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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.

5 Unexpected Benefits of Adding Podcasts to Your Blog

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

Are you having trouble keeping your blog readers interested in what you have to say?

If interest is waning, it may be time to add some variety to what you’re giving readers, besides just writing blog posts, week after week.

Back in July 2011, I started doing monthly live training events for participants in my membership community, which I record. Then, I began editing down short excerpts from those hour-long events and using them as blog posts. I’d write a short intro, and then just let people listen to a short podcast of five minutes or so.

Free software such as Audacity and free webcasting platforms such as Anymeeting make it easy to record your voice and create short audio trainings for your audience.

If you’re on WordPress, the Audio Player plug-in also makes it super-easy to install a podcast right inside a blog post. All of which definitely helped me, since I’m not technically gifted.

In short, if you’re intimidated by adding video interviews to your site—maybe you don’t feel you’d make an attractive, poised talking head?—podcasting can be a great way to go.

Adding podcasts achieved my goal of helping me keep readers and grow my subscriber base—I added about 1,000 new subscribers in the first six months after I began podcasting.

But I’ve gotten much more from podcasting than a bigger, more engaged readership. I discovered there are some powerful fringe benefits of podcasting, too. Here are five unexpected benefits of podcasting.

1. Stand out from the crowd

Instantly, when you add podcasts, you have separated yourself from the unwashed masses of bloggers. You’ve got more going on than most—you have tasty audio recordings people can listen to. Since some people learn best through listening rather than reading, you can capture another segment of readers who might otherwise might not be interested in your blog.

2. Make useful new friends

Most good podcasts aren’t one person talking, but two or more. I’ve found that as a podcaster, you can approach nearly anyone about appearing, and many top bloggers will agree. Once you’ve featured them on your recording, it’s often the start of a deeper relationship that may lead to any number of additional interactions, including your guest posting on their blog.

Since hosting them on my podcasts, I have appeared on the blogs of many of my podcast guests including Renegade Writer Linda Formichelli and Successful Blogging’s Annabel Candy.

Many A-listers may not have time to give you a written guest post, but you can post their podcast or an excerpt of it on your blog, effectively turning your well-known guest into a guest poster on your own blog.

3. Create products

Every time you create a recording, you have a new product in your hands. There are myriad ways you can make use of this valuable property, including:

  • Offer it as a premium freebie for your blog subscribers.
  • Offer it as a bonus when readers do an earlybird purchase of your paid product.
  • Offer it as a bonus when readers buy an affiliate product through your link.
  • Bundle it with other recordings on similar topics to create a free or paid online audio course.
  • Get it transcribed and turn it into an ebook.
  • Use it as part of the content for members of a member community platform.

4. Get interviewed

Once you have audio samples of how great you sound doing audio podcasts, it positions you as a strong candidate for being interviewed on others’ podcasts. For instance, I ended up featured on Blogcast.fm. This can help expose you to new audiences and also bring in more readers.

5. Gain affiliate opportunities

I believe my podcasting success led to my receiving several offers from top bloggers to affiliate-sell their lucrative products. These were situations where only a handful of affiliates were given the opportunity. I made over $2,500 selling just one of them.

How does podcasting help here? Bloggers know one of the best ways to get readers interested in a paid product is to first offer them some valuable training in a related topic through—you guessed it—a live podcast or Webinar. With demonstrated podcasting experience and an audience that’s been trained to consume live information, you’re in a better position to get these sorts of exclusive affiliate-sales offers.

How are you keeping readers interested in your blog? Leave a comment and let us know.

Carol Tice writes and podcasts on the Make a Living Writing blog, and serves as Den Mother of the writers’ learning and support community Freelance Writers Den.

The Most Important Skill for Long-term Blogging Success

This guest post is by Amy Parmenter of ParmFarm.com.

In the early stages of blogging, content is definitely king, but if you hope to be in it long-term, creativity must rule the day.

It’s easy to think of new ideas when you’ve only been blogging a few months, but what will you write about next year? How will you offer new ideas—or the same ideas from a fresh perspective?

In order to be a ProBlogger you must be a good writer and a creative thinker.

Do you have what it takes?

Here’s a test. If you were to win Darren’s free trip to Australia, how many blog posts could you generate?

That’s an easy one for travel or photography bloggers, but what about everyone else? Did you decide not to enter the contest because you didn’t think the trip would apply to your niche?

I challenge you now to think again. Only this time, think more creatively.

