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So what makes a podcast different from an ordinary audio or video file placed onRSS Icon the Internet?  Automaticity.  According to Wikipedia, "a podcast is a series of digital media files (either audio or video) that are released episodically and downloaded through web syndication."  Okay, so what does that mean? 

Podcasts are Internet broadcasts to which listeners can subscribe, free of charge.  I like to compare podcasts to magazines.  If you are a subscriber to Time magazine, you don't have to call the publisher every so often to find out if a new edition has been released.  As a subscriber, every time a new edition is published, it will automatically be delivered to your mailbox.  Podcasts work the same way.  Once a listener subscribes to a podcast, every time a new episode is published, it will automatically be downloaded to the subscriber's computer.

The essential element of a podcast, what makes it "subscribable," is an RSS feed (RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication).  If you have a website or podcasting host that creates an RSS feed for you, you don't have to worry about this technical aspect of podcasting.  For the rest of us, the process of establishing an RSS feed can be a bit confusing.  Because of this, I thought I'd put together a list of the steps I took to create the feed for my classroom podcast.  These steps do not make up the only way to create an RSS feed for your podcast.  There may be easier ways out there.  These are simply the steps I took to get my classroom's podcast up and running.  Hopefully, they will be helpful to you.  If you have any questions, please let me know by clicking here.


 

1.  Record your broadcast.

Before getting to the "podcast" part of the process, you first need to record a digital broadcast (a digital audio file on your computer).  This can be done in many different ways, using either a Mac or a PC.  For a detailed explanation of the process my students and I use when we record our ColeyCasts, click here.
 

2.  Publish your broadcast to the Internet.

After you have created your broadcast, the next step is to publish it to your website or other location on the Internet.  If you don't already have a classroom website, you can easily and cheaply create one using TeacherWeb.  If you need a place to host your podcast, here's a list of podcast hosting services compiled by educational podcasting expert Tony Vincent.
 

3.  Create a blog.

In doing some research, I found that I could create an RSS feed by first creating a blog.  A blog, short for weblog, is sort of like an online journal where writers can express their ideas for people to read.  Like podcasts, blogs can be subscribed to, so that each time a blogger (one who writes a blog) updates his or her blog, the content is automatically downloaded to subscribers' computers.

Okay, I know what you're thinking -- "All this RSS and blog stuff is confusing, and I don't really care why it works.  I just want to know how to do it."  And you know what?  I totally agree.  I thought the same thing when I first started (and to be honest, it's still a little confusing to me).  So let's get on to the "how" part of it.

You can create your own blog using Blogger.  It's free and very easy to set up.  To create your blog, perform the following steps:

  • Go to the Blogger website.
  • Once on the main page, create an account by clicking the Create a Blog button.  Follow the onscreen instructions to create an account name, password, blog name, etc. 

  • Once your blog has been created, you will be taken to a "posting" page (the Posting tab at the top of the page will be selected).
  • Before you begin posting, click on the Settings tab at the top of the page. 

  • Then click the Formatting link right underneath the tab.

  • Scroll down, and in the Show Link Field box, select Yes.

  • Now scroll down to the bottom of the page and click Save Settings.
  • Click the Posting tab at the top of the page to return to the posting screen.  You should now see a "Link" text box underneath the "Title" text box.

  • Now it's time to add content to your blog post.  You don't need to fill the blog with much.  Remember, the only reason you're creating the blog is because it gets you halfway to your RSS feed.  Enter the title of your podcast episode in the "Title" text box (e.g. "ColeyCast #5"), the URL (Web address) of the broadcast in the "Link" text box, and a short description of the broadcast in the main posting field.  To obtain your broadcast's URL, open a new browser window or tab, navigate to your broadcast, copy the URL from the address box of your browser, and then copy it into the "Link" text box. 

  • It's also a good idea to include a link to your broadcast's URL in the body of the blog post.  This may seem redundant, but this will help ensure that your RSS feed will detect the blog post's media file.  To insert a link, click the hyperlink button and paste the broadcast's URL in the window that appears.

