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podcasting

Page history last edited by april.edmonds@myfwc.com 11 years ago

 

Podcasting

What It Is

Podcasting is a way of publishing MP3 audio files on the web so they can be downloaded onto computers or portable listening devices, such as iPods or other MP3 players. Podcasting allows users to subscribe to a feed of new audio files using "podcatching" software (a type of aggregator), which periodically checks for and downloads new audio files automatically. Any digital audio player or computer with audio-playing software can play podcasts. Users can also download podcasts to their desktop computer. The benefit of podcasts is that users can listen to them whenever they want.

"Podcasting" is a word that combines the words "broadcasting" and "iPod." The term can be misleading since neither podcasting nor listening to podcasts requires an iPod or any portable music player.

Why It’s Important

  • Web users are finding podcasts (as well as RSS feeds) to be a very efficient method of keeping up with current news that interests them.

  • A recent report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project shows that more than 22 million American adults own iPods or MP3 players and 29% of them have downloaded podcasts from the Web so that they could listen to audio files at a time of their choosing. That amounts to more than 6 million adults who have tried this new feature.

  • More and more government agencies are using podcasts as a quick and easy way to distribute audio as an addition to existing text (or mostly text) news products, especially to visitors that frequently use podcasting software.

  • It’s another way to increase awareness of government information.

  • Adopting new communication channels leads to better communication with the public.

  • The process for developing a podcast is relatively simple and inexpensive.

As you can see, there are many benefits to using podcasts. However, as with other technology, you need to offer alternative means to view the material if the technology is not widely available or accessible.

Specific Policy, Legal or Other Requirements for Doing This

There are no specific requirements for government agencies to use podcasts. Podcasts are an emerging technology that agencies can consider as an alternative way to quickly deliver news and information.

How to Implement

Creating a podcast is not very difficult. But you’ll need some specialized software before you get started. Here are the steps to place a podcast on your website:

  • Determine the content:
    • First, you need to figure out what type of content will be most effective and relevant to your audience via a podcast. When selecting content for a podcast, make sure it’s something that will be updated on a somewhat regular basis.
    • This is important because users subscribe to podcasts to download the latest entry every time the broadcast is updated. If a topic doesn’t get updated frequently (such as information that is only updated annually), a podcast may not be the best way to get that information to users.
  • Find recording software:
    • You’ll need software that will let you record the audio from the microphone onto your computer, and save it as an MP3 file. Alternatively, you can take existing audio files and convert them to MP3 format or extract audio from existing video and convert it to MP3 format. MP3 is a very compressed audio format that is common on the web. Almost all podcasts are presented as MP3 files; however, it is not strictly required.
    • There are many software packages to help you record audio files onto your computer. One good freeware multi-platform software is Audacity.
    • If you do use Audacity, you should also download LAME, a freeware MP3 encoder. It will let you save your audio files in MP3 format from within Audacity. See directions on how to download LAME.
    • There’s also a blog entry that gives directions on how to use Audacity and LAME to record an audio broadcast on Windows.
  • Create the audio file: To record audio files onto your computer, you will need:
  • a computer with a sound card and a microphone
  • software that will let you record the audio onto your computer, as explained above; alternatively, software that lets you convert existing audio to MP3 format
  • Create the Podcast Feed: Once you’ve recorded the podcast, you’ll need to create an RSS feed For example:

 

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="iso-8859-1"?>

<rss version="2.0">

<channel>

<title>Title for your podcast</title>

<description>Description of the podcast</description>

<link>Your homepage URL</link>

<language>en-us</language>

<copyright>Copyright 2004</copyright>

<lastBuildDate>Fri, 31 Dec 2004 21:00:00 -0500</lastBuildDate>

<pubDate>Fri, 31 Dec 2004 21:00:00 -0500</pubDate>

<docs>RSS directory</docs>

<webMaster>webmaster e-mail address</webMaster>

<item> <!--now comes your items, like in any RSS feed -->

<title>Item title</title>

<link>http://www.mysite.gov/podcasts/dec_03.mp3</link>

<description>Description of specific podcast episode</description>

<enclosure url=”http://www.mysite.gov/podcasts/dec_03.mp3" length=" 4989537 " type="audio/mpeg"/>

<category>Podcasts</category>

<pubDate>Fri, 31 Dec 2004 21:00:00 -0500</pubDate>

</item>

</channel>

</rss>

Notice the only real difference between the above and a normal RSS feed listing is the <enclosure> element that is a part of each <item> element, and the <link> element of each <item> points to the MP3 file containing your audio broadcast (as opposed to an html page).

The format for the enclosure element is:

<enclosure url=”URL for the MP3 containing your audiocast” length=”size of mp3 file, in bytes” type=”audio/mpeg for mp3 files”/>

To get the size of the MP3 in bytes, in Windows, right click the file and select properties. The size of the file in bytes will be shown in parenthesis. Please note, you do not enter commas when entering the value into the length attribute.

Screenshot of sample file properties

 

Again, this assumes you understand RSS feeds. If the above doesn’t make sense, you can visit our page on RSS feeds to find out more.

Special Note on Podcast Feed Syntax for iTunes: To make a podcast “iTunes Music Store friendly” you must add iTunes-specific code to your feed. This code does not impact the ability of other podcast applications to process your feed. See the resources section below for a link to iTunes publishing information.

Use Common Terminology

There’s not yet a standard convention for displaying or naming podcast pages. Currently, government and commercial websites use different icons used to display podcast links.

The benefit of using standard URLs and common terminology is that it helps the public find information and services across government websites.

  • Use Common URLs: There’s not yet a standard URL naming convention for podcast pages or a standard way of displaying links to podcast pages. However, many sites use “agencyname.gov/podcast” as a standard URL.

Examples

  • USA.gov Library of Government Podcasts—USA.gov has compiled a list of government agencies who offer podcasts, which is updated regularly. So check out what how other agencies are doing. The list also gives the public a central place where they can find the ever increasing number of government podcasts, without having to search through thousands of individual agency websites.

Resources

(See our disclaimer for non-government links)

 

Page Updated or Reviewed: February 11, 2008

Comments (4)

jeremyb said

at 5:25 pm on Apr 10, 2009

Has anyone seen a positive ROI on podcasting? We have tried it with several different types of news and information and have found very little use exists for those items. We have found it really depends on how interesting the content is or is made. We have decided to discontinue our podcasting service because the time spent creating it wasn't worth the audience we had using the tool.

alex stobart said

at 1:06 am on Apr 11, 2009

I tend to agree with jeremyb. I think putting material up on YouTube is the way to go. With a blog on bloggr or wordpress, YouTube, Flickr, twitter and facebook, you have free tools and can get started pretty quickly. I think podcasts are like video conferences - a great idea, but strugling to get take-off
Alex

april.edmonds@myfwc.com said

at 8:27 am on Apr 13, 2009

With podcasting do you still have to provide an Accessible version? ~a

amanda.eamich@... said

at 12:57 pm on Apr 13, 2009

At FSIS, we post written transcripts for each Podcast (http://www.fsis.usda.gov/News_&_Events/Food_Safety_at_Home_Podcasts/index.asp). We have two series, one for consumers "Food Safety at Home" and another for industry relating to inspection and regulatory requirements in the plant environment. Last week we launched a Spanish food safety at home series where we intend to have matching English and Spanish podcast episodes. The response has been great thus far. People can subscribe via RSS or iTunes and we publicize in our weekly Constituent Update newsletter as well as through our Twitter account.

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