I’ll go first. Here are ten example posts to get your creative juices flowing:

1. Pet bloggers: Will your dog get along with your new kangaroo?

You just know you want one! Visiting Australia would be the perfect opportunity to remind your pet-loving readers of all the things they must consider when adopting new animals and introducing new pets to the household. Maybe the kangaroo isn’t such a good idea…

2. Art bloggers: The value of an artist’s community

I love this one because it took a little legwork. Queensland Tourism is offering a free trip, and a bit of research in advance should not be out of the question. I Googled “Queensland artists” and found a great community that has gathered online because its members have “limited opportunity to exhibit their works” in the state. Why not connect with them, enhance your own experience, and deliver a fabulous post to your readers?

3. Aging or senior bloggers: How old is too old to travel?

How old is the oldest person on the plane? 60s? 70s? Maybe you could interview him or her. That person would probably be flattered by the attention, it’d be an easy way to pass the time, and you’d get a terrific post and probably plenty of comments!

4. Religion bloggers: I had faith in Australia

For those who believe, there is no place on Earth where God is not present. No doubt the beauty of Queensland will deliver a spiritual experience to anyone who is open to it. Write about it. Then ask your readers to share their stories, too.

5. Finance bloggers: How to expense a “free” vacation

An important aspect of blogging is problem solving. If you’ve got a problem, chances are your readers have experienced it as well. Help them. Use the trip to detail the problem of expensing a free trip—and the solution.

6. Design bloggers: The outback out back

There’s nothing like traveling half way around the world to gather new ideas for your own back yard! This would be an easy post featuring patio or garden designs influenced by people, places, and things you discovered in Australia—complete with photos, of course.

7. Self-help bloggers: King for a day in Queensland

I’m sure the Australian getaway will include lots of sun, fun and pampering for those who so desire. As such, it is the perfect opportunity for self-help bloggers to remind readers about the value of a vacation, a change of scenery, and the importance of treating yourself when the time is right.

8. Fitness bloggers: 7 Exercises you can do on a plane

Without a doubt, the greatest obstacle for some in traveling to Australia is the extremely long flight. Blood clot issues are well documented and, frankly, exercise is a must. Running in the aisles would probably get you tackled by an air marshal, but a good fitness blogger should be able to offer at least seven exercises that can be done while seated or with very little room to move. More importantly, this is a post that would have broad appeal to anyone flying for more than a few hours.

9. Food bloggers: Raise your hand if you’ve had a Vegemite sandwich

I can’t imagine there will be any shortage of ideas for this niche but I included this example to make the point that, as a blogger, you want to write about something special, new, or different whenever possible. While Vegemite sandwiches may be nothing new in Australia, few people who live in the States have ever had one. Have one. Write about it. As a blogger correspondent, you need to take me where I cannot go.

10. Blogging bloggers: How to speak Australian

This is a topic I decided to add half way through this post when I was challenged with spelling “traveling” correctly. That’s because it has two l’s in Australia, but only one in the U.S.! In the course of your travels, take note of other differences and use them to illustrate the point that knowing your audience—and “speaking” their language—is critical to blogging success.

I think you get my point.

If you are struggling to come up with creative posts, you either need to change the way you think or change your niche.

As a longtime journalist, it is my daily challenge to cover the same stories others cover, but from a unique perspective. The same holds true for anyone who wants to be a ProBlogger.

Obviously, Queensland Tourism would like us all to write, “Australia is the most amazing place on Earth. Go there. Now.”
I think we can do better.

So, your turn. If you were selected as one of the ten Queensland blogging correspondents, what would you write about?

Amy Parmenter is a journalist, public speaker and blogger who writes (creatively!) about personal growth at the ParmFarm.com. Get her free ebook here.

Attract 100,000 Pageviews in 1 Month Using Slideshare

This guest post is by Joel Runyon of Impossible HQ.

How do you stand out and differentiate yourself online when more and more people are starting blogs every day?

Sure, you need to write stuff that’s gong to stand out, but a lot of blogging advice focuses just on writing. Sometimes to really stand out, you need to go beyond writing and create something different. You need to create content (not just writing) that helps you find new audiences to speak to by using new mediums to spread your message.

One of those new media is Slideshare, an online slide sharing community.

The spark

In 2011, my friend David Crandall released a project titled Inspiration Squared on Slideshare. He sent it to me before he posted it and as soon as I saw it, I knew it was going to be big. David is one heck of a designer and his work combined with the inspirational content behind the piece convinced me right there that it was going to blow up and that I needed to do something about it. I didn’t know anything about Slideshare at the time, but he told me he was going to release it there. Sure enough, as soon as he put it up, he got on to the front page of Slideshare and got about 20,000 views in just a few days.

Over the next few months, he released a few more projects, got them all front-paged on Slideshare and consistently grabbed around 20,000-30,000 views in just a few days after each launch.

David was killing it and I wanted in.

The plan

As soon as I saw David’s first presentation, a light bulb went off and I realized that this Slideshare thing could be big—really big. I sent him an email and told him I wanted to do one. I didn’t know what it would be yet, but I knew it would have two main characteristics: inspirational and beautiful.

