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27 November 2007

Cast Your Pod

Podcasting has become a cheap and easy way to communicate your message - whatever that message is. In fact it's so easy there is no reason a church (for example) wouldn't jump at the chance of adding it to their list of ways to reach people with the ultimate message.

But it can be daunting to those without development experience. So here is a quick and dirty online tutorial:

  1. Get yourself an MP3: Many churches today are recording their services. If you have it on CD that's fine, but it won't work online. You need to put the CD in a computer and import the content into a free program like iTunes. Once inside iTunes you can convert it to MP3 - the format that works well on the web. Here is a tutorial on converting files in iTunes.
  2. Make them available: The next step is to get the MP3 files on the Internet. Many churches already have their MP3 files online so people can listen to them or download them. But in order to offer them as a podcast you will need to create an RSS Feed - which is nothing more than an XML file (example here) that lists each MP3's location with other information like the title, the length, the author and stuff like that. The good thing is that there is an easy way and a hard way to do this. The hard way is to write the XML yourself and then update this file every time you want to add or delete an MP3 from the podcast. The easy way is to create a blog (using Blogger, SquareSpace or TypePad) to create the podcast XML file for you. This is a great option because you can blog about each episode (or message) and just link to the MP3 file in that post. Then podcast aggregators like iTunes and Zune Marketplace will automatically be able to subscribe to the podcast, download the files into their respective libraries and be able to transfer them to an iPod or Zune automatically. How cool is that?
  3. Get jiggy wit it: If you really want to take it to the next level, you can add your podcast to the iTunes Store and get a special URL to use on your website so that when a user clicks the link/graphic (that typically says, "Subscribe with iTunes") your computer automatically opens iTunes, takes you to the iTunes Store and opens the page set up for your podcast. Click the button that says "Subscribe" and you're in.
For more detailed information on podcasting:
There are also many online services that will do all the work for you (for a small fee):
Happy podcasting!