If you’re a subscriber of EdTech Sauce, you might have listened to the previous episode where I discussed the secrets and benefits of creating a student podcast. If you haven’t listened to it already, then I urge you to go back and have a listen, even if you’re convinced you don’t want to try it. I promise, the benefits to students of this activity are far greater in number than you would expect.
If starting a podcast with your students is something you do want to try, this episode and the next episode will lay out the basics of how to make it work. This week I’m talking about getting published, and next week I’m talking about how to actually create the audio. This might sound back to front – talking about publishing audio before you’ve even recorded it, but I’m doing it this way because I think the idea of publishing the podcast is probably a greater barrier in people’s minds than actually recording it. Once you know the basics of how to get published, you’ll probably feel a lot more ready and willing to just roll on with getting recordings done.
Before I go any further, I should give a little disclaimer. If you stumbled across this episode because you’re searching for advice on how to launch a business or even hobbyist-level podcast then… stop. This advice won’t get you there. Podcasting for school is different because the requirements are different. If you want to publish a podcast with a growing audience, then there are a lot of behind the scenes details to worry about and creases to iron out. For example, you need to use a reliable host to store your audio files, you need to know how to create a feed, you’ve got to consider search engine optimization… the list will go on. These things cost time and money.
For a student podcast, it wouldn’t be the end of the world if the place that you store your audio files isn’t 100% reliable. 98% reliable is good enough for this purpose. Imagine you are subscribed to a professional podcast, the new episode comes out but for some reason it doesn’t download. Now imagine this happens again a week or so later. After some time, you might give up and unsubscribe. However, if this happened to the students and parents of your podcast every once in a while, it wouldn’t be a train smash – it wouldn’t lose revenue or decrease your audience because you’re not earning money from the student podcast or trying to grow a global audience. These are the kinds of small but significant details that matter in professional podcasting but don’t matter for a student podcast. These are also the reasons why it costs money to launch a podcast, and why teachers can get away with doing it for free.
So, how do you launch a podcast? Well first off, get an mp3 with your episode. Next week I’ll describe how to record interviews or narrations and put them together in a reasonably good quality mp3 for publishing.
Second, once you’ve got your mp3, upload it somewhere online (this can be done for free).
Third, create artwork, or have a student create the artwork for your show.
Forth, you need a blog to put the mp3 file on and the show notes.
Now, there are more steps BUT, you can stop at step for if you want. At this stage, technically you have a podcast. Whenever you publish a new blog post (with a new audio file attached), this is your new episode for listeners to download. If you want to keep it REALLY simple, you could just do it like that. All done, nice and easy. It will be accessible to anyone around the world that has an internet connection and knows the address of your blog.
Of course, this doesn’t really fulfill the expectations of modern day podcasting: it won’t be convenient to subscribe via any smartphone podcast apps, and it definitely won’t appear on iTunes. If you want to go those extra steps (and I strongly recommend it to give that “student buy-in and wow factor” I discussed in the previous episode), then the next step, step five, is to create a feed. A feed is the string of information attached to each episode that lets apps find it, lists episodes and sends new ones to people’s smartphones when available. Fortunately, despite this involving some very complex code, you can create one without ever looking at coding.
The sixth and final step is getting your feed out there. The feed address is the thing you give to iTunes to get them to list your Podcast. You shouldn’t limit it only to iTunes: you can also share it with Android services as well as major apps like Stitcher, Overcast etc. But, if it’s on iTunes, it will often automatically share to other platforms as well so don’t worry too much about these unless you’ve got time to play with.
Step 1 – Record your mp3 file
As I said, this is the focus for next week’s episode.
Step 2 – Publish your file online
Blubrry and Libsyn are the two big brands in podcast hosting. You can imagine webhosting to be a little bit like having an external hard-drive that’s permanently connected to the internet so anyone can download stuff from it at any time from anywhere in the world. Only it’s a ginormous hard-drive, the size of a warehouse, possibly on the other side of the world, with ultra-hi-tech security and all that kind of thing.
Blubbry and Libsyn have a great reputation and are obvious choices for professionals because of reliability and the additional services they offer. However, you have to pay for them.
So what is the free alternative? There are two obvious ones.
Self-hosting (e.g. on a school web-server)
If your school has its own website, they can possibly host the file for you. Talk to the tech department, explain that you want to host an mp3 on the system that would probably have 100 downloads per month or less (though obviously that number would vary hugely depending on school size), and see what they say. You can give them the mp3 on a flash drive, and they’ll do the rest, giving you a link to the file when they’re done. There are some technicalities for why this may be impossible or impractical, so if they say, “no” it’s probably with good reason. But, it’s a very convenient option if they’re happy to go ahead.
Another free option is Soundcloud.com. Soundcloud is a place to share music and other audio files so people can access them easily. You’ve probably stumbled across it at some point even if you’re not a loyal user.
If you do a quick Google search for how to create or host a podcast you will find a lot of comments relating to Soundcloud, with many people giving strongly worded arguments about NOT using Soundcloud. I won’t dispute what they say – I’ve never used Soundclound for podcasting so I can’t comment either way, but what I can say is that most of the criticisms don’t apply to you, launching a student podcast.
