Podcasting and Magic

So what is Podcasting? If you read the Wikipedia link this pretty much covers it, basically it is the combination of a created Audio file (usually an MP3 file) and the ability to publish this file within a RSS/ATOM syndication feed, so users can keep track of seperate feeds and if using podcatching software, download the audio automatically, and in some cases transfer it to their personal audio players. Usually the audio files consist of talking and/or music, usually on a specific subject. I have given a couple of examples below of what I believe to be some of the first examples of Podcasting related to the field of Magic, Penguin Magic reckon they have one in their Performers Podcast by Tyas Frantz, I would argue this is not a true podcast, as it requires the syndication, and automation behind it, rather than just uploading an MP3 file to their server and announcing it in their e-mail newsletter.

How will this effect magic then? Just like magic themed blogs seem to have come of age just recently, it might take a while for this new technology to catch on, but we already have Magic radio shows, such as Magic Broadcast and Express Radio, I think that what Podcasting will do, just like blogs, will enable the individual to easily publish their own thoughts, ideas and views on the magic scene, and like the S.A.M. are doing to provide an information service. They will be able to do this on their own terms, on their own schedule, if you like, a less formal basis than the current setup, with a lot more people taking part, with their own diverse interests, ideas and thoughts brought to the table, combined with blogging this brings us ever closer to the idea of Citizen Journalism where everyone can potentially become a journalist, “playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information”. It also means you won’t have to be tied to a computer to listen to these thoughts, ideas and information, as you can easily copy them to your personal audio player of choice, and enjoy them anywhere, at anytime!

So how do you create your own Podcast? Its still a little in its infancy, but tools already exist to do this, from the automatic, down to the roll-your-own option, quite handy if you already own a blog of some sort. The S.A.M. have favoured using Audioblog which is a pay-for bandwith service, