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Chances are you've watched a podcast before but maybe never thought about creating one for yourself. The good news is it's really not that hard. There are a few simple things that make a podcast, a podcast. Now, compatibility with Apple devices is not a requirement. Nobody says you have to be listed in iTunes or that it's only for an iPod. The term Podcast could be thought of as Portable On Demand Casting, the idea that you want to reach a bunch of people quickly on their portable media players.
There are several benefits to podcasting. They include the fact that everybody who gets your podcast is an Opt-in audience. This means that they specifically asked for your content and subscribe to it. These days with people being concerned about spam, the fact that your audience is choosing to receive the content is good. It means that you can't be accused of being a spammer or harassing them online. Additionally, a podcast has the benefit that those who subscribe can watch or listen at their own convenience.
This means that they don't actually have to have an Internet connection. If you deal with people who are commuters in an urban environment, Internet connections often go out. Perhaps they're in a car or a moving train, they probably don't have satellite Internet attached to their car. Now portable electronic devices with 3G connections and 4G connections are of course increasing, but the data plans can also be expensive on these. Allowing subscribers to download content at home on a broadband connection and then keep the file, ensures that they can easily take the media with them, as well as consume it in unlikely places like planes, trains, and automobiles, or when they're out on the go without an active high-speed connection.
Another good thing about podcasting is that it's an emerging technology with very little competition. For example, we have been producing podcasts for years at my company. Regularly, we see impressive results. Results that just don't make sense like, why would my show on digital photography outperform every major television network? Well the truth of the matter is, is that, people who subscribe to podcast, want content that's very specific. And when you feel the need for a niche, that niche is going to support you.
This is good news for content creators because it means that not only can you reach a passionate audience, but they will support you and make sure that your content is watched and shared with others. This all ties together to the fact that it's a viral communications medium, it's very easy for people to share that content with others. They'll write reviews, they will post it, they could actually download it and pass it on to a friend. So, if you have to define a podcast, it's important to think of it this way.
All podcasts work as a Web video but not all Web video is a podcast. In order to be a podcast, you have to have multiple occurrences. A one-off video is not a podcast. This means you're going to produce a series. That series can have a new episode every week, every month or just on-demand when new content arises. You also must give the people the ability to subscribe to your podcast. Typically subscriptions are free.
If you offer a podcast in the iTunes podcast directory, you cannot charge for that podcast. There are private podcasting methods out there, to make subscription-only podcasts, but most of the directories only take free podcasts. So keep that in mind if you're looking to monetize your video content. You can of course at a private podcast feed that you only share with your customers that they can subscribe to with a unique URL. Remember, Real Simple Syndication; we've already covered this in earlier modules.
The use of an RSS feed is the key ingredient to podcasting, that RSS feed uses a technology called ID3 tags that enable media files to be attached with important metadata and descriptions, so people can actually find and enjoy your content. Lastly, people can join or leave your podcast at any time. You must make it simple for people to click with a single button and actually leave a podcast or join a podcast.
An easy analogy I often offer is, think of a podcast like TiVo or a Magazine. First off, a subscriber can watch or listen when it's convenient. They don't have to tune-in live, they don't have to sit there with an active Internet connection with high speed data. They can get it and watch it when it's convenient to them. Additionally, they could select multiple episodes and download without subscribing. This is good for those who want to browse or choose or try things out.
Of course, this is the same idea like a magazine where people could buy one at a time from a newsstand. But ultimately, what you want to see happen is that people subscribe so they get every episode. This makes it easier to grow your audience with consistent numbers and you will see exponential growth. So, where do you put a podcast? It's ultimately up to you. You could put a podcast file on your own server, use a standard Web server to host it up. There is great utilities like Podcast Maker or the Podcaster's RSS Buddy that will automate a lot of the tasks and let you use WYSIWYG tools, what you see is what you get to create a valid RSS feed.
Of course, this puts a pretty heavy load on your Web server and it can get expensive. Web servers have more expensive data, and if you don't have an unlimited data plan, you probably don't want to bog down the weight of your standard Web server with a bunch of large media files. In this case, I recommend turning to a dedicated podcast hosting company. Here are three popular ones. We took a look at Blip.tv earlier and they have an easy service that cleanly integrates in with iTunes. You can also utilize services like Libsyn or PodHoster, and of course there are more on the market.
There are lots of services out there for hosting podcasts. The whole thing really isn't that difficult. Just try one of the services I recommended here or find your own, upload a bunch of content, attach a piece of artwork for your show, typically a square logo about 800x800 pixels, and then submit it for approval to different podcast directories. We're going to tackle how to do that in iTunes next.
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