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A Technophobe’s No-tears Guide to Podcasting

This guest post is by Carol Tice of Make a Living Writing.

You’ve probably heard that adding multimedia to your blog is a great way to grow your audience. But if you’re like me, and technology makes you assume the fetal position and cry like an overtired baby, you may have put off the idea.

The good news is that after pulling out half of my hair grappling with a half-dozen different podcasting platforms and audio-editing programs, I discovered there is a simple way to create, embed, and play audio on your WordPress blog. So I’d like to save all of you the agony and share how I now do my podcasts.

Below is my five-step guide to bare-bones podcasting for the newbie, using mostly free tools.

Step 1: Pick the right podcasting platform

Here’s the key benefit you’re looking for in a podcasting platform: the platform will let you export audio files as mp3s. You won’t believe how many of even the most expensive, premium platforms will not (yes, I am looking at you, GoToWebinar).

The intent of most recording platforms is to chain you to their own, proprietary recording format or to trap you in some awkward format that’s hard to edit or play. They want you to leave your recordings on their site and put links to their site on your own site—so they can build their Google rankings (and often, so they can charge you extra for storing them).

If you export these weirdo-format files, you end up with a mess of various files my husband has likened to a scrambled egg that you then strive to turn back into a whole, unbroken egg that will play on your blog. Ever tried to unscramble an egg? Yeah. It’s a nightmare.

Also, you don’t want to trust your precious recordings to another site on the cloud somewhere that could close up shop or lose your media. You want to control your own podcasts. Every one of your recordings is a valuable asset to your blog that can be offered as a freebie for subscribers, for sale as a standalone product, or as a bonus bundled with another paid product.

After many false starts, I now use Instant Teleseminar, which creates an mp3 by default. It has a 21-day free trial so you can play around on it if you’re shopping for a podcasting platform. (I’m sure there are other platforms that export mp3s too—this is just the one I happened to find. If you’re using something different, let us know about it in the comments.)

Step 2: Make a clean recording

The big mistake I used to make was hitting the Record button early, before I started the broadcast, because I was worried I’d forget to do it. Or, on the back end, letting the recording run long. Now, you’ve got a rough recording you have to edit.

For editing, I found Camtasia easiest to work with, but it doesn’t readily export mp3s, only mp4s. This means you have to use a bit more sophisticated means to display your podcast. (If you have to edit, free Audacity will export mp3s, but only after an amazingly complex process to add a plugin that enables that.)

The quickest and simplest route to a finished podcast is to avoid all editing—a trick Chris Brogan taught me when I
did a Skype recording with him a while back. Here’s how.

Make sure all guests are muted. When you’re getting ready to start your event, warn any copresenters that you need a moment of silence while you start the recording. Take a deep breath, press Record, and then say, “Hello and welcome everyone…” or whatever your greeting is. Now you’ve got a clean opening.

Repeat the process at the end. Get your finger poised on the Stop Recording button as you wind down your show. “Thanks for joining us, Ed,” you say, and after he says, “Thanks for having me,” you hit that button. Now you have a clean recording that’s ready to pop right into a blog post.

If your platform offers a choice of “hold” music guests can listen to before your event starts, you’ve even got a little instant intro music you can record. Press record while your “hold” music is on, let that music play for ten seconds, then take it off and start talking. Now you sound totally pro.

Final advantage of Instant Teleseminar: the system always makes a scratch recording automatically, whether you ever hit the Record button or not. So you don’t have to worry—if you forget, you’ll just have to edit the recording, but you’ll never end up without one. This is a good feature to look for, too.

Step 3: Export your mp3

Now that you’ve made a clean recording, it’s time to get your mp3 onto your dashboard where you can use it. Simply click on the mp3 link provided in your recording platform and save the link with a descriptive mp3 file name on your desktop. It’ll usually take less than a minute. Now, you’re ready to load the file and get it to play on your blog.

Step 4: Upload your mp3

Next, you have to get your mp3 from the dashboard of your computer onto your blog. Often, the file will be too large to upload through your WordPress “Media” tab, like you use for photos.

You’ll need to do a workaround and use File Transfer Protocol (FTP) to load it up directly, circumventing the normal WordPress file-size limits. For this, you can go on your host’s dashboard, but I find that complicated.

Instead, I use free Cyberduck, which is super-simple. Find the directory file you want to stash your media in, drag and drop, and you’re done.

Step 5: Make it playable with the WordPress Audio Player plugin

This free, handy little plugin is so simple—why, even I could use it. Go to your WordPress blog’s Plugins tab, search, and download. Now, all you have to do to make a neat little player appear on your site is enter a teeny bit of code like this on the HTML view of your post:

And presto! When you switch to visual, you get this handy little player graphic:

The closed player

When you click the Play button, the player unfolds and looks like this:

The open player

Slick, eh? For extra credit, you can style it up with the colors of your blog theme as I’ve done, by altering the Settings for Audio Player in your plugin dashboard.

That’s all there is to it! If you have other simple approaches to getting up your podcast, share them in the comments below.

Carol Tice creates podcasts for members of her community Freelance Writers Den, and also sometimes shares them with subscribers to her Make a Living Writing blog.

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Comments

  1. Michael says:

    how do you make it work within iTunes?

