Podcasting Church 101117

I’ve had an idea for a book in my head for a few years now. Since there is a challenge afoot, I started, November 2, 2010, to write that book. This blog will contain the very rough draft and I hope I’ll get a chunk of it out this month. No guarantee I’ll write everyday, but I hope this won’t be the last entry.

A word about iTunes

In May 2005, the world of podcasting changed forever. Before the iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, or even iPod with video (later updated as the iPod classic), Steve Jobs announced an upgrade to iTunes that supported podcasting. At the time, iTunes was only about music, so this was a radical change. For me, it meant that the talk radio I listened to would be replaced by shows I really liked instead of ones I tolerated.

I had already found Twit and because podcasting was somewhat technical at the time, I quickly found other podcasts that I could listen to on my favorite subject–tech. Soon the niche quality of podcasts gave way to more specialized subjects and church tech podcasts were cropping up.

When I started my own in July of 2005, I learned something new. iTunes wasn’t just a way to subscribe to and organize podcasts. It was also a way to help produce them. Was it an editor? Nope, but it allowed me to tweak RSS tags and transcode from wav format (which is better for recording) to mp3 (which is better for distribution).

Submitting a new show to iTunes is an easy process, but not one without controversy. The iTunes specific rss feed includes tags not supported in the original standard–like the explicit tag which serves as a simple voluntary rating system for podcasts.

PC users often complained about iTunes taking over functions that Windows Media Player would normally do and adding software (like QuickTime) that they’d prefer not to have. The Apple mentality that locks music to a user’s iTunes account, using the aac format instead of the more common mp3 is also troubling to some.

iTunes as editor

More than once, I’ve spoken to people who’ve wanted to do a couple things that iTunes does well and for free. I always recommend it because you know that Apple wouldn’t distribute it with spyware or malware. It’s not going to include an unrelated toolbar or anti-virus. I know it’s always going to be there. I know how to use it. I know it’s going to be free and it won’t be on a server with no bandwidth and its link won’t be broken.

The first of these functions is transcoding. The first example of this is an obvious one. Apple just announced that The Beatles were coming to iTunes. I have a media server that doesn’t support aac, but does support mp3 and wav files. By going to iTunes>Preferences>General tab>Import Settings and changing the “Import Using” drop down box to either “MP3 Encoder” or “WAV Encoder” and you can transcode to either MP3 or WAV (depending on if you set it to MP3 or WAV) by going to Advanced>Create ___ Version.

To take an audio file and tweak the ID3 tags, highlight the file and go to File>Get Info. Start at the Info tab. You can edit the title, artist name, genre, etc. Next, go to the Artwork tab and add the album artwork. The mp3 file itself will be edited to include this information.

Finally, you can use iTunes to create a lower quality version of an audio file. For this, go to iTunes>Preferences>General tab>Import Settings again. In the settings drop down, either use one of the predetermined settings or go to custom where you can tweak the bit rate, sample rate, and even change from stereo to mono. Now go back to Advanced>Create ___ Version.

Keep in mind that this is generally lossy compression so you won’t get a better version by setting it higher. Going back and forth will cause a lower and lower quality file. Always save the original and preview the file before distributing it. If it’s a really small file that’s unlistenable, you’ve lost, not gained ground in your process.

Paul Alan Clifford, M.Div.

Paul Alan Clifford, M.Div. has been a tech volunteer with Lexington City Church (formerly Quest Community Church) in Lexington, KY since 2000 and is the founder of TrinityDigitalMedia.com, llc. He became part of the technology in ministry team when his church’s attendance was around 200 in one Sunday service and has witnessed it’s growth to a peak of 5,200 average weekly attendance in one Saturday service, four Sunday services in one online and two physical campuses. He literally wrote the book on podcasting in churches, twitter in churches, & servant-hearted volunteering, as well as writing various articles for publications like “Church Production” and “Technologies for Worship” magazines. He has thousands of members of his ProPresenter Users' Group on Facebook and thousands of subscribers to his YouTube channel.