Podcasting For Beginners

You Can Do It!

So, What Exactly Is Podcasting?

Not Just For iPods
A podcast is like a radio show that you download from the internet and listen to either through your computer’s speakers, or with an iPod or other mp3 player.  A podcast is much like an audio magazine subscription: a subscriber receives regular audio programs delivered via the internet, and she or he can listen to them at her or his leisure.  Despite the name, be assured you do not need an iPod to listen to podcasts. They are popular for a number of reasons. The content is very niche-oriented, such that subjects that would never be of broad enough interest to warrant an entire show on a radio station may have dozens or even hundreds of podcasts devoted to them. Because podcasts are “on-demand” audio programming, people can choose to listen to them whenever they have time. And, in this YouTube universe, the charm of homespun content and real-life hosts seems to win the day over polished or professional programming.  Read a thorough explanation of what podcasts are and why they are popular here.

Why Should You Podcast?
Some Christian podcasts have audiences of up to 10,000 listeners a week. As the podcasting trend continues to grow, and as more priests, youth and young adult ministers, and folks in the pews discover podcasting, don’t be surprised if that small church around the corner soon has a global audience of thousands of listeners.  Here are seven great reasons to start your own podcast.

How To Get Started
What you will need and exactly how you will go about creating a podcast depend on what the final audio program will consist of.   If you are a preacher wishing to record and podcast your homilies or sermons (or you are someone a preacher has enlisted to help with this process), then follow my four steps to podcast your preaching found here.   If your podcast will consist of something other than preaching, continue reading this article.   An overview of the whole podcasting process is: (1) record and edit, (2) create an mp3 file, (3) upload the file to the internet. There’s even a way to combine three of those steps into one, but I’ll get to that in a bit.  Let’s start with recording.

What You Need For Recording
One of the great advantages for beginning podcasters is that podcast subscribers do not expect (and often don’t even want) a professional-sounding, radio station-like show. Many of the most popular podcasts are recorded in the host’s living room with an inexpensive microphone and plenty of authentic background noises. So, don’t worry about buying high-end equipment. There are, of course, nearly unlimited options as to what hardware and software you could invest in to produce a podcast. Most of the experts agree: start small and cheap; if you get into it, you can always upgrade your equipment for a better sound or more powerful recording options. So, the basics are: you need a computer with a high-speed internet connection, a microphone, and software that will let you record sound to your computer. Many modern desktop computers and laptops come with a built in microphone, so you could start simply by using that. The next step up for a single-person podcast would be a computer headset microphone (shown at left). If you’re a gamer, or have a little brother who is, you may already have one of these around the house. If you’re buying, choosing one that has a USB connection is your best bet, but if you’re sure your computer has a sound card with a microphone input, you can pretty much use any headset microphone with a 3.5mm plug (but not the 2.5mm plug that headsets made for cell phones have).  Headset microphones range greatly in price and design (check some current prices here), but except for expensive models, their sound quality for podcast recording will be fairly similar… so go for the $30 end of the spectrum, rather than the $200 models.

Where Two Or Three Are Gathered 
A headset will suffice if you’re flying solo, but your podcast will likely benefit from at least one other voice chatting with you. You will almost certainly sound more natural and conversational if you are actually talking with someone else. Using multiple headset microphones may prove difficult with software set-up, so for simplcity sake I will recommend a different microphone that you can place on a table or desk that will pick up the conversation between two or three people. Again, there are myriad options, but I suggest a USB mic like this one. It requires no extra hardware, plugs directly into your computer’s USB port like a printer or digital camera would, and costs about $60 (and they even throw in a desk stand!).  If you’re feeling more adventurous and have a bit more money to spend, you can choose between several “podcasting starter kits” that come with microphones, mixers, digital conversion hardware, and audio recording software, and range in price from $150 to $2,500 or more.

Okay, now you’ve got the equipment and you’re ready to LEARN HOW TO RECORD YOUR PODCAST on the next page.