This guest post is by Carol Tice of Make a Living Writing.
You’ve probably heard that adding multimedia to your blog is a great way to grow your audience. But if you’re like me, and technology makes you assume the fetal position and cry like an overtired baby, you may have put off the idea.
The good news is that after pulling out half of my hair grappling with a half-dozen different podcasting platforms and audio-editing programs, I discovered there is a simple way to create, embed, and play audio on your WordPress blog. So I’d like to save all of you the agony and share how I now do my podcasts.
Below is my five-step guide to bare-bones podcasting for the newbie, using mostly free tools.
Step 1: Pick the right podcasting platform
Here’s the key benefit you’re looking for in a podcasting platform: the platform will let you export audio files as mp3s. You won’t believe how many of even the most expensive, premium platforms will not (yes, I am looking at you, GoToWebinar).
The intent of most recording platforms is to chain you to their own, proprietary recording format or to trap you in some awkward format that’s hard to edit or play. They want you to leave your recordings on their site and put links to their site on your own site—so they can build their Google rankings (and often, so they can charge you extra for storing them).
If you export these weirdo-format files, you end up with a mess of various files my husband has likened to a scrambled egg that you then strive to turn back into a whole, unbroken egg that will play on your blog. Ever tried to unscramble an egg? Yeah. It’s a nightmare.
Also, you don’t want to trust your precious recordings to another site on the cloud somewhere that could close up shop or lose your media. You want to control your own podcasts. Every one of your recordings is a valuable asset to your blog that can be offered as a freebie for subscribers, for sale as a standalone product, or as a bonus bundled with another paid product.
After many false starts, I now use Instant Teleseminar, which creates an mp3 by default. It has a 21-day free trial so you can play around on it if you’re shopping for a podcasting platform. (I’m sure there are other platforms that export mp3s too—this is just the one I happened to find. If you’re using something different, let us know about it in the comments.)
Step 2: Make a clean recording
The big mistake I used to make was hitting the Record button early, before I started the broadcast, because I was worried I’d forget to do it. Or, on the back end, letting the recording run long. Now, you’ve got a rough recording you have to edit.
For editing, I found Camtasia easiest to work with, but it doesn’t readily export mp3s, only mp4s. This means you have to use a bit more sophisticated means to display your podcast. (If you have to edit, free Audacity will export mp3s, but only after an amazingly complex process to add a plugin that enables that.)
The quickest and simplest route to a finished podcast is to avoid all editing—a trick Chris Brogan taught me when I
did a Skype recording with him a while back. Here’s how.
Make sure all guests are muted. When you’re getting ready to start your event, warn any copresenters that you need a moment of silence while you start the recording. Take a deep breath, press Record, and then say, “Hello and welcome everyone…” or whatever your greeting is. Now you’ve got a clean opening.
Repeat the process at the end. Get your finger poised on the Stop Recording button as you wind down your show. “Thanks for joining us, Ed,” you say, and after he says, “Thanks for having me,” you hit that button. Now you have a clean recording that’s ready to pop right into a blog post.
If your platform offers a choice of “hold” music guests can listen to before your event starts, you’ve even got a little instant intro music you can record. Press record while your “hold” music is on, let that music play for ten seconds, then take it off and start talking. Now you sound totally pro.
Final advantage of Instant Teleseminar: the system always makes a scratch recording automatically, whether you ever hit the Record button or not. So you don’t have to worry—if you forget, you’ll just have to edit the recording, but you’ll never end up without one. This is a good feature to look for, too.
Step 3: Export your mp3
Now that you’ve made a clean recording, it’s time to get your mp3 onto your dashboard where you can use it. Simply click on the mp3 link provided in your recording platform and save the link with a descriptive mp3 file name on your desktop. It’ll usually take less than a minute. Now, you’re ready to load the file and get it to play on your blog.
Step 4: Upload your mp3
Next, you have to get your mp3 from the dashboard of your computer onto your blog. Often, the file will be too large to upload through your WordPress “Media” tab, like you use for photos.
You’ll need to do a workaround and use File Transfer Protocol (FTP) to load it up directly, circumventing the normal WordPress file-size limits. For this, you can go on your host’s dashboard, but I find that complicated.
Instead, I use free Cyberduck, which is super-simple. Find the directory file you want to stash your media in, drag and drop, and you’re done.
Step 5: Make it playable with the WordPress Audio Player plugin
This free, handy little plugin is so simple—why, even I could use it. Go to your WordPress blog’s Plugins tab, search, and download. Now, all you have to do to make a neat little player appear on your site is enter a teeny bit of code like this on the HTML view of your post:[audio: http://yourURLnamehere.mp3]
And presto! When you switch to visual, you get this handy little player graphic:
When you click the Play button, the player unfolds and looks like this:
Slick, eh? For extra credit, you can style it up with the colors of your blog theme as I’ve done, by altering the Settings for Audio Player in your plugin dashboard.
That’s all there is to it! If you have other simple approaches to getting up your podcast, share them in the comments below.