Creating a good Ministry Podcast
PodcastingNews.com called Steve Webb a “pioneering Podcaster” way back in 2005. Steve began Podcasting in 2004, creating “Lifespring!”, the first Christian Podcast not based on repurposed church sermons.
Andy Jones is a sales engineer at StreamGuys. He’s been helping internet broadcasters and content creators use technology since 1998. He emphasizes cost effective video delivery, brand awareness, and return on investment.
Chris Miller trains and consults Audio/Video applications specializing in the ministry/church market. Chris also writes for online forums such as the Apple Church Network on Facebook and churchblogger.wordpress.com
Anthony Coppedge is a renowned church media and communications consultant, a frequent speaker at church technical conferences and author of articles for over a dozen publications as well as his weekly blog at www.anthonycoppedge.com/blogs
Marcus Hackler is the Director of Media Production for Capital Christian Center in Meridian, Idaho and author of www.marcushackler.com – a blog about church media, technology, and leadership. www.capitalchristian.com
Is Podcasting for Dummies?
That is to say, is it easy enough for anyone to get started- even someone with limited computer experience?
What are churches doing about expanding their Podcast ministries, if anything at all? It would depend on which worship team you ask. It would seem that the largest stumbling blocks in getting a Podcast up off the ground are those first crucial steps. Churches that have been using Podcasting as an outreach method for some time can profess that it certainly is an easy and cost effective way to get the Message out there.
However, a question remains for those who have yet to get into it: Where to begin?
TFWM pulled together panelists from different backgrounds to talk about how they got started and how they continue to use Podcasting to its full extent. We also asked them to talk about how they are keeping an eye on the future, to factor in some of the cool new opportunities that come with present day Podcasts.
Here are the questions we asked them…
Did you find that getting into Podcasting was complicated?
Steve Webb: I was literally one of the first to jump into the Podcasting pool, and yes, it was pretty complicated stuff back then. There were no books, no websites, no other Podcasts explaining how to do this stuff. We were learning as we went. I learned how to write my RSS feed by looking at someone else’s feed and deciphering what each line meant. I still hand write the RSS code for my main “All Shows” feed! There were no Podcast hosting services at the time, so I had to learn how to FTP my show files to a server, how to install blogging software, and how to make the blog “see” the Podcast, since most blogs didn’t yet support enclosures. There was no iTunes Podcast support, so I had to submit my show to the myriad of Podcast directories that were trying to become what iTunes now is.
Andy Jones: My first introduction to Podcasting was underwhelming. “It’s just an .mp3 file for download” I thought. This was not a revolutionary concept. But once I understood the concept of subscribing to a Podcast feed and how new content is “pushed” out to the audience as soon it is published, I realized the value of this technology.
Creating the Podcast RSS feed code was intimidating at first, but now there are free, easy-to-use tools available to help publishers with this step.
Christopher Miller: It was scary at first. There was this notion that it would be me trudging the path all by myself. The fact is you can google “how to Podcast” and get a dozen sites explaining the easiest ways to get Podcasting right away. The first time is always the most trouble and the most time consuming.
Anthony Coppedge: Getting into Podcasting is hard only if you don’t have a computer.
Marcus Hackler: It’s actually pretty easy – anyone can produce a Podcast. There are numerous tools that make it easy to do so both on the audio and video side. What matters are the requirements of your audience. For instance, technology enthusiasts may not need story-like writing, or moving music – they are more interested in harvesting information. Customize your production style to your audience and you are all set.
What resources would you suggest for finding out about how to get started in Podcasting?
Steve Webb: Two books:
1) “Podcast Solutions: The Complete Guide to Audio and Video Podcasting”, Second Edition by Michael Geoghegan and Dan Klass. Micheal and Dan are friends of mine, and were there at the beginning, and bring a wealth of knowledge to the table on the nuts and bolts of producing a Podcast.
2) “Tricks of the Podcasting Masters” by Rob Walch and Mur Lafferty takes the reader beyond the recording stage to the, “Now that I know how to record, how do I create a show that people will want to listen to, and keep coming back for more.” [Note: Oh, and I’m in this book! :)]
Andy Jones: Most people need help with finding a hosting service and creating the Podcast RSS feed code. I suggest seeking out a hosting service whose servers and applications are tailored for media file delivery (most straight web hosting companies won’t cut it). TheStreamGuide.com offers a good free tool for feed code creation and management which can work with any hosting service.
