Podcasting is a relatively new kind of technology so here is a bit of background for those who haven’t come across this term yet. The definition on wikipedia is pretty good: “a course in miracles” is making audio files (most commonly in MP3 format) available online in a way that allows software to automatically download the files for listening at the user’s convenience.
The way I see podcasting is a cross between a radio show and a blog. The great thing is anyone can produce a podcast with little outlay and only very basic knowledge of IT. Once you have produced a podcast you can allow people to subscribe to receive updates when they are uploaded to your website. This is done in a very similar way to using an RSS reader to syndicate blog/news feeds (more on this later).
The first step for me was research. I wanted to find out what other podcasts sounded like and what other people were already doing (particularly in my field of personal finance). This was also a useful activity to remove any fears that all of the podcasts already produced would be of a highly professional quality – some are, but most are not!
Once I had established that nobody else was doing what I planned to do (with the exception of Martin Lewis, the Money Saving Expert, but this is more about saving money than financial planning) it was time to work out how to record my first show. I planned to record ten minute shows which would cut down on production time and also keep the file size quite small. Because this is an audio file hosted on our website I wanted to ensure that it was not too large (to keep download times fast but also save on bandwidth restraints).
To record the content for my podcast I first tried using ‘Sound Recorder’ that comes with Windows XP. This wasn’t ideal for a couple of reasons. The recording time is limited to 60 seconds which would have meant cutting my planned show into ten perfectly timed segments then editing them all together. It also wouldn’t have allowed me to speak over backing music (something I felt was important for a professional sounding show/introduction).
I searched the web and found some free to try software on download.com. This software is called Propaganda 1.0 and it offers a complete solution to the would be podcast creator. I downloaded the free trial to ensure it did everything I wanted it to and then shelled out the $49.95 to activate the full version. I wanted to ensure that my podcast wasn’t ten minutes of me talking about pensions so I asked my sister to record some sound bites for me. These were just simple bits of audio that I could use to introduce the show, break up the content and use to finish the podcast (my regulatory warning/disclaimer).
In terms of hardware I just used a microphone headset; the same system I use for Skype. This cost me £10 in Dixons and does a good job in terms of recording a single voice. Using Propaganda I could record content for the show, line up as many as 16 different audio tracks (including some backing music) and play with the timing. This whole process took just under 2 hours before I was happy with the final version.