How Podcasting Works – Back to Basics – PHD158

Today I want to go back to the REAL basics of how podcasting works.  

So, without going into a history lesson,  podcasting has worked the same way since it started  16 years ago.  (some say longer). 

So.  Back to the basics: 

Podcasting is just Blogging with Audio.   To create a podcast post, you create a blog post (no matter where you are publishing, the basics are you are making a post) and you attach a link to an audio (or video or whatever) file to that post and publish the “item” to the RSS feed. 

RSS feeds are Fancy text documents that contain information on each “item” (which is the post + the link to the media file).  A feed can have many “items” or posts or episodes.  But each ITEM can only have one media file link (enclosure).  

Think of a feed like a radio frequency.  People tune in to your “feed” to hear your show (or station).  If they just listen for a while and then go to the next station.   If they subscribe, that is very much like setting the preset for your Frequency.  You want them to subscribe. 

Back in the day, people didn’t have computers in their pocket that were connected 24/7 to the internet.  Podcasting was invented because of this.  People would download mp3s (music or voice recordings) and then sync it to their MP3 player. (that was a separate, non-connected to the internet) That way they could take their music or talk content with them.  But getting that content was a manual process.  You downloaded (and waited for a LONG time for it to download) and then you could put it on your player and take it with you.  When people got always-on the internet (That wasn’t a thing in 2005 for many people) they needed a way to download stuff in the background when they were not paying attention.   That is where the RSS feed and “Podcatchers” came into being.  You would “subscribe” to the feeds of your favorite podcasts and your computer program, the podcatcher, would check those feeds from time to time to see if there was a new “item” or episode in the feed.  If there was, your computer would download the file and it was waiting for you the next time you plugged your mp3 player in and it synced to your player.  Of course the iPod was the most famous mp3 player.  Hence, Pod (for iPod) and  Casting (for Broadcasting). People could “broadcast” to the iPod.   Cool huh? 

Fast forward to today.  It still works sort-of, the same way.  Only now, everyone’s mp3 player is part of the computer they have with them at all times, the smartphone and the internet is on all the time.  There are podcast “Apps” which are the podcatchers.  You can still subscribe to a podcast via the RSS feed and your phone’s app checks that feed and when something new is added to it, it PULLS the file to your phone for offline listening. This is exactly how the old system worked other than the fact you don’t have to sync it to your player because your player is also the computer.  BUT, you can still listen to a downloaded file when you are not connected to the internet.  Like while traveling in a bad cell area, away from wifi or on an Airplane. 

 BUT now, there is another way to listen.  You can do what is commonly called “Streaming” but is really, downloading while playing or a progressive download.  Some apps (what I call the not quite real podcast listening apps) that the service that owns the app downloads the file and then does a true stream to your phone. This is fine as long as you have a good signal to a cell tower AND you have unlimited internet. AND that service doesn’t go down (it’s been known to happen).  

The basics are still there.  

Here are the things you need to make a podcast work.  

A place on the internet to store your mp3 files. (Podcast Host) and a place to generate the RSS feed and to make a post for the episodes.  (Just a fancy text file on a server somewhere)

With that valid RSS feed, you can submit that to the directories and apps.  Currently, the important ones are Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Amazon and Podcast Index.  As long as you are in all or most of those, you will also be in a lot of smaller apps.  A lot of apps use the Podcast Index or Apple to supply their directories for people to find your podcast. 

Everything about your show is based completely on the RSS feed.  The Title of the show, the descriptions of the show, the title of the episodes, the “shownotes” (blog post) content, The artwork for your overall show, the artwork for the individual episodes (which is more work than it’s worth, See: post i did on artwork) and your connection to subscribers.  All these things are Pulled (not Pushed) to these places by those places.  You can not “push” your show out to these places or your subscribers.  Your subscribers and the apps/directories PULL your shows LISTING from your feed.  

The best way I found is to host your files on a reputable Podcast media host (Of course I recommend Blubrry Podcasting).  Build a WordPress blog (that is what WordPress is, a blogging software) and use the PowerPress plugin (by blubrry) to generate the RSS feed for you.  That is exactly what I do on my 3 podcasts.  You can use any podcast host with PowerPress.  WordPress based websites are cheap.  As long as $10 a month at Godaddy, Bluehost, HostGater and A2 hosting (my favorite, click the link in the sidebar for A2 hosting).  AND the bonus is you are building your podcast on your domain and platform and not on someone else’s platform. 

This podcast is posted on  Go there and subscribe!