An article by Scott Clark – 2006

“More than 70% of 2007 model US automobiles will offer iPod integration with GM alone making it available on all 56 of its models” – Greg Joswiak, Apple’s VP of Worldwide iPod Marketing.

Digital entertainment research company Diffusion Group states that the worldwide us podcast audience will grow to 56 million by 2010, and that three-quarters of those owning portable music devices will use them to listen to podcasts up from just 15% today. This growth of Podcast audiences suggests its increasing viability of as a tool for marketing communications in our busy, multitasking world. I’ve had the pleasure of working on some very popular podcasts, and get asked about starting them very often. As with most content production, it is in the creativity and vision of the artist that matters most. With that in mind, wrap your arms around three rudimentary phases of podcast creation – planning, production, and publishing.

Planning

The most important part of producing a podcast is to get into the mindset of your listener and out of the ego of a broadcaster. Why in the world would they want to listen to you? You will need to list a compelling collection of topics, written down as thematic notes, flow reminders, and outlines. You should remain consistent from one episode to the next, as 25% of listeners will hear programs back-to-back!

Audacity software for recording and editingYour points should be concise and meaningful. Try to remain on their “subscribed” list with compelling ideas and thoughtful references to previous and forthcoming episodes. . The continuity you’ll establish shows organization and has a ‘cliffhanger’ effect on listeners.

Podcasts do not need to be long. I recommend that you vary length according your best content. There is never a good reason to use filler in a podcast with no program schedule to adhere to. If you have seven and a half minutes great stuff, then stop at seven and a half minutes. You want to be an authority figure, but a time-sensitive one, respectful of a listener’s limited patience. I heard a podcast of around six minutes in length recently. It gave a great anecdote with a thoughtful ending summed with “That’s today’s idea in a box – I know you’re busy, so good bye for now.” – It was true… I was busy, and as corny as it sounds, it made a connection.

Producing

At a minimum, producing requires a computer, a high-end headset microphone, and some recording software. If you plan to do interviews, a desktop microphone is needed. I’ve conducted very good quality direct-to-computer phone interviews using Skype or you can purchase a couple of little boxes to record regular phone calls over old-fashioned lines. Those wanting higher fidelity can go “all out” and purchase studio-grade equipment to give their podcasts a real sonic edge (Listen to podcasts from Business Lexington and you’ll see what I mean.) Professional investment also pays off in voice-overs for introduction and exit audio. You will use it in every episode so it’s worth every dime.

The podcast content itself is recorded using the computer’s sound card directly into the hard disk in most cases, so the microphone and sound card are critically important. The finished product is then encoded into MP3, the standard for podcast audio, and saved ready to be published. You’ll want to learn a little about “bit rates” to decide on the quality level you need – then write it on a post-it and use it every time.

Publishing

Before publishing, you will need web hosting space to publish the files. I have seen podcasts run happily from “bare-bones” hosting packages costing as little as $5.00 per month (providing you don’t need any support, ‘cause you’re not going to get any at this price.)

In order to publish the Podcast onto the Internet so it can be subscribed to a “pointer to the audio” is inserted into a package. This takes the form of a special text file called a “feed” which describes the podcast to with elements such as its name, length, description, file type, category, MP3 file location, and more.

To assemble a podcast, many use a simple program to aid in formatting the XML/Feed file. I use Listgarden and Feedforall, both are less than $30. With these, you define parameters, enter Feed names, and so on, and then they will upload the results to your web hosting space. For a totally hands-off approach to publishing, check out PodBlaze.com, this takes a “do-it-for-you” approach to publishing.

As to the reasons for doing a podcast, it’s very hard to predict what will come from these – they’re so new that looking for a specific ROI is almost impossible. Step one is to become a listener yourself – subscribe to a variety of topics – heck use the excuse to start a walking regimen!

©Scott Clark – Originally Appeared on Business Lexington Magazine