To create your own podcast and get it out to the world, you have to design your feed and then record your audio or video. We will look at how to create an audio podcast, since that's much more common than video podcasts these days.
To design your feed, it is helpful to write a mission statement of some kind or a set of guidelines. It's especially important to outline the tone and direction of your podcast if you have a number of people recording the audio and you plan to host different authors. What topic or topics do you want to discuss? Which topic or topics do you want to avoid (such as touchy political topics)? Setting your goals in a mission statement can save you a lot of time and trouble if you need to ask your contributors to re-record their contributions.
In the standard scenario, you need a computer with a sound card and speakers, as well as a microphone.
Most computers come with sound cards and speakers these days, and it's easy to pick up a microphone if your computer doesn't have one (many do now as well).
Instead of a simple microphone, however, I recommend a headset with both earphones and a built-in microphone. The sound quality is generally much higher and extraneous noises are kept to a minimum. You can buy headsets very cheaply at most of the popular electronics stores like Best Buy or Radio Shack.
After you have the hardware you need, you'll need recording software that can create and store the MP3 files to enclose in your podcasts.
Your operating system most likely contains sound-recording software such as Windows XP Sound Recorder (Figure 7.2).
Figure 7.2. The Windows XP Sound Recorder is showing the snow podcast.
To record audio, you only have to click the red disk button (shown in Figure 7.2, on the far right, where it appears in glorious black and white). When you're finished recording, select the square stop button. That's all it takes.
By default, Windows XP Sound Recorder records in the Windows WAV format. To change to MP3, select the File > Properties menu item, then click the Convert Now button. You can select the MP3 format for your files in the resulting dialog (Figure 7.3).
Figure 7.3. Windows XP Sound Recorder lets you select the podcast file format.
Using built-in audio-recording software such as Sound Recorder is an easy way to create podcasts, but it doesn't always work. In particular, Sound Recorder can be unreliable. For some people it doesn't record at all, for unknown reasons; and for others, it displays a generic error with the incorrect message that memory is full.
There are plenty of reliable audio-recording programs available, and many are free. You can find a list of audio-recording software for the Mac and Windows at www.podcastalley.com/forum/links.php?id=15. Here's a sampling of the available audio-recording software:
One of the most popular sound recorders for podcasts is BlogMatrix Sparks 2.0 (Figure 7.4).
Figure 7.4. BlogMatrix Sparks 2.0 is one of the most popular sound recorders for podcasts.
BlogMatrix Sparks 2.0 is a powerful software package that lets you not only record podcasts, but also upload them. To make an audio recording, you simply click the Record button at the upper-left (Figure 7.5).
Figure 7.5. Click the Record button with BlogMatrix Sparks to record your podcast.
After you click the Record button and it changes to Stop, you start the recording. When you're finished, click the Stop button to stop recording. It's that easy. BlogMatrix Sparks lets you record multiple tracks, as you'd find on a CD, but in this case, a single podcast is all you need. To save your recording in an MP3 file, choose the Save Mix tab (Figure 7.6).
Figure 7.6. It's easy to record and save an MP3 file with BlogMatrix Sparks.
You then select a name and directory for your new MP3 file, and click the Save Mix Now button.