Long story short, you can upload your podcast mp3 file on there, and anyone in the world can access it. It’s that simple. Yes, they may be less reliable (again, I can’t comment on that from first hand experience), and there are limitations like not being able to get detailed web stats from them on how many downloads you’ve had and where in the world they are… but I don’t think that stuff’s that important here. Soundcloud is a great free choice for a podcast.
Step 3 – Create artwork
You need a square image for your podcast. When you browse through the podcasts on any app you’ll see they all have artwork on them – a square image with the title of the show on.
You can’t skip this step, at least not if you want to publish on major platforms like iTunes. You need a square image that is at least 1400 x 1400 pixels. My best recommendation is to give this to a student as a project. Give them the name of your show and tell them you need a perfectly square piece of artwork. When they’re done, you can scan this and crop it into shape easily.
If you’re proficient with Photoshop or graphics software then, of course, you could just do it yourself.
Step 4 – Publishing on a blog
A blog is a great way to organize your podcast episodes. Basically each episode/blog post will have a block of text (as much or as little as you want) and a link to the mp3 file in it. The mp3 file link, your podcast episode, is the thing that your podcast app will download and play, while the block of text will be the description or show notes that you read in the podcasts app. The mp3 link you need, is a direct link to the file that is stored on Soundcloud (or wherever you’ve hosted the podcast).
Creating a blog is incredibly easy even if you’ve never looked at doing anything like that before. If you’ve never started a blog, try wordpress.com or weebly.com (there are many others as well). Sign up (for free) and follow the instructions to set up the blog – it really is very easy with any of the major names out there.
One thing to note is that when you create a blog with, for example, WordPress, your blog address (the “domain name”) will be myblogname.wordpress.com. If you want myblogname.com (without the “Wordpress” in it), you have to pay for it. It’s pretty cheap – I think I pay something like 10GBP or 10USD per year for my domain name – but it’s not important if you want to do this for free.
Step 5 – Create a feed
Now, when I publish this podcast, I host my files on Blubrry, and I use a plugin on my website called “Powerpress” that deals with all of the technical details of creating a feed. One of the advantages of paying a little for hosting is that the technical details are simplified.
If you want to do this for free, however, there are two options that stand out. One is to write your own feed with web-coding. I do NOT recommend this. These feeds are complicated, and it’s not necessary.
The other option, which I would recommend in these circumstances, is Feedburner, a free service provide by Google. The pros will scream at me for giving this advice – there are many reasons not to use Feedburner for podcasting, and they don’t apply to a teacher trying to get something launched with a class.
Basically, copy the web address of the blog you created, then go to Feedburner.com and enter it there (you may need to log in with a Google account, or create one). Follow the instructions, and they’ll generate a feed for you, and spit out something that looks like a complex web address. This web address thingy they give you is your feed address, and you need this to get your podcast listed on major platforms.
Before you can make this step work, you need to have the blog and a podcast episode already published. What some people do to get the ball rolling, is to make “episode zero”, which is just a brief recording introducing your show, giving a brief outline of what it’s about. You could even just make an audio recording of yourself saying, “Hello, thanks for downloading my podcast”. It really can be anything, just as long as there is something for Feedburner and iTunes (see next) to work with. You will probably delete this episode anyway as soon as you launch your first real episode.
Step 6 – Put it on iTunes
Now here’s a good time to clear up a misconception: there is no such thing is publishing your podcast on iTunes. You can’t give them your podcast episode to share it with Apple users. All you do is tell them your podcast exists, and they’ll list it for you, like a directory. You tell them it exists, by giving them your podcast feed.
You first need to go to podcastconnect.apple.com. Sign with your Apple ID (or create one if you don’t have on) and submit the podcast feed address. Note, I said “feed” not “blog” address. They are very different.
There are specific requirements to meet and you may get rejected if you don’t meet them. I was rejected a couple of times with my first podcast because of various details that were missing. Usually, it’s something that you left blank when creating your Feedburner feed, and the rejection notice from Apple will give you some indication of what you missed. It’s no problem, just go back, add in the details, and re-submit. I should mention that waiting for approval usually takes 24 to 48 hours, so it might take a week or so to get listed if you have to keep going back and making updates.
I guess step 7 that I didn’t mention above is to promote it. Tell all of your students to subscribe, write an article for it in your school newsletter or social media pages if your school has those, and get people downloading it.
It might all seem quite long winded but really you can get most of this up and running in a few hours (not including waiting time for Apple to accept or reject your show), and once all of the technical stuff is done for episode one, it’s significantly quicker to get the next episodes on there; all you have to do is record your show, upload the file and update your blog. Your feed will automatically do the rest of the work.
If you’re still on board, make sure you listen to next week’s episode on how to record and edit audio for free or very cheap for your student podcast.
EdTech Sauce is the pedagogy podcast that focuses on all things EdTech, hosted by me, Alex Nixon. You can reach out to me on Twitter using @science_sauce, and you can find subscribe links, shownotes and all that sort of stuff at sciencesauceonline.com/edtechsauce. Remember, all those sauces are spelled like ketchup.
Have a great week everyone!