Phillip Smith

So you want to podcast, eh?

Lots of organizations seem to want to know about "Podcasting" -- recording audio interviews or shows that people can listen to over the Internet and via their favourite music management software. Similar to radio shows, recorded interviews and other audio segments can provide a powerful message in a convenient delivery format that can be listen to on the way to work, or while cooking dinner. And, as someone that doesn't have a television, it provides a connection to the kinds of media that I want to consume without all the visual clutter and advertising that comes with a TV diet.

Personally, I feel that podcasts may be radio's saviour: I can listen to them when and where I want to, and I don't even need to adjust the tuner.

So, wanting to get on the bandwagon, I set out to learn how to record, edit, and publish my own "progressive podcast." There are many, many, articles already out there about how to do this, so I'm just going to give you a quick run-down of what my experience was and point you in a bunch of helpful directions.

Getting my head around it all

Earlier this year, Wayne MacPhail of the podcast network came out and recorded the April Social Tech Brewing event on municipal elections. (You can find that podcast over here.) So, when I wanted to get started, I turned to Wayne's incredibly helpful podcast series "Podcast DIY" -- I downloaded all the episodes, put them on my iPod, and listen to them on my next long-haul flight.

Hardware and software

Thanks to some good timing, I picked up Wayne's M-Audio Microtrack 24/96 when he upgraded to a newer recording device. I wanted to record uncompressed audio, so I splurged for a name-brand 1 gigabyte compact flash card. So far the device has worked like a charm and is small enough to tote around quite easily.

I had a heck of a time with microphones, however; too much choice, too much bad advice, too much not knowing what I was doing. In the end, I bought two Behringer C-1 condenser microphones and a nice small stand that can hold them both. Realistically, I only need one of them (most microphones are mono) to record interviews, but I opted for two to be able to create a studio-like stereo experience. I also purchased a bunch of 1/4" cables, both for the microphones and so I can patch into PA systems at events.

After playing around with a few different approaches, I settled on GarageBand 3 as a simple tool for editing audio and adding intros and sound effects. The newest version has a "podcast studio" which provides an easy way to add artwork, show notes, and "chapters" that can be quickly jumped to in the recording. After the editing is complete, I use the "Send to iTunes" feature to import the audio into iTunes -- which is where I do the final conversion of the recording to the MP3 that will be my podcast.


Once my podcast is complete and I'm happy with the size of the file and the audio quality, it's time to upload it to the Internet. I haven't found any fast-and-true rules about how big or small a podcast should be, but a quick scan of some of the podcasts that I listen to reveals that they tend to be about 1 megabyte per minute; so a 45 minute podcast could easily be 45 megabytes, give or take 10 megabytes depending on the quality of the MP3 file.

So, unless you have an overly generous Web hosting provider and lots of extra disk space, you'll find that storing large and long podcasts can quickly eat into your monthly bandwidth allowance and available disk space. Given that there are lots of folks "out there" that are happy to host the file for me, I decided to do some quick research of the available options (Odea, Yahoo!, etc.) and ended up settling on my old friend provides the community and uploading tools (at no cost), while provides the file storage (forever, and completely free).

(Because I use the Drupal content-management system for my own Web site, I also had a look at the Audio module -- but it seemed to have some limits around the file size that I could upload.)

Progressive Online Media: Let's talk!

One of my more recent attempts at podcasting was to record a session that I led at the 6th annual Web of Change gathering. I had asked Audrey Watson of Yes! Magazine, Michelle Hoar of The Tyee, and Dean Ericksen of Grist to join me for a "talk show" that would explore the challenges and opportunities of publishing progressive news online. The 45 minute conversation was one of the most illuminating and helpful that I've had the opportunity to be a part of in some time... so many thanks to my "guests" on the show and without further adieu, here it is:

Do you have great podcasting resources for progressive organizations wanting to join the revolution? Please add them below!


Hi, I'm Phillip Smith, a veteran digital publishing consultant, online advocacy specialist, and strategic convener. If you enjoyed reading this, find me on Twitter and I'll keep you updated.


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