6 Steps to Professional Podcast Publishing

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A couple of weeks ago, I offered up 8 Professional Podcast Production Tips. If you followed those, you should have a professional-sounding show all ready for the world to hear. But how do you get it out there?

The process of publishing a podcast is at least as complicated as producing the episodes to begin with. As with most things on the Web, you can take a do-it-yourself approach that affords ultimate control over all the details.

Alternatively, you can choose a solution that glosses over the details so you don’t have to worry about them. Which approach you choose depends on your needs, your own technical expertise, and how much spare time you have. Remember: every hour you spend publishing your podcast is an hour you don’t have to spend producing another great episode of your show!

1. Pick a Host

No matter how you go about it, publishing a podcast comes down to serving up relatively sizeable files for download. And if your show is the success you hope it to be, you’re going to be serving a lot of files, possibly in a very short space of time.

Intensive media serving may not be something your current web hosting plan is up to, and it would be a shame for a popular episode to generate a massive hosting bill or, worse yet, take down your site just when your hard work is paying off! It’s worth giving some thought to whether you need to make separate arrangements to host the downloadable files that make up your podcast.

Libsyn is a very popular service for podcast hosting. With a $5/month hosting package that will suit most first-time podcasts (up to 100MB of new content per month with unlimited downloads), the price is hard to beat. They’ll even host a blog and feed for your podcast, with your own design and domain name if you want.

Despite its popularity, Libsyn has the feel of a work-in-progress that isn’t making much progress. For my money, its extremely affordable unlimited bandwidth plans make up for it, but there are other options you may want to consider.

One alternative is Podango, which offers totally free podcast hosting. Podango tacks short ads onto the start and end of each of your shows, as well as banner ads on your show’s blog, and splits the revenue with you 50/50. If you have no budget, hope to make a little money, and just want to focus on producing your show, Podango could be your ideal choice.

If you can’t justify paying for Libsyn and the ads inserted by Podango don’t sit well with you, check out Ourmedia. With hosting provided by the Internet Archive, you can’t expect the same level of service as you’ll get from a commercial enterprise. There may be a delay between your upload of a file and its availability for download, for instance.

2. Publish Your First Episode

Once you’ve settled on hosting for your media files, you should get your first episode up. At a minimum, you need to upload the MP3 audio file, and then publish a web page that offers it for download.

You should do this in such a way that each episode you publish will have its own web page associated with it, so that third party sites can link to particular episodes. You may also want to provide a way for new listeners who stumble on the page to play the episode right inside the browser, without having to download it.

The easiest way to do all this is with a blogging system that includes special support for podcasts. Libsyn provides an easy-to-use blogging system that comes pre-configured for your account, though it is notoriously difficult to customize its look and feel.

My preference is to set up my own blog separately from my media hosting. WordPress is a popular choice that is relatively easy to set up, and is supported by most web hosts. To add podcasting features, install and configure the PodPress plugin, which provides slick publishing tools, statistics, and in-browser players for audio and video.

Update: As several readers have pointed out, the PodPress plugin has not been updated in awhile, and is incompatible with the latest version of WordPress. The new Podcasting plugin has stepped in to fill the gap, thanks to developer Ronald Heft, Jr., who developed it from scratch for the Google Summer of Code 2007. Check it out!

Update 2: Another promising replacement for PodPress is Blubrry Powerpress.

3. Set Up a Feed

What makes a podcast a podcast, and not just a set of media files available for download, is the feed. Software like iTunes can subscribe to your feed and automatically download new episodes of your show.

If you’re using a blogging system to publish your podcast, chances are it already provides an iTunes-friendly feed. The feed URL for Libsyn’s blogging system appears at the bottom of your account screen, whereas the PodPress plugin for WordPress generates its own iTunes-friendly feed (separate from WordPress’s built-in feed).

If you aren’t using a blogging system, but are simply coding up a static page for each episode that you publish, then you’ll need a good tool to write the feed. Feeder is an excellent choice for the Mac, providing plenty of podcast-specific convenience features.

Yes, you could code the feed by hand by referencing the relevant documentation from iTunes, but keeping a hand-coded feed perfectly valid can be a chore, and unlike web browsers, feed-reading programs like iTunes do not tolerate coding mistakes.

4. Promote your Show

With your first episode up and a feed in place, you’re ready to start getting the word out.

Your first step should be to submit your feed to iTunes. iTunes is by far the most popular directory of podcasts, and it is the first place most regular podcast listeners will look for your show if they hear about it.

Make sure you have configured your feed with the iTunes description, artwork, and category information before submitting. Whether you use Libsyn, PodPress, or Feeder, any tool that generates a podcast feed will let you set these iTunes-specific details.

Other places to submit your show include Yahoo! Podcasts, Podcast Alley, Podcast Ready, Blubrry, and Podcast Pickle.

Of course, submitting your podcast to directories will only go so far. Like any other content published online, you’ll have to do some work to promote it.

5. Watch your Stats

With each episode you publish, keep an eye on your stats to see how you’re doing. Are most of your users downloading the show manually, listening in their browser, or auto-downloading them with software like iTunes?

Libsyn and PodPress both provide reasonable stats. If you’re rolling your own feed with something like Feeder, you may want to send your feed through a service like FeedBurner so you can track how your show is performing.

6. Keep it Rollin’

Perhaps the most important factor in building a regular following is to maintain a regular production schedule. It doesn’t have to be every week or even every month, but set yourself a schedule and stick to it. If you become unpredictable, so will your listeners’ dedication to your show.

Of course, the beauty of podcasting is that you can do your own thing on the Web. If your intent is to publish occasionally and at irregular intervals, that’s okay too—just be clear with your listeners that that’s what you’re doing, so they don’t consider unsubscribing just because they haven’t heard from you for a month.

And that’s it! Your road to podcast production success. Have I missed anything? Leave a comment and let me know.

Kevin YankKevin Yank
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Kevin Yank is an accomplished web developer, speaker, trainer and author of Build Your Own Database Driven Website Using PHP & MySQL and Co-Author of Simply JavaScript and Everything You Know About CSS is Wrong! Kevin loves to share his wealth of knowledge and it didn't stop at books, he's also the course instructor to 3 online courses in web development. Currently Kevin is the Director of Front End Engineering at Culture Amp.

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