Tag: Feedburner

HOWTO: Create a podcast

Background

A couple of months ago, Dai Barnes and I decided to start podcasting again. We’d previously been regular hosts of EdTechRoundUp and wanted to get back into the routine. We decided to meet each weekend with a loose agenda, talk for between 45 minutes and an hour, edit the recording, and put it out each Tuesday. We’re calling this Today In Digital Education (TIDE).

Quick note: technology
A podcast is an audio file plus an RSS feed. Just sticking an MP3 on a web server doesn’t make it a podcast – there has to be an enclosure generated that allows users to have each episode delivered to them.

Recording the audio

Perhaps the easiest way to record a conversation is to use Skype and a plugin that records both sides of the audio. I’ve actually detailed this process before, and haven’t deviated much from it, so check out this post.

Quick note: naming
You should double-check that there’s no-one else using the name you came up with. We had to change the title of our podcast slightly as there was already a student-run podcast out of the University of Alabama! It’s also a good idea to grab as many URLs for the podcast as possible. This means you can switch platforms but keep the URL consistent.

Publishing your audio

In the first instance we decided to try Tumblr to make the podcast available to listeners. I wanted something that was super-straightforward, and Dai was keen to show to his colleagues that it isn’t just filled with dodgy stuff. As it happens, although this made it easy to listen to recordings via Tumblr itself, it wasn’t such a great idea for creating a compatible RSS feed.

Thankfully, the wonderful SoundCloud has a beta program called SoundCloud for Podcasters which we were quickly accepted into. This gives you an RSS feed people can use to subscribe to. It’s worth pointing out that people can also subscribe to you via the SoundCloud app itself.

We’ve retained the Tumblr blog as SoundCloud doesn’t seem to allow hyperlinks in the show description.

Quick note: costs
It’s pretty inevitable you’re going to spend some money creating your podcast. It can be done for free, but it’s more difficult than using awesome tools that make the job easier. Other than both owning Macs (which are great for multimedia!), here’s the things we’ve paid for:

Sorting out your RSS feed

It’s a good idea to take the RSS feed generated by whatever platform you use and pipe it through FeedBurner. There’s lots of options here, but ensure you pay attention to the Optimize tab and the BrowserFriendly, SmartCast, and SmartFeed settings. Note that you’ll need an image for your logo that’s larger than 1400px x 1400px to be compatible with iTunes.

Piping the RSS feed through FeedBurner means that if you change to a different platform (with a different RSS feed) this won’t affect your listeners. In the same way that you can have a URL that redirects to Tumblr, WordPress, or whatever, so your FeedBurner-powered feed is a front end for whatever RSS feed you point it towards.

Quick note: learning from others
One of the best ways to know what works with podcasts – in terms of content, structure, and how to describe yours, is to listen to some good ones. Here are three of my favourites (not including BBC Radio 4 radio shows released as podcasts):

Submitting your podcast to directories

If you’ve got an iPhone or iPod Touch then you’d be forgiven for thinking that everyone uses iTunes to subscribe to podcasts. But, of course, they don’t. Currently, the best places to submit your podcast are:

  1. iTunes (looks complex, but FeedBurner should have you covered)
  2. Stitcher SmartRadio
  3. Miro
  4. iPodder
  5. Blubrry
  6. DoubleTwist
  7. Libsyn

You only have to do this once for each service. There’s also a list here.

Conclusion

Setting up a podcast can seem quite technical but, follow the above advice and that which you search for, and you’ll be OK. Be comforted in the knowledge that once the flow is all set up correctly, all you’ll have to do is record your podcast, edit it, upload it, and write something about it each time. Everything else will happen automatically!

Have you got any remaining questions? I’ll try my best to answer them if doing so is of benefit to other readers, too! Ask away in the comments below. 🙂

Image CC BY-NC-SA Oliver Hartmann

Got a blog? Do this simple thing to boost your readership.

Image CC BY derrickkwa @ Flickr
Image CC BY derrickkwa @ Flickr

I tried to do something very simple yesterday. Surprisingly, it caused me a bit of a headache. What was it? I just wanted to subscribe to some blogs via email.

Why would I want to subscribe to blogs via email? Well, for all I love Feedly, I have to go to a different location to access this. This involves a physical and conceptual shift. Making blog posts (or links to them) appear in my email inbox means I can’t really ignore them. In other words, I’m more likely to keep up-to-date.

However, when I went to subscribe to some blogs the option to subscribe by email wasn’t available to me (necessitating the use of xFruits) or seemed to be available but then didn’t work.

It’s trivial (and free!) to enable readers to subscribe via email to your blog. Here’s how:

1. Go to Feedburner and login using your Google account.

Feedburner login page

2. ‘Burn’ (i.e. add) your feed to Feedburner (you can find your feed URL by clicking on the RSS icon to the right in your address bar when you visit your blog):

Feedburner - burn feed

3. Within Feedburner, click on the ‘Publicize’ tab and then on ‘Email subscriptions’ on the left-hand side:

Feedburner - Publicize tab

4. Follow the (clear) instructions as to how to proceed. It shows you how you can add the option to subscribe via email to your blog’s sidebar.

