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I recently had the opportunity to become part of a podcast which I’m sure you’ll hear about soon enough – and it’s all fairly new ground for me. As the only one with enough bandwidth to host, and clearly the most experienced of the group in WordPress ninja-ship, I also took it upon myself to setup the necessary protocols that make an actual podcast, as opposed to being just audio files posted on a blog.
Thankfully, there’s a fantastic, free plugin for WordPress that handles the difficult bits, and I was able to get the show on the road within an hour of buying a domain.
What Is A Podcast, Technically Speaking?
A podcast is a special extended form of RSS, or really simple syndication. Regular RSS just provides HTML content, as well as some additional meta-data such as preview image, a title, a date etc. A podcast feed on the other hand also includes links to the audio/video files in a way that special podcast clients – such as iTunes – can understand.
When a podcast feed is updated, the client will prompt you or automatically download the associated media. iTunes also specifies some additional meta-data fields such as description, which it uses to populate the information in the iTunes podcast directory.
First off, you need to think separately about the hosting of the actual podcast media files – typically anywhere from 5MB (10 minutes of audio) to 500MB (video) – to the hosting of the podcast feed.
Today I’ll only be discussing self-hosting both the files themselves and the website used to make the podcast feed, but if you have a particular bandwidth-limited webhost then you may need to consider placing your files on a low-cost host such as Amazon s3. Either will function the same, but you will need to consider this beforehand. While the bandwidth required to access the feed will be no more than a regular blog, the bandwidth needed for 1,000 people downloading your 100MB podcast every week can rapidly escalate.
An alternative solution is to use a low-cost feed/file host combination, such as libsyn. The problem with using a hosted service is the same as using a hosted blogging service – if you become popular and need to migrate to your own domain, things can become difficult and you may end up losing listeners in the process.
On the other hand, many all-in-one hosted solutions offer access to their automated advertising insertion systems. I can’t testify as to the profitability of these, but I assume it’s much the same rules as Adsense – the more downloads you get, the more money you can make. In my opinion, monetization should never be your primary goal on any web project – start off making great content, and only consider monetization once you’ve gained traction.
To clarify a common misconception – the iTunes store will not host your podcast for you, nor will they set up any of the necessary meta-data needed in your feed. This is entirely your responsibility to set up. For podcasts, the iTunes store functions in a similar fashion to a link directory. With the feed correctly set up, you submit the address, and wait for approval. That’s it. You need to provide the file hosting, and the podcast feed hosting.
Using WordPress & Podpress
So assuming you’re going to host your own files on either your own web server or Amazon s3, the next step is to set up a website or front-end to manage the podcast feed, again on your own server, for which we’ll be using the world’s best CMS – WordPress. I strongly suggest you get your own specific domain for the podcast too – we got ours for $6 with a coupon at GoDaddy – and that’ll save a world of hassle later on.
A standard WordPress installation won’t do podcasting out of the box, and for this we’ll install a plugin called podPress – search for it from the Add Plugin menu option within WordPress.
Basic iTunes meta-data is automatically added to your site feed now. Go to the podPress->Feed/iTunes Settings to customise this with your own:
- preview image (this is what people will see in the store)
- explicit tag
You’re also able to set up additional feeds, but I won’t go into detail with them here as the setup is significantly more complicated. These can be used if you plan on releasing different formats – for example, keeping the main feed as a plain MP3, or also providing a video feed.
Adding Your First Podcast
Releasing a new episode is basically as simple as creating a new post and associating the relevant media file. You can’t actually upload the podcast on most hosts, due to the upload file size limit which is usually about 2MB. You’ll need to open an FTP connection, create a folder for your podcasts, and enter the URL manually on the post screen in the new podPress section.
Anything else you write in the post content area will become the “show notes” and description for iTunes.
Submitting To The iTunes Store
Before you submit, make sure you’ve changed all the defaults from the podPress settings screen, and be sure to have a feed image set, as well as accurately marking if the feed is explicit or not.
You’ll need an iTunes account to submit the podcast. Just navigate to the iTunes Store -> Podcasts section from iTunes, and click Submit a Podcast in the top right. Paste in the feed address of your blog, and step through the wizard. There’s a 2-3 day wait time to be approved, and after that the feed will update daily (so you may not see your new episode immediately in the iTunes directory).
I understand Dave is in the process of writing a full guide on the topic of podcasting, so if you’re unsure of the process or you don’t to host it yourself, wait for that in a few months. Comments welcome, or questions if you’re having problems as I’ll try to help as best as I can. If you need more help on blogging in general with WordPress, may I suggest my own fantastic free guide.