  2. Carol, thank you for this post. I remember how overwhelming podcasting seemed before we got started! Are you familiar with the Blubrry PowerPress plugin for WordPress? If so, how does it compare to WordPress Audio Player?

    Thanks!

    • Have to say I’m not…but hard to see how it could be any easier than that Audio plug-in. I love it, and it makes that cutie little player, and you can make it your colors…mine has my key maroon sort of color in it when you unfold it. And that makes me happy. Because it seems like I know something about technology when I can do that — when really I know about squat.

  3. Jon Loomer says:

    Good tips, Carol! I just started my podcast this week, and I also submit to iTunes. I use PodcastGen (http://podcastgen.sourceforge.net/) to generate an XML and send the proper info to iTunes. Pretty handy stuff.

    Thanks for the tips! Very helpful as I feel my way around.

    • Ooh, me like! I know I need to build an iTunes channel out of some of my podcasts next. Right after I start my next blog, which I will be calling The Last Adopter… ;-)

    • Maggie says:

      Jon,

      I love PodcastGen and used it on my old website. Now that I use WordPress, I can’t figure out how to make the program work. Do you have any tips or can you send me your email and I’ll shoot you a note?

      I especially liked 1) how easy it was to upload and label the file and 2) how nicely it looked on the website page.

      I do a daily 2 1/2 min radio show about the Alaska Legislature and used PodcastGen to make a page that essentially was a directory of all the podcasts, where you could play it or download it. And I’ve never been able to figure out how to make a page like that using the stuff available for WordPress.

      That’s how I came to be at this post as I’m always looking for a better way to do it so I need a Summary / Download page for the radio stations to get their shows. What I want is a page that lists and plays all the shows and that I would link to from my post on the homepage, like I used to when I used PodcastGen–which did all the uploading and player creating and rss stuff on in one maneuver.

      So if you or Carol or any of the readers can help, that would be great!

      Sorry to make this comment so long, but I find that if I explain what I’m trying to figure out that it helps others who are stumbling about like I am. And I learn so much from others who make longer comments with more detail.

      Thanks in advance…and thanks to you, Darren for such a helpful blog and newsletter!

      Maggie, who tries to get smarter every day, and needs all the help she can get some days!

  4. Drew McManus says:

    Audio player is a terrific plugin but the problem as of late is it isn’t iOS compatible, meaning it won’t work on iPhones or iPads. I wish they would address the issue (I’d gladly pay for it as a premium plugin) but I haven’t found a suitable alternative, has anyone else?

    • Drew,

      If it worked on a WP blog it should ideally work on an iPad or iPhone. These plugins fit neatly in blog posts. If it is outside a post then yes you might run into issues. iOS should not be an issue since the plugin plays from a web browser.

      Let us know how you get on.

      Shuaib

      • Anne Hill says:

        The Audio Player is built with Flash, which means that alas, your podcasts will not play on any iOS device. I use PodPress on my main Dream Talk Radio site, but that’s way too complicated a plugin for most podcasters using WordPress. As Brittany suggests, Blubrry’s PowerPress is a good alternative.

  5. I am recording three podcasts a week and honestly the solution provided above is not the simplest.

    1. Use Skype with the add on Call Recorder or you can use GarageBand or Audacity
    2. Record the podcast
    3. Convert the saved .mov file from Skype to .mp3, Call Recorder provides the app to convert. The others save directly as .mp3
    4. Upload to mp3 file to your server
    5. In WordPress use the podcast plugin Blubrry. Blubrry will embed the file on your site as a player and also feed automatically to iTunes.
    6. Done

    • I’ve used Skype & Call recorder as well — that’s a handy plugin too. I’m just not crazy about the reliability of Skype. Haven’t had a great experience with that, and I’m creating products when I do these recordings, so I’m happy to pay a bit to Instant Teleseminar, which is very stable.

      Also mine are live events that like 100+ people turn up on, so I’m not sure Skype works well for that…more for situations where you’re going to pre-record you and one other guy talking and then publish it to your site for folks to listen to whenever.

  6. Kate says:

    Thanks for the tips Carol! We are currently using video and of course print; however, we still haven’t jumped into the podcasting world. Thanks for the heads up on the Plug-in, we are going to have to do this eventually!!

    • Well, if you’re doing video, you should be able to rip mp3 audio-only versions from it. Instant Teleseminar does that for me automagically, I can get the mp3, and then I Camtasia the webinar and edit it…but then it’s an mp4 (sob!) and has other issues that I must overcome.

  7. Howie Nguyen says:

    Thanks Carol for the guide. Definitely going to have a look at that WordPress Audio Plugin.

  8. Gregory D says:

    Very interesting info. I am new to blogging and setting up video, I would love to become very good at this.

  9. One thing I would add… The mp3 file needs to be syndicated via RSS to all the podcasting directories. If you miss this step than your recording is just online audio and is not a podcast. A podcast is episodic media that is syndicated via RSS. Michael’s show is definitely a podcast because he is using powerpress to enclose his media and syndicate it!

  10. Jeffrey Summers says:

    Audacity exports Mp3 without any plugin. And BlogTalkRadio.com is probably the easiest to utilize.

  11. Meka says:

    i didn’t use podcast since years
    i think i need to change my strategy to be able to survive the changes
    thank you so much for the post