guys running the company. They’re usually very helpful and jump on problems quickly, but it seems they’re going through some growing pains. They are also basically still a startup. This comes with some potential uncertainty for the future of their company.

Libsyn gives you, in one easy place, all the elements you need (blog, feed, etc.) to publish your podcast to the internet. They also give you the ability to customize the look and design of your site/blog a little (which you will probably want at this level).

Finally, Libsyn gives you good stats so you have an idea of how many people are subscribing and listening to your podcast.

If you already have a web site or blog for your podcast, you can still use Libsyn to host your podcast files and link to them on your blog so you can enjoy unmetered bandwidth.

Hobbyist & Small Business Recommendations:

Blog Service/Tool:
Libsyn
RSS Feed Generation:
Libsyn
File Storage/Hosting:
Libsyn
Pros:
Can’t beat the price, all-in-one solution, easy to use, unmetered bandwidth, good stats
Cons:
Limited support, startup company, some downtime, limited customization

Serious Hobbyist or Business Level

At this level your podcast is critical to your goals as a business or hobbyist. You plan to grow an audience that is as large as possible and want to dependably deliver your podcast to them.

A podcaster at this level wants dependable uptime and service in his/her hosting, the ability to customize their site to their needs and stats that are as accurate as possible.

To accomplish this I recommend getting your own web hosting account and installing Wordpress, a free blogging software. This is a widely popular blogging platform that has a strong community for support and customization of your blog/site.

Wordpress is easy to use. It has an interface that is user-friendly for posting new episodes and show notes to your blog. It also creates the podcast feed for you.

Another thing I like about Wordpress is there are a lot of plugins available for adding great features to your blog. Also, all the code is open source. This means that you can have a programmer alter or customize it to your needs.

For web hosting I recommend Powweb or Globat. I use both of these to host web sites and podcasts. They are dependable, professional and offer good support and an uptime guarantee. In addition, their prices are great.

The reason I recommend these hosts over Libsyn at this level is that I’ve seen too many reports of downtime with Libsyn (although they are always improving their service).

You’re giving up the unmetered bandwidth of Libsyn for a bigger and more dependable company. Although, both of my recommended hosts offer lots of bandwidth (the most I have seen from any host at that level). Also, you can buy more bandwidth or additional accounts as needed.

Serious Hobbyist or Business Recommendations:

Blog Service/Tool:
Wordpress
RSS Feed Generation:
Wordpress (plus Feedburner if you want)
File Storage/Hosting:
Powweb or Globat
Pros:
Reasonable pricing, great service, uptime guarantee, good stats, lots of options for customization and adding features, easy to use
Cons:
Bandwidth limitations (although both hosts offer more bandwidth than other hosts at the same price)

A Note on Dedicated Web Servers

If you are a big business or corporation starting a podcast (or if your podcast has gotten extremely popular), then you may want a dedicated server for hosting your files. This means you rent your own internet-grade computer that is dedicated to hosting just your media.

This gives you top notch dependability, storage, speed and bandwidth for running your site and delivering your podcast to your audience.

If your business is that big, then you may already have a dedicated server for your site. If not, you probably have an information technology guy that can get you hooked up.

For dedicated servers, I recommend using GoDaddy.

Podcast Hosting Solution Summary

Click here to open a chart that summarizes all three of my recommended podcast hosting solutions.

Podcast Hosting:
The Casual Hobbyist Solution
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