Feedburner - Email subscriptions

5. Click on the ‘Optimize’ tab within Feedburner and then ‘BrowserFriendly’ on the left-hand side:

Feedburner - Optimize tab

6. Follow the instructions, enabling the BrowserFriendly service.

Feedburner - BrowserFriendly option

7. Make sure all the links to your RSS feed on your blog point towards the new Feedburner feed. If you’ve got a self-hosted WordPress-powered blog, the easiest way to do this is to download the relevant plugin to do this for you!

The result, if you follow these steps, will be that if users click on your RSS they should see something like this:

Feedburner-powered RSS feed

If you need any extra help or have some tips please use the comments section below! 😀

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Who are you and where do you come from?

People come from far and wide to read this blog:

Map of visitors to dougbelshaw.com/blog

Source: Clustrmap

At my previous blog (teaching.mrbelshaw.co.uk – back online soon!) I used to reflect monthly on blog visitors and subscribers via RSS or email. In a relentless drive to improve vistors’ experience when visiting the blog I’d analyze which browsers were being used, their screen resolution, and so on.

I haven’t really done that since moving over to blogging here at dougbelshaw.com/blog. Whilst I don’t intend to produce monthly blog posts on the matter, I thought it would be interesting and useful to reflect on the information I’ve got about blog visitors and subscribers! 🙂

The two tools I use to find out about blog visitors are both now owned and provided for free by Google: Analytics (for visitors) and Feedburner (for subscribers)

Visitors

The following graph shows how many visits were made to this blog per week between 26 February 2009 (when I installed the Google Analytics WordPress plugin) and today:

Graph of visitors to dougbelshaw.com/blog (Feb - Oct 2009)

Visits are slowly on the rise and are affected significantly by the school year! I’m slightly concerned that people spend, on average, less than two minutes here and tend to only visit one or two pages or posts.

Perhaps I need to make the blog easier to navigate and flag up related material?

So what are people looking for when they come here? The Top 10 most visited posts/pages is make interesting reading:

Top 10 visited pages/posts on dougbelshaw.com/blog (Feb - Oct 2009)

Unsurprisingly, stuff that was of direct practical utility – either in the form of a downloadable resource or a how-to guide – featured heavily in the Top 10. Geeky stuff also features significantly. I was, however, delighted to see that my Director of E-Learning interview presentation on How E-Learning can contribute to raising achievement was up there as well and that people, on average, spent over five minutes reading through it! 😀

Finally on the general visitor front, I’m pleased to see plenty of people coming from referring sites:

Traffic sources for dougbelshaw.com/blog (Feb - Oct 2009)

The majority of these referring sites were social media/networking sites such as Twitter and Disqus (the comments system that I use on this blog).

Subscribers

As I expected, most subscribers use either Google (iGoogle, Google Reader) or FriendFeed to keep up-to-date with my blog posts:

dougbelshaw.com/blog subscribers

At one time this would have been dominated by Bloglines. Google, as with most things, now rules the roost!

The above chart shows a combination of those who subscribe to the RSS feed via a feed reader or by email. Almost exactly 10% of the 964 people who subscribe to this blog do so by email. The great advantage of this is that I can see who they are and (potentially) contact them without having to put up a public blog post. 🙂

Subscribers act differently to general visitors. The latter might only ever view this blog once, having searched for a very specific thing on a search engine and leave after gaining that new knowledge or insight. Subscribers, on the other hand, have (presumably) made a judgement that this blog consistently produces content that they find relevant and useful.

You’d expect the Top 10 posts/pages for subscribers to be different. And it is!

Top 10 blog posts on dougbelshaw.com/blog according to subscribers

I think it’s fair to say that the majority of subscribers to this blog are those related to education in some way. And that would make sense given that the tagline is Educational Technology, Leadership & Productivity!

The best indicator of which posts have been most popular, however, comes from the sidebar widget at dougbelshaw.com/blog (RSS/email readers will need to click through to see it). This is powered by the previously-mentioned Disqus and measures how much interest a post has caused based on factors such as the number of comments it generated directly, how many tweets there on Twitter link to it, the number of trackbacks it received, and the number of pageviews.

To finish off, then, here are the current Top 10:

  1. HOWTO: Present using Cooliris (the basics…)
  2. Why I’m trying to make myself redundant.
  3. HOWTO: Present using Cooliris (advanced)
  4. Assessment in UK schools: a convenient hypocrisy?
  5. A Week of Divesting: an introduction
  6. A (temporary) farewell to a hero.
  7. Heuristical Templates (or, how to review elearning stuff in a way that benefits others)
  8. On the important difference between hitchhiking and bandwagon-jumping.
  9. How WordPress-powered P2 is (hopefully) going to leave me more organized and productive!
  10. Carol Dweck on ‘growth mindsets’ and motivation.
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WordPress customization

Wordpress PluginsI’ve had a request via Skribit to share tips on how I’ve customized this blog using WordPress plugins and themes. Your wish is my command, as they say! In fact, I did something similar over at teaching.mrbelshaw.co.uk here. I still consider this blog a work in progress, but here’s how I’ve customized it so far…

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