Podcast observations

In producing episodes for my podcast, which is a mashup of various podcasts and other digital content of interest to educators, I’ve been listening to lots and lots of podcasts. As such, I have some observations and suggestions to share about podcast production.

Production issues – The quality level of podcasts varies enormously. Many podcasts would benefit from just a little clean-up in a program like Audacity or GarageBand. Here are some easy fixes that can really help your podcast sound better: 1) Amplify audio of people who don’t speak up. 2) Adjust your levels to be consistent, so that various speakers, music, and sound effects are at appropriate relative volume levels. (If you don’t have the time to hand adjust each track, try the Levelator.) 3.) Try a noise removal filter to get rid of a steady hum or buzz in the background.

Copyright issues – A lot of people are playing very fast and loose with intellectual property. Remember that when you publish a podcast online, the guidelines for classroom fair use no longer apply. Watch out for things like using copyrighted (commercial) music or reading copyrighted literature. There are many public domain, Open Source, or otherwise “shareable” resources you can use, so check them out!

Feed issues – First, you need a feed to be a podcast. (MP3 files posted to a web site with no feed is not technically a podcast.) Secondly, test your feed with a few different podcatchers, especially iTunes and Juice. I’ve seen a lot of podcast feeds that don’t work in one of the other or either. Also, make sure your back episodes show up in the feed for optional download if people want them.

“Sustainability” issues – OK, here comes the rant… A podcast is a series of shows. One or two shows is not a podcast. There seem to be a lot of people out there who got enthusiastic about podcasting, produced a couple shows, and then ran out of steam. iTunes is clogged with shows that have a couple very old episodes or even nothing at all.

If you have an old podcast out there that is no longer “active,” you may want to take it out of iTunes and just leave the episodes on your web site for those who want them. If you are starting a new podcast, think about whether you’re ready to commit to it. If you’re not sure, try just putting a few episodes on your own web site and see how it goes before you publish a feed. Another great approach is to produce a show or two for one of the podcasts that takes guest-produced episodes.

Hope these thoughts are useful. If you have your own suggestions to share with fellow podcasts, please post a comment.

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