Inspirational

I talk about doing impossible things, but I can’t control anyone’s actions other than myself. In other words, I can’t make people act, but I can create the impetus for them to do so. Inspirational pieces not only allow you to do that but also tend to be wildly popular. I knew that in order for this presentation to spread, it would have to be incredibly inspirational.

Beautiful

I wanted the piece to be beautiful as well—this is where David came in. I know exactly what I like, but I know absolutely nothing about making design work. I could have attempted to do this on my own in Microsoft paint, but I knew the only person who would actually pass that along would be my mom.

I knew I couldn’t do it myself, so I called David up and asked him if he would consider doing those presentations for other people. After his track record on his presentations, it was a no-brainer and I commissioned him to do a piece based on one of my most popular posts ever—25 Impossible Quotes—a year-and-a-half-old post that gets crazy amounts of Stumble Upon and social media traffic.

Manufacturing viral

I realized if I could make it both inspirational and beautiful, we could get some serious traction in the Slideshare community as well as the other social media channels, and it would have the potential to go viral. I’ll be the first one to say that it sounds really dumb to say you can manufacture something going viral and for the most part you can’t if you’re trying to create massive viral wins of 1,000,000+ views. But, if you just want to do 50,000-100,000 views, it’s much more doable and I knew with David’s track record, we could easily get 20,000-30,000 views and build it from there.

Since the piece was going to be a presentation and downloadable booklet, we decided to beef it up and double the amount of quotes in it, pulling some more impossible quotes from another article until we ended up with a total 50 impossible quotes. With those set, David went to work and did his thing.

(I mentioned before that you could probably do this yourself if you’ve got serious design chops. If not, and you’re serious about this, find someone like David who’s work you’ve seen before and like. It’s worth it to invest in this to make it truly epic.)

The marketing

There were a few different methods we planned on getting traffic from.

My site

I figured my decent sized readership would give the presentation the initial boost we needed to get traction in the Slideshare community and I was right. After a few thousand views from my site, we hit the front page of Slideshare.

Slideshare front page

Getting on Slideshare’s front page is usually good for 10,000-20,000 views depending on how long you’re up there and how compelling your presentation actually is. Ours went up and got us 25,000 views within the first couple days. That was enough to put at the top of the charts for most popular category, which gave the project even more longevity.

I was pumped, but I knew we could do more. I reached out to a few more people and we started to inch up towards the 30-40k mark. Still good, but I felt there was more potential.

The inflection point

Michael Hyatt is the CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing, the seventh largest publishing house in the US, and runs a blog with close to 200,000 visitors. We simply wanted him to take a look at it and through a series of twitter messages we got it in front of him and he loved it. The next thing I know I got a message from Michael, “Cool, I’ll post it on my blog.”

A couple of days later—BOOM.

He posted it and it took off: 60k, 75k, 80k views. Within a couple weeks we doubled the amount of views on the presentation and within a month of the launch, we cleared 100,000 views on the presentation (not to mention several thousand direct downloads both from Slideshare and Impossible HQ). Not too bad for a little outside-the-box thinking.

Make your own Slideshare presentation

Fortunately, Slideshare is a new enough platform that you can get some serious traction without being a superstar. After all, if I did it, so can you. Here are a few tips on making your own Slideshare presentation go viral.

Make it simple, stupid

The highlight of Slideshare pieces that go viral is simplicity. You don’t need to make it complicated. You should have one main thought per slide. Don’t over think this.

Choose the right type of presentation

The types of posts that will do really well on Stumble Upon will also do really well on Slideshare. If you have any posts on your blog that have done particularly well on Stumble Upon, you should probably be able to convert it into a popular Slideshare presentation. Other post types that do well:

  • inspirational posts
  • lists posts
  • compilations of quotes (people really love quotes)
  • simple explanations of complicated things.

Anything that is simple, easy to understand and apply do really well in the Slideshare format.

Note: Please do not do a PowerPoint presentation. It will not go over well and no one ever wants to read 5-7 bullets on a slide. Remember: keep it simple!

Find a Slideshare Insider

I compiled the quotes and knew it would have certain traction with the backing of my branding, but the secret sauce of working with David is that he’s already been established in the Slideshare community. He’s done a lot of the heavy lifting of making connections and getting known because he’s good at what he does. He’s built up a reputation so people pay attention when he creates something.

Don’t underestimate the value of working with someone great. Scan the top creators of Slideshare and find someone whose work you like and see if you can commission them for your project. Not only will their knowledge help you make a better looking presentation, but once it’s made, you’ll have more traction within the community.

Market the heck out of it

Share it with your audience. Share it with people you know. Talk to people who know people and share it with them. If you’ve done your work and made your Slideshare presentation awesome, share it with them and ask their opinion and you’ll make it easy for them to pass it along.

