Run your own radio station

As newspaper junkies watch their chosen medium evolve in an Internet world, so too are radio broadcasters and enthusiasts starting to embrace their techie counterpart, podcasting.

Colin Fraser

VANCOUVER — As newspaper junkies watch their chosen medium evolve in an Internet world, so too are radio broadcasters and enthusiasts starting to embrace their techie counterpart, podcasting.

The online format, which has been around for about five years, allows any person with access to the Internet to listen and download audio files, usually devoted to a particular subject.

Many podcasts take the format of a radio show.

For amateur broadcasters, it’s a platform that allows them to showcase their work to an international audience, while mainstream broadcasters are podcasting to reach a larger network of listeners who are abandoning the airwaves for the Internet.

Here are some key points for those venturing into the world of podcasting.

l Stick to what you know — Just as there’s a website and online forum for just about every topic, hobby and interest on the Internet, the same goes for podcasting. It’s similar to specialty TV channels except even more niche-based. And they’re all mostly free.

“Podcasting is better than radio, because you can actually pick (the topic you want to listen to),” said Graham Clark, co-host of the Vancouver-based comedy podcast “Stop Podcasting Yourself.”

“You can say ‘I want to listen to something about Australian parliament’ and you can.”

Grant Lawrence, host of CBC Radio Three, one of the first music podcasts on the Internet, stressed that it’s important to know what you’re talking about when hosting a podcast and developing listenership.

“Radio is fleeting, whereas podcasts live on on someone’s computer or iPod forever,” he said.

“Be sure of what you’re saying and remember that people can hear it over and over again.”

l Invest in good equipment — There are several key pieces needed to launch a podcast: recording equipment, an editing program and a server. When it comes to audio recorders, you get what you pay for.

“It’s the old ‘garbage in, garbage out’ rule,” said Sarah Buchanan, creator of the Vancouver-based storytelling podcast Life After Radio.

“If you don’t trust the recorder you’re using and you’re getting crappy sound, then you’re not going to be able to fix it very well.”

Once the audio’s been compiled, it must be edited and processed. Some of the popular editing programs for podcasts include Audacity, Pro Tools and GarageBand, which has a special podcast editing component.

Finally, when the final product is ready to go, it can be sent out through an RSS feed via a server.

A server is like a storage room for audio files. Most charge a monthly fee, depending on how large your files are, usually starting at $5. Once the file is uploaded, it can be published, which will then send an RSS feed to subscribers.

RSS feeds are notifications that let listeners know the podcast is available. The most popular place to find podcasts is iTunes, though there are other sites like Podcast Pickle and Podcast Alley.

l It’s not lucrative — yet — Clark says the hardest part of podcasting is being consistent, “treating it like a job, but you’re not getting paid for it.”

Many popular radio shows like This American Life have sponsors they mention before the podcast version of their show. Other independent shows, like Buchanan’s Life After Radio, ask for donations.

Dawn Miceli and Drew Domkus of the The Drew and Dawn Show, based in Wisconsin, consider themselves the first podcasters to make a living from the format. They started putting out audio on the Internet before podcasting became mainstream.

After about a year, they landed a three-year contract with Internet entrepreneur Adam Curry’s PodShow network.

They’ve since become independent, and are funded through advertisers. Five days a week, they publish a low-tech show. They talk about whatever is on their minds, for approximately 30 minutes.

“It’s the most awesome job ever,” said Miceli.

“We just sit around as a couple and hang out — we get to go on really fun adventures and talk about it. It really is a dream job.”

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