The technology that makes podcasting possible has been around for awhile, but the first community of people to call themselves "podcasters" didn't exist until about Aug. 2004. In less than a year, podcasting has gone from obscurity to being a powerful international media tool.
I first started podcasting after my girlfriend gave me an iPod for my birthday in Sept. 2004. I'm a huge music fan, but also enjoy making it, and I wondered what I could do with my iPod besides consume music. I learned about this new thing called podcasting through technology writer Doc Searls' weblog.
My podcast, AudioActivism.org, is a mix of opinion, interviews and radio documentary-style shows that inform listeners about information technology and activism in media and politics.
You can do it, too! What follows is a Mac- and PC-friendly guide to podcasting.
The revolutionary thing about this device is that once you record your audio, it's already a digital file, downloadable to your computer.
New digital recorders are very simple--all you need to do is plug in the external mic (or use the built-in one), hit record and start talking.
Make a few test recordings. Does the audio sound distorted? Try holding the microphone further away from your mouth. The goal is to have clear audio, but don't fret about the quality too much, and try not to spend too much time fixing mistakes. Each time you record, you'll get better. Copy audio from voice recorder. The voice recorder connects to a computer via USB. It comes with software that makes downloading the audio to your computer easier, and it will convert audio to a file type that everyone can play.
I like to raise or lower the gain (the amount of power increase in a audio signal) so it sounds good on many kinds of speakers. Sometimes I also add fade-ins and fade-outs.
You can also add music to your podcast. Remember that you need permission from the creators and owners of the music. Even though you may not be making money with your podcast, you should still respect artists' rights. A good alternative to going through the hassle of securing rights is to use Creative Commons-licensed music, which gives you permission to use it how you want to. Go to www.creatviecommons.org to learn more.
Making a podcast is no different than recording other audio on a computer. What makes podcasting truly unique is how you share it.
One way to subscribe to a podcast is to copy and paste a podcast feed address into your software. iTunes and Odeo offer one-click subscription, which is even easier.
Podcasts aren't live shows, so you can listen to them whenever you want to.
The real power of podcasting is that you can become a better media participant--not a consumer, but an equal partner. Gone are the days of one-way preaching, and programming that tastes like pablum. Now we can talk with each other and choose what to listen to--and when--from a multitude of producers.
Local media activist Brian Russell is organizing PodcasterCon, happening on Saturday, Jan. 7 at UNC-Chapel Hill. See www.podcastercon.org for details on this free event.
N.C. podcasters (a partial list)
Mur Lafferty: Mur "lives in Durham with another geek, a young geek-in-training and a dog."
Dave Warner: Dave's Lounge showcases the best chillout, trip hop and downtempo music found on the Internet.
Anne Bramley: "The food podcast that takes you back in time, across the country, around the world and back to your own table."
Jason Adams: "Tangential transmissions from a disorganized mind."
Corey Pudhorodsky: A podcast for nonprofit professionals, volunteers and do-gooders.
Joseph Puentes: Oral histories of indigenous peoples and archives of seminars and organizing meetings.