The hidden benefits of Slideshare

The best part of creating content Slideshare is that it’s a whole new audience. Guest posting and interviews can always bring in different amounts of traffic, but it’s often hard to avoid incestuous blogging—blogging to the same audiences that read the same blogs over and over and over.

Slideshare is a whole different medium than blog readers. Similar to podcast listeners, Pinterest users and YouTube users, they’re an entirely different market that may or may not read blogs. By using your content in a different way, you can reach these audiences where they’re at and draw them in.

The flip-side of this is that most of your blog readers have never heard of Slideshare either. So, when you create a killer presentation, it looks incredibly impressive—even if you’re simply repurposing your content into a new arena. It’s a whole new medium with a lot of wide open opportunity, so don’t wait.

Have you used Slideshare yet? Tell us how it went in the comments.

Joel Runyon is the creator of Impossible HQ and the Blog of Impossible Things where he pushes his limits by doing the impossible.  You can follow him on twitter.

Move Beyond Fear: Find and Keep Your Writing Voice in 10 Steps

This guest post is by Sean M. Madden of Mindful Living Guide.

I’ve been teaching creative writing, along with mindful living, for years now. And I can say, without hesitation, that fear is ubiquitous. Its presence, more than anything else, stops writers in their tracks.

All seems to be going along beautifully, words and ideas are flowing, characters and plots are taking shape, and wham! a certain self-consciousness seeps in. The flow slows to a trickle, we begin to falter, and, worst of all, we judge ourselves harshly, comparing our present writing to our glory days. Or we compare ourselves against other writers, those in our midst, or literary greats of times past.

Just a few minutes ago, I finished up an informal discussion which I was leading on the web. The talk shared the exact title of this article, and one of the participants is a long-time student of mine. He’s the sort of guy you’d never guess would be fearful of losing his writing voice. He’s a confident and successful middle-aged businessman, and he’s led an unusually creative life. He’s gigged as a singer-songwriter, owned and managed art galleries in London, has a lovely family, and travels widely.

Yet Alex has a lingering concern—the very one detailed above, whereby his writing seems to get off-track, falters and he starts doubting his abilities, whether he’ll manage to write with ease as he once did.

Fortunately, there are steps we can take which, if heeded, will do more than help us to find and keep our writing voice. These steps can help us to move beyond fear and to live more creatively.

Ten steps to help you move beyond fear and find and keep your writing voice

  1. Acknowledge your fears: don’t pretend they’re not lurking there behind the scenes.
  2. Face them: Face your fears with a simple, uncomplicated awareness of the corresponding bodily sensations. In other words, notice how your fears (and thoughts generally) make you feel, physically.
  3. But don’t feed them: As with online trolls who get their jollies trying to wreak havoc, your fears will lessen and eventually fade away if you stop engaging with them on their terms.
  4. Recognize that your fears are illusory: You can smile at their devilish innocence.
  5. Simply put pen to paper: Write through your fears. Write down whatever comes up.
  6. Notice our tendency to negatively compare ourselves with others: These crippling, judgmental thoughts are another illusion, another trick our minds play to limit our naturally creative selves.
  7. Realize that action trumps fear: When things get tough, go for a good long walk, take a yoga class, return to your breath. Do such things as these on a daily basis and things will not get so tough so often.
  8. Write down your inner truths: Do this with great courage and honesty. You’ll thereby find your voice.
  9. Take heart knowing you’re not alone: We, all of us, feel these fears. Don’t believe otherwise.
  10. Trust in the process: Nurture an awareness that everything, even fear, can be a great teacher!

What fears tend to squelch your writing voice, and what strategies do you use to overcome these fears? Please leave your comments below. Let’s get the conversation flowing.

As a Creative Writing & Mindful Living Guide, Sean M. Madden offers Writing, Literature & Mindful Living courses and workshops — and one-to-one guidance — worldwide. He’s also the creator of the new #mlmon and #wpthu communities. To keep apprised of Sean’s live web-based writing workshops (Next Up: April 8 & 15) and other online and in-person offerings, sign up to the MLG newsletter. You can also follow (@SeanMMadden) or  email him.

How Do You Define ‘Great Content’?

Blogging advice articles all seems to include the matra – “create great content”. The theory goes that if you create great content people will come to your blog, link to it, pass it on to friends, bookmark it and your blog will grow.

OK – we’ve heard the ‘write great content’ thing over and over again.

But what is this ‘great content’ thing that we talk about? How do you define it (or can you at all)?

What is Great Content?

I’m interested in how you’d answer this question. Looking forward to seeing what discussion emerges. Feel free to answer as a comment below of if you want to take it up as a post on your blog – please leave a link in comments so we can track what everyone is writing.