Why podcasting and audio is more important now
Mobile. There, that should say it all.
Please excuse me for writing in the first person because this post includes a lot of personal experience. That experience will be valuable to someone reading this so the intent is to make it real, easy to comprehend and simple to replicate with a level of success. If you do not know already, among others I am currently involved with, I founded and host the popular Social Media Edge Radio podcast with my co-host and regular weekly contributors since 2008.
Imagine you are jogging or taking a long walk and would like to learn something while you are spending the time. Sure you could listen to some really good music or you could listen to this blog article on your MP3 player or mobile device. In fact you may be doing that right now since I did take the time to record this one for you. Since your hands are free and your eyes are free you can still enjoy your walk, wave to the neighbors, stop and smell the roses, and skip stones in the pond.
Reading digital text generally requires at least one hand and both eyes. When you reach the bottom of the text you have to be able to scroll. You could have a text to voice application read your articles in quality that is improving but still lacking. What you cannot do is read this article while you are driving … at least not too many times. Audio frees the hands and the eyes to perform other tasks.
Maybe you and I do not have conditions which affect our comprehension but there are millions of people with conditions like dyslexia who have reading and comprehension levels diminished. Providing audio content to them vastly improves their comprehension of the content. This is not a guess or theory, it is a proven fact.
How many times have you written something only to have it misunderstood because the reader interpreted your mood incorrectly? It happens more than we like to admit. Now that we have short message communication it is even more important to make sure the reader understand the voice in which we are writing. Audio can take care of this in many instances.
Podcasting and audio presentation is as easy as leaving a voice message. It can also be higher tech but unlike video the clarity is all that matters. If the listener can hear your voice and comprehend your message you have succeeded. Years ago this was a more difficult task and prior to the MP3 format, thank you Moving Pictures Expert Group, we were pretty much limited to .WAV, .AIFF and my least favorite (but most used at the time) .RA from RealAudio.
In 1999 I started my first audio podcast. It was a weekly dedicated to Ska music called Real Aliens and I hosted under the name Reverend Munk. Amazingly the show became very popular very quickly even back then. Perhaps it was the uniqueness or simply the popularity of the bands I interviewed. Either way it required more time than I was able to be compensated for so lasted only a few months before it had to be terminated. Had some of the tools I will introduce to you been around at the time it would likely still be rolling.
Back then I had to use somewhat costly equipment to pipe phone calls directly into my computer for easier recording and I had to use some rigged peripherals to accomplish my task without spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars on expensive studio gear. Once that was done mixing the audio with music samples, sound effects, bed music, bumpers, and so on took hours. Today it can be accomplished in minutes with great result and some services allow you to accomplish much of this on the fly.
Some of the tools I use today
Let me introduce you to three tools I use regularly which are varying in ease of use and I will start with the easiest one first.
A couple of years ago I used a service called Utterli and really loved what it offered. It had started out at Utterz but went through changes and added the ability to phone in or otherwise record audio “micro-blogs” which could then be embedded in blog posts. Utterli utterly disappeared one day. I tried to use the app on my Treo and it was completely unresponsive. I went to the site and the CSS was missing. I was really bummed. Over 100 or so recordings gone. Not to mention dozens of blog posts with embedded audio I had to find and repair.
Yay for Cinch! One day my friend Amy Domestico over at Blog Talk Radio told me about their new project, Cinchcast. I looked at it and thought for sure they had bought and improved Utterli. No, she says, they built it from scratch. And better, and easier to use. The results can still be embedded into blog posts (as you see at the top of this one), recorded from a computer or phone and syndicated to your social media accounts. Oh, and it’s free.
Blog Talk Radio
There are several online radio “stations” and “networks” available today. I only use Blog Talk Radio and have an upgraded account so, following my own advice, I will speak to what I know best. I started my first BTR podcast in early to mid 2008 and it was really bad. What I learned from that first attempt I avoided in my second attempt and that is the show which has grown to well over 100,000 listens, 4 regular cast members and a long list of very well known social media leaders and personalities.
BTR has a free account and allows you to schedule up to a 30 minute show. I recommend starting with the free account and learn how all of the functions work before diving in full steam. One of the most important things about BTR podcasting is that it is live streamed real time. This means no retakes and edits because your show is actually “on the air”.
Some of the features of BTR are crucial to doing a live show and one person can handle a small show by his or her self. There is a chat room where listeners can join and participate and guests may call in to the voice line provided by the service. The switchboard also allows hosts to upload and play audio files. We use bed music, bumpers and sound effects regularly.
There is a learning curve to BTR and Amy or someone there is always available to help you get started. If you want someone to set it up for you, get you started and teach you the ropes I am available for that service for a fee of $195.
The options here are wide open. If you’re a true techie, a propeller head like me, you may want to go this route and upload your finished production to your Blog Talk Radio show. Your equipment may range from a hand-held MP3 recorder you bought at a yard sale to elaborate studio equipment.
If you use WordPress, Joomla or Drupal as your website platform there are several plugins available to help you deliver your audio content and if you have a hardcoded or other site there are thousands of resources available to you. Some have uploading built in and others require you to get the audio content to the server using some other file transfer method. Here is what I do.
I have a Boss BR-1200CD 12 track digital mixer which burns straight to CD
I mostly use a BadAax UM600 Studio USB Cardioid Condenser Mic
I also have an Audio Technica AT4040 Condenser Microphone which is very sensitive
I record the voice to the BR1200 and burn it to CD. The quality is very good for using around $1000 worth of equipment. On my PC I have Sony Acid Pro 7 Studio which definitely has a learning curve but is much less expensive than many digital mixing applications which allow so much control. I recommend you start with Sony Acid Music Studio 8.0 which is not as robust and costs much less. There are other solutions but I am writing about what I use personally.
The Sony editor allows you to mix in multiple tracks including sound effects, music and more. You can do audio effects, adjustment of levels, compression, noise, and other studio functions. The audio for this blog post is not done using the tools I am describing but on a simple Cinchcast.
Yes, I do professional grade podcasts, too. For a fee – my wife loves shoes. And moo-moos.
Royalty Free Music
Do not get charged with copyright violation. You may really love that new Beyonce song but if you use it you may get a delivery from the RIAA which generally begins with, “This is a service of legal documents initiating an act of damage recovery …”. Just don’t chance it. Yes there is fair use and yes you can use a small snippet for certain purposes but you really don’t need to. There are plenty of lesser artists and musicians who make their music available free to use generally for a simple link or acknowledgement. You can find plenty here.