Over and over I hear people asking the same questions, making the same mistakes, so I thought I address each in a post. This is part of a series so expect more “Church Tech Lessons” in the future.
There’s a discussion happening in a church tech group on Google+ right now about podcasting and I thought I’d put a few of the basics down now (since I’m the guy who literally wrote the book on podcasting for churches).
- Own and control your own feed. Imagine if your local television station made their own content, but didn’t own their own transmitter. Instead, they rented the transmitter, frequency, and antenna from one of several companies in your city that could broadcast for them (this isn’t how television works, but pretend). Now imagine that one day one of those companies decided they didn’t want to work with that station any more. The reason doesn’t matter. What does is that the company is so mad that they just shut off access without allowing the television station to tell anyone. What would happen? They’d lose tons of audience.
Your feed matters more than just about any of the other tech pieces in podcasting. It’s like your television (or radio) frequency. Never rely on someone else to give you a feed when you can create your own with plug-ins like PowerPress in WordPress. You can always change hosting, but telling your subscribers to resubscribe will always yield in a loss of audience, so make sure you don’t have that problem.
- Never, ever, ever, ever host your podcast files on your webhost. I’ve talked to people who say, “I’ve never had any problem, so I’m not changing.” That’s like saying, “I’ve never had lung cancer, so why should I quit smoking?” If you’re fine so far, you should take that as a blessing and fix the problem before it becomes a problem.
Hosting your media files on your web server is like betting against your own success. Imagine you have 50 files that are 20 megs each for about a gig of storage. You also have 100 subscribers. That means that normally each week you have 2 gigs of bandwidth used (for a total of 8 in a month). Your web host might let you get away with 8 gigs of bandwidth a month since they did tell you your plan was “unlimited.”
Now, imagine that you add 50 new subscribers. Each downloads not only this month’s files (another 4 gigs), but all of your back catelog (a lot of subscribers, myself included, do this). So, this month you have 12 gigs of bandwidth + another 50 gigs. Is your webhost going to notice that you went from 8 gigs of bandwidth one month to 62 (almost an 8x increase) in the next? Yep. What will they do? Either suspend your account (if you’re lucky) or charge you for the overage. I’ve heard of a ton of people (I’ve been doing this since 2005) who have awakened to 5-figure+ bills from their webhosts.
- You don’t “upload to iTunes.” You might be confused because you’ve got a Mac with GarageBand and it says “Send Podcast to iTunes…” in the Share menu. The iTunes it’s talking about there is the copy of the software on your computer. It’s not the iTunes servers at Apple in Cupertino, California. iTunes doesn’t host podcast files. They only keep lists of podcasts for people to subscribe to.
- If you build it, they may not come. In 2005, just having a podcast put you head and shoulders above the rest. People like Cali Lewis and Keith and the Girl became national hits.
Today, everybody has a podcast. Okay, not everybody, but a lot of people. If you are just uploading sermons, what distinguishes you from all the other churches who are doing the same thing?
You’ve got to get the word out, so make sure you do just that.
- Reports of the death of podcasting have been strongly exaggerated…for years. You’ll hear people saying, “Podcasting is dead. Quit podcasting now,” from time to time. So far, they’ve been totally and completely wrong. Before the popularity of the smart phone, podcasting did see a slight dip in the growth it had been experiencing.
Now, iPhones and Android phones are both capable of getting podcasts on the go, no longer requiring you to sync with a computer. In a lot of ways, this puts podcasters even with radio. Podcasting has the advantage, though. Since production costs are so low, we can produce very niche content that big media can’t. That’s why podcasting is growing now, like never before.
What questions do you have that I’ve missed? Hit me up in the comments and we’ll talk.