  • Finally, click the Publish Post button.  That's it!  Your blog post has been published!
  • Now click the View Post link.  In your blog, the title of your post should be a link to your broadcast, and under the title will be your description of the episode (and the actual link to your broadcast).

  • Now click the Home link at the bottom of your post window.

  • This will display all the posts of your blog (although right now you'll probably only have one).  In the address box of your browser, you will see the URL of your blog.  It will be something like http://blogname.blogspot.com/, where "blogname" is the name you chose for your blog.  Select the URL and copy it.  You will need this for Step 4.
  • NOTE:  You will need to create one blog post for each broadcast you create.  For example, if you have five broadcasts on your website, you'll need to create five blog posts, each with a link to a different broadcast.  Each time you create a new broadcast, simply add a new post (with a link to the broadcast) to your blog.

Remember, your blog is more of a "behind-the-scenes" type of thing.  What it looks like isn't really that important, because unless you publicize it, visitors typically won't visit your blog.  You're just using the blog to create an RSS feed for your podcast.
 

4.  Burn your RSS feed.

By creating your blog, you have almost reached the RSS finish line.  We will now take your newly created blog address and use FeedBurner to convert it into an RSS feed.

  • Go to Google's FeedBurner website.
  • Sign in to your Google account.  If you don't have one, you can freely and easily create one by clicking the Create an Account button.
  • Now, paste the URL of your Blogger blog (the one you previously copied) into the box like the one shown below.  Before clicking Next, make sure you check the "I am a podcaster!" box.

  • On the next page that appears, you will see a message saying that more than one feed has been found at the address you entered.  Select the My Podcast - RSS option and click Next.

  • Follow the onscreen instructions to complete the process of creating your RSS feed.  I recommend you take a little time and look over these pages, as they contain information such as how you want your feed to be displayed in iTunes (should you decide to submit your podcast to iTunes).  Remember, you can always access your feed's settings at a later time if you wish to make changes.
  • Congratulations!  Your RSS feed has been created!  The hard part is over.  Just a couple more things and you're done.
  • Find your RSS feed URL, which should be listed near the top of the page.  It will be something like http://feeds.feedburner.com/feedname, where "feedname" is the name you chose to call your feed.  Click on this URL to see what your feed looks like.
  • In the address box of this new window, you will see the URL of your feed.  Copy it.  You will need it for Steps 5 and 6.

5.  Put a link to your RSS feed on your website.

On your website, you'll now want to include a link to your RSS feed.  That way, listeners who want to subscribe to your podcast will know what your RSS feed is.  A popular way to provide your RSS feed is to post the new icon for RSS feeds (shown below in two sizes) and make it link to your feed. 

larger icon  smaller icon

That's it!  You're done!  Your broadcast can now officially be called a podcast!
 

6.  Submit your podcast to iTunes. (optional)

Now that your podcast is ready to share with the world, why not submit it to iTunes?  It works on both PCs and Macs, it's free, and it has a built-in podcasting section that makes it a snap to search for, listen to, and subscribe to podcasts.  If you don't already have it installed on your computer, you can download it by clicking here

Submitting your podcast to iTunes is a simple process and does not require you to republish your broadcasts to iTunes.  Basically, all you're doing is providing iTunes with your RSS feed and the details of your podcast (name, author, etc.).  That way, iTunes knows where to go to get your podcast when listeners want to subscribe. 

To submit your podcast to iTunes, complete the following steps:

  • Once in iTunes, go to the iTunes Store
  • Click on Podcasts at the top of the iTunes window.

  • Now click on Submit a Podcast on the right-hand side of the screen.

  • Enter your RSS feed (that's the one that looks like http://feeds.feedburner.com/feedname).

  • Follow the onscreen instructions to complete the submission process.  It typically takes 24-48 hours for your podcast to be cataloged in the iTunes podcast directory.

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