Christopher Miller: I would suggest google searching “how to Podcast” and also checking out the free resources inside iTunes. If you click on ‘Podcasts’ in iTunes go to the bottom left of the page. Inside the ‘learn more’ there are a bunch of resources, best of which is ‘Podcasts on Podcasts.’
Anthony Coppedge: There are numerous Podcasting guides found online, but the easiest I’ve found for PC users has been produced by Apple: www.apple.com/quicktime/tutorials/Podcasting_win.html
For creating a Podcast on a Mac, just open up GarageBand, which ships with their iLife software suite for $69.
Marcus Hackler: Start with general information sites such as Wikipedia.org. Once you have an understanding of the general basics, take a look at what other popular Podcasters are doing. Scobleizer has a great tech Podcast as well as many college and professional news organizations. Don’t be afraid to email in and ask how they got started or for help in starting your own.
What software do you use (Operating system, editing platform, distribution program) to put your Podcast together?
Steve Webb: For audio, I use a Windows XP machine. I still use the free, open source Audacity as my recording and editing software, and since I am one of Mevio’s signed Podcasters, I upload to and host my shows on their servers. Show notes are on customized WordPress blogs using the PodPress plugin, both of which are free. For video Podcasts, all editing is done on a Mac using Final Cut Express.
Andy Jones: I use Quicktime Pro on either a Mac or PC to capture my content and export into a Podcast friendly format (A more advanced AV program would be needed for editing, adding titles, etc.). If an FTP program is needed to transfer the exported file to the hosting service, I use Fetch on a Mac or SmartFTP on a PC.
Feedburner is a good tool for taking your existing Podcast RSS feed code and making it better – increased compatibility with browsers and Podcast programs, attractive URL, and better reporting on subscribers and downloads.
Christopher Miller: I use Macs for everything. I use Garageband for recording and Logic Pro to edit/create bumpers.
Anthony Coppedge: Mac. Pro Tools. iTunes. And in that order. 🙂
Marcus Hackler: I have used Apple’s Garageband with USB microphones for audio only Podcasting, iMovie and Final Cut pro for video. Many people use youtube or vimeo for hosting their video content and embedding it into their blogs. You can also submit your Podcasts to Apple for iTunes.
What do you feel are the most effectively done Podcasts- church or otherwise- and why do you think they are effective?
Steve Webb: The shows that I do make a point of listening to are: This Week In Tech, Mac OS Ken, The Podcast About Nothing, Podcast Brothers, and Griddlecakes Radio. What keeps bringing me back to these shows is the high production values, the quality of the content, and the fact that the content is specifically created for this medium. There is a place in Podcasting for repurposed sermons or repurposed radio shows, but since my passion is creating content for this specific medium, I tend to stay away from repurposed content.
Andy Jones: The most effective Podcasts are those that are published at established times – daily at 8am, Wednesdays at noon, Sunday at 8pm, etc. Those who subscribe to the Podcast look forward to downloading the new episode as soon as it is available. Setting a consistent publishing schedule will help integrate the listening of the Podcast into the daily or weekly routine of the listener. Sermons, televised services, and radio programs all translate well to regularly published Podcasts.
Christopher Miller: The most effective Podcasts are entertaining and informative. Even entertainment can be informative explaining current affairs or pop culture. Some church Podcasts and ministry Podcasts have this quality. It also helps for a little humor and candor.
Anthony Coppedge: The most effective Podcast I’ve seen/heard is done by WorshipHouseMedia.com. It’s a video Podcast that highlights new content that is on their site, fun stuff that the guys are working on and a lot of casual, zany fun. They use a green screen for keying the talent over the clips they’re talking about and have a very simple, yet very useful Podcast.
Marcus Hackler: One of my favorite Podcasts is “This American Life” produced by Chicago Public Radio, hosted by Ira Glass. They bring compelling stories of everyday people living ordinary everyday lives. The stories are edited like a good movie – good pace, music that provides a mood, and succinct content. Content is king, but equally important is appropriate production. If a Podcast is just an individual talking into a microphone or a camera, the audience can be lost quickly. Graphics, b-roll, music, and segues are all very important.
Do you feel that churches in general are behind the times when it comes to Podcasting?
Steve Webb: I think that most churches that Podcast are still primarily using the medium to repurpose their Sunday sermons, and so yes, I believe that they are behind. There certainly is a place for that, but the sky is the limit as to the kind of content that churches could produce if they would think creatively. There are certainly some churches that are using the technology well, and reaching much more than their own church family. I commend them, and pray God’s blessings on them.
