August 29, 2005

Podcasting the Faith: A How-To Guide

No less a media outlet than the New York Time has this story. Churches are getting into podcasting.

I've been doing a podcast for my church for almost two months. For a church our size, buying radio or TV time is not feasible. Podcasting is, simply because it's dirt cheap.

Godcasting (as it's come to be called) has really taken off. Podcasting News ran an article recently calling Godcasting the "killer app" of podcasting. And all you have to do is take a look at the number of religious podcasts available on any given podcast directory to see that churches are jumping on the bandwagon.

How To Make A Podcast

So HOW can your church do this? It's pretty simple, actually. You might even already have done the hard part. Most churches record their services, that's a fact. If you have a recording of your church's service on CD, then you can podcast in just a few simple steps. If you don't have a CD (or other digital media) recording, then get a CD recorder and make at least one CD of your service.

Now that you have a digital copy of the service, rip it onto your computer in MP3 format. A quick word of caution -- check on licensing for any music you may be using in the service. This is the reason that the 'cast I do for my church only has the sermon. The last thing you want to do is get your church in trouble with RIAA. Also, if there's a question about the music, iTunes won't list your podcast.

There are a lot of ways to get the MP3 files into an RSS feed. The easiest way is to set up a separate blog for the podcast. You can also use a service like blipmedia, which is what I use for the church podcast. This gives you a place to upload your MP3 file, AND gives you an RSS feed as well. The advantage of having a dedicated blog for your podcast is that you can add show notes to each show, which iTunes will pick up and display. The disadvantage is that you need to have a separate place to host your MP3 files, which usually costs money. Exceptions are BlastYourPodcast and OurMedia.

If you decide to set up a separate blog, I recommend Blogger. It's easy to embed the MP3 files into the feed, and Feedburner has a great service designed to work well with Blogger blogs. More on that in a minute. You don't have to make the blog elaborate -- a bare-bones Blogger template is fine. Later on, you can change it if you want.

With Blogger, make sure that you Show Link Field. Go to the formatting menu and make sure that Yes is selected for show link field. This is where the file location for your podcast is going to go. Also make sure that you select Publish Site Feed from the Site Feed menu, and write the feed URL down. That's important. These are the only modification you really need to do to the basic setup at Blogger, unless you want to enable comments.

Upload the MP3 file to whatever service you have picked, using the instructions they provide (different for each one). Write down the location and file name that it's saved under. This should look something like http://yourserver.com/yourdirectory/yourfile.mp3. THIS is the address you need to put in the blog post. In Blogger, copy and paste it into the Link field that you will see when you enter your post. The title can be whatever you want, but remember that it should include the name of your podcast and the episode number. The body of the post can include anything you want -- the Scripture reference that the sermon is from, the name of the preacher, etc. Once you get it the way you like it, post. Your podcast is now available to anyone who wants to listen to it.

How Shall They Hear?

That feed URL is your best friend right now. If you're using Blogger, it's an ATOM feed. You need it to be an RSS 2.0 feed. No problem -- the answer is simple. Feedburner. (If you are using blipmedia, I still recommend doing this part.) Get your feed set up in Feedburner (easy to do -- just follow the directions on the site). Under Essential Feed Services, enable SmartCasting. Fill in the form as best you can. Make sure you fill in the iTunes podcasting elements. Once you save all this, write down the Feedburner feed URL. That is your new best friend. That's the URL that people will use to listen to your feed. Click Publicize and pick out one of the chicklets -- copy the code and paste it right into your blog template. Now people know what address to use when they want to listen to your podcast.

Now -- iTunes. I don't think you can have a podcast and not be available on iTunes. If you don't have iTunes on your computer, either download it for free or find someone who does have it (any of the teenagers in your church will have it, I promise). Select podcast from the Genre menu, then click the button to add a podcast. Put your Feedburner feed address in the blank and send. Your feed will be available on the iTunes menus shortly.

And that's it. To write it out sounds like a lot of work, but the whole process took me maybe 10 minutes once I had the MP3 file. And I pay nothing for either of my podcasts. You can pay a little bit to some of the podcasting services (there's a great list here, or you can do a search for podcast hosting). Now you have to promote it. Put the information in the bulletins. On business cards. All you have to say is "Check out our podcast at iTunes!" or something like that. Make sure you are listed in podcast directories. THIS is the time-consuming part, but it is well worth it.

And just like that, your church has joined the 21st Century. Radio programs, TV programs, cable programs -- those are the media of the past. They are expensive, and many churches can't afford to do them. Every church, no matter what the size, can afford to podcast.

EDIT -- you can get much of the same information, but with pictures, here.

Posted by: Warren Kelly at 01:37 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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