Audacity and podcasting
Shaping the future of learning
It’s time you made a show of yourself...
What’s the big idea?
Podcasting simply means creating audio (and increasingly video, or vodcasting) content and sending it out into the world for anyone to listen to. Like VoIP, there’s nothing inherently new in this idea. Ham radio buffs were doing this decades ago. But podcasting has come into its own, for a few reasons. As usual, low cost, high impact is the key. Anyone with a computer and a microphone can create a podcast. Anyone with a computer can listen to a podcast. Anyone with a computer and an MP3 player can listen to one anywhere.
Creating a podcast is easy. You need a microphone (built in to most computers these days, not a big investment if yours doesn’t). You need an audio recording programme. There are many free ones – Audacity’s good. That's the one we've used to create our Podcasts, which you can find at Kineo Audio.
Once you’ve said your piece and recorded it, you can make it available via your website for people to stream or download. Or, if you’re really going to podcast it in the full meaning of the word, you make it part of an RSS (really simple syndication) feed, so that “podcatcher” software such as ipodder or iTunes (since June 2005) can find and pick up.
Listeners using this software search for RSS feeds and subscribe to them, in the same way you’d set a video recorder or sky plus to record your favourite shows every week. The podcatching software regularly checks to see if there are new podcasts for the shows I’ve subscribed to, downloads them, and puts them in on my iPod (or if I don’t have one, it leaves them on my iTunes or whatever MP3 playing software I use).
By the way - you don’t need an iPod to do podcasting. But it’s a mighty good excuse to get one.
That’s it. We’re developing a more detailed guide to podcasting as part of our series of insight reports with some more detailed tips and advice. And yes, we'll podcast it...
Podcasting is another one of those truly viral ideas. According to Wikipedia, in September 2004, if you typed “podcast” into google you would have got 24 hits. One year later and you get 61 million. (Strangely, that’s the same number of people who use skype. Maybe they’re creating one podcast each talking about how great skype is?)
What’s in it for learning?
Listening and learning - hardly a new concept. We’ve all bought (and not listened to) a “Learn French in a month” tape or CD. But in elearning, creating audio content for the web was traditionally the domain of specialists. It usually required a fancy studio, a vendor and a wrestling match with IT. Forget that. You need none of the above to start your podcasting.
Many content formats in podcasting have their roots in radio. That’s not surprising. Podcasting is radio – some of the most popular podcasts are shows from the likes of Radio 4. The difference is, I have a million stations and I listen to what I want, when and where I want. And if I want to create my own, I don’t need a broadcasting licence.
Here are some models we like the sound of:
The expert interview
Talk to your subject matter experts, but record it and podcast it. If they’re the head of compliance, record the new issues in compliance every week or every month, and let people (inside your company, ok you have to talk to IT again) subscribe and download it. That's what we're doing with our audio interviews. In November we're talking to Clive Shepherd about (you've guessed it) - podcasting.
SME as celebrity
If you’re a subject matter expert with new expertise and insight on a weekly or even daily basis, speak up. Record it, share it with those who need it. You may even want to charge them for it. If they value it, they’ll not want to miss your podcast. Bring your personality into your content. Be a shock jock if that's what your subject needs.
It doesn’t all have to be monologues or even dialogues. Dramatists know how to take a sensitive topic, like age discrimination, and create a compelling storyline. Make it a weekly or daily show. Make it funny, dramatic, improvised. Take the water cooler banter and put it in a podcast (don't pause like Pinter though, or people will think their connection has gone down).
Take radio formats that work (like Radio 4’s Any Questions) and make them work for you. Bring your management, your board, your vendors, your partners together and invite an audience to ask them the tough questions. Record it and distribute it to those who need it. It could make procurement a lot more interesting.
The call-in show
Why not have a live skype session (read our skype big idea column for more), invite comments on particular topics, then record it as a show? SkypeCasting. Yes, it really is called that. There is no end to the words you can assemble in the podcasting world…
Is this learning? That’s up to your listeners. But as a tool for sharing knowledge it's got a lot going for it. Audio carries personality and, yes, attitude. RSS means your listeners can subscribe to extremely specific domains and get exactly what they need, be it inside or outside your organisation. And I can learn in the gym, in the car - try doing that with a pdf.
Podcasting, like skype, has become a must have application for learning developers. Will it be 200 million hits next year? Will there be such thing as traditional radio in 10 years? There's already at least one radio station that just plays selections of podcasts...
At Kineo we use podcasting as a major means of talking to you. Listen in – and now you know how to talk back.