Andy Jones: I have seen few churches take advantage of all that Podcasting has to offer. It takes little investment to get started in Podcasting.
Christopher Miller: Some are and some aren’t. Many churches are just using the name “Podcast’ and then grafting their sermon into the Podcast. That can work if you have someone introduce it and maybe interview the pastor before and after. The idea is that Podcasts are more interactive than just listening to a recording and many churches miss that boat.
Marcus Hackler: Absolutely – there are a few that are doing it, but they are mostly Podcasting their sermons. Very few are actually creating specific shows with non-sermon content. As our society moves more toward online interaction, churches will need to increase their online presence in fresh content via audio and video Podcasts, as well as other social networking venues.
What should current Podcasters be looking out for in a Web 3.0 world?
Steve Webb: Predicting the future is difficult, especially when dealing with technology, but I’ll play the game…
With elections upon us, it seems as if “vetting” is a concept we all have in mind right now. In a Web 3.0 world, Podcasts might be vetted for quality of content. It will be easier for the listener to find just the type of show she is looking for, and be happy with the first few she listens to.
In addition, as audio becomes as searchable as text now is, it will be easier for listeners to find Podcasts that relate to specific searches.
Web 3.0 should make “subscribing” to content much more intuitive, thus bringing more people into the audience, and if we do our job right, more people into the Kingdom.
Andy Jones: My interpretation of Web 3.0 is multiple technologies working together. Podcasters should be looking for techniques to tie together all aspects of their outreach: the Podcast refers listeners back to the website for additional information, the Podcast promotes the email or SMS list. User generated content could be integrated into a Podcast, too.
Christopher Miller: I’m seeing a lot more cross pollination between other forms of media. So if you have a Podcast, you also see an accompanying blog, links to Myspace or Facebook, Twitter, and other means of communication. Podcasts, networking and dating sites, even World of Warcraft are all attempts to build community within the confines of 1s and 0s. Even on the bleeding edge of technology you see more and more efforts to connect with others. Also as more and more mobile devices no longer require a computer to receive and send Podcasts and other media, we’ll see the industry balloon into widespread use.
Anthony Coppedge: Interactivity is the key. Find ways to share and then receive information. Don’t just talk to your audience, communicate with them. In a time where digital, online and social networking are the loudest voices for communication, church leaders must reach in, not just reach out, to embrace the people behind the technology.
Marcus Hackler: On-demand content is the next big thing. As it stands now, our world is customizable – we can publish, produce, and receive with a push of a button. The next progression is being able to customize that actual content that we wish to receive. Tagging, filtering, metadata… definitive data will play an increasing role in how we consume information.
Is it necessary to have a blog as well as a Podcast? How does one compliment the other?
Steve Webb: Yes. At the very minimum you should create show notes using a blogging platform. Search engines will find your Podcast if you write descriptive copy about your show, and creating the RSS becomes a no-brainer. Blogs are extremely search engine friendly, so they bring readers, who will often become listeners if your show notes are well-written and clearly show how to listen to the Podcasts. I use the Podcasts to drive traffic to the show notes (my blogs), where there are links to more information, such as my sources, artists I’ve played, and even affiliate links I would like them to use to help support the ministry.
Andy Jones: The audience needs a portal where they can stay up to date with the latest information they desire. Whether the broadcaster posts regular updates to the blog, to the Podcast, or both doesn’t matter as long as the updates are consistent.
Christopher Miller: Yes. I believe they compliment each other nicely, especially for the church. Some prefer to read text and others prefer audio. We must make every attempt to communicate the Gospel through any means possible without compromising the message.
Anthony Coppedge: Since Podcasting in a Web 2.0 world means you should want to interact with your audience, a Blog will allow you to post your Podcasts (or link to them on iTunes, for example) and then provide your listeners and readers to comment and chime-in on the content of your Podcast. While one can be mutually exclusive of the other, it’s more logical and useful to combine the two.
Marcus Hackler: Podcasting is simply blogging in verbal or visual form. So I think it is absolutely necessary to have a blog as a portal for syndication.
So there you have it- a varied overview of what it takes to get started in Podcasting. The first steps, though they may seem daunting at the start, will get to be as familiar as any of the other processes your team undergoes to make things happen every week. If you have specific questions about gear, pricing and procedure, let us know what they are. What obstacles are you coming up against? Are you experiencing any formatting or production issues?