Assuming that your podcast was recorded successfully, you will now have an audio file (or files) for that podcast episode. It’s not really a podcast until it’s online and available to the public, though. Here’s how to make that happen.
Post production - Many mixing interfaces create multitrack recordings, with a different audio file created for each sound source. It can be challenging to combine these signals so that all are reproduced at the similar volumes in the final mix. Specifically, vocal volume can vary widely both within recordings (volume changes by the same speaker) and between recordings (volume differences with different speakers). I am not a post-production expert, but I have had luck in Logic Studio using the compressor plugin on each vocal channel and the adaptive limiter on the main mixing bus to get a consistent volume. Similar tools are available in any digital audio workstation. With a little practice using them, producing a great-sounding podcast is easier than you think.
Exporting - Though often recorded in higher-fidelity formats, podcasts are generally distributed as MP3 files. The quality of MP3 files can vary, so you’ll have to weigh sound quality against available bandwidth. As a rule of thumb: Anything that uses just the human voice can be a bit lower quality but still sound OK. If you’re incorporating music into the mix and want it to sound good, that will require a higher bit-rate.
Uploading - The MP3 file you export must be put somewhere online. Any personal web space you already have access to will be suitable. If you lack web hosting, the easiest solution is likely Dropbox. Free accounts grant 2.5 GB of storage in the cloud. This should be enough for dozens of episodes of even the highest-fidelity podcasts. Plus, there is simply no easier way of making an audio file (or file of any type) Web-accessible.
Indexing - Podcasts are actually XML files that index the MP3 files and metadata that represent each episode. Authoring this XML file can take some doing. One option is to base the XML file off of an iTunes XML template and add each new podcast “item” by hand. XML files can also be generated by a desktop application like Feeder ($40), a Web app like that from podtopia.net. In each of these cases, the resulting XML file must be put online. Once again, Dropbox is a great way to do this. Content management systems like WordPress (with a plugin like PowerPress) or SquareSpace can also generate a podcast XML feed. If using a CMS, the XML feed will already be available online — you will merely need to find a link to it.
Whatever the way you choose to author your podcast’s XML file, be sure to follow Apple’s podcast specifications for best results. Then, once your XML file is online, use an RSS validator like feedvalidator.org to make sure you didn’t make any mistakes. If things check out OK, you’re ready to submit the feed to the iTunes store. This is done through the iTunes desktop application. Apple provides instructions for doing so here.
Congratulations! After a little time (and maybe some troubleshooting) your podcast is now listed in iTunes. You are now a media entity! So start acting like one.
Social media - Your podcast needs listeners. Social media provide a great way to connect to them. Create Facebook and Twitter accounts for your podcast. Post notifications to Facebook and Twitter when new episodes become available. Then, expand into content related to the podcast. Did you recently feature a song from a local artist? Post an update with a link to that song. Have there been developments in a news story your podcast covered? Post updates to keep your followers in-the-know. Really pumped about a guest that will join your next episode? Add an update saying so. Many types of social updates can be devised once you put your mind to it. Use these to maintain interest in your brand between episodes.
Website - Your podcast should also have a home beyond its social media presences. This means a website. Tumblr is a good, free way to make this happen. SquareSpace, though you’ll need to pay for it, is probably the easiest way to create a beautiful website. It should be considered for those that want a more polished presence. Either way, the website should have information about the podcast — what its about, who participates — and show notes for all episodes.
Now do it again. And again, and again, and …
There you have it. After just dozens of steps, you are now a podcaster — almost. Remember, podcasts are recurring media. A single episode doesn’t make for much of a podcast. Now it’s time to get to work on episode two.
Before you do, though, consider a debrief with other hosts and with any guests that joined you. Discuss what worked well and what could be improved. It’s impossible to plan for everything a priori. There will arise ideas and issues which never could have been predicted. Talk through these ideas with the rest of your team. If time allows, make this a regular part of recording your podcast. This could be especially valuable in the early going. Ad-hoc thinking could arise as well, so keep a running list of ideas that you can review when you need to.
Don’t be discouraged by the wall of text above: The last thing I want to do is scare you away from trying to podcast! If that is your reaction, keep in mind: podcasting is fun. Talking into microphones is cool. If you view everything through the lens of “this an enjoyable activity,” it is easier to deal with issues you encounter.
Podcasting is one of the best things I ever started doing. It has led to, amongst other things: my Digital Trends column, my record label, and Good Band Is Good – one of my very favorite recent projects. So, get out there, and get ‘casting. It could lead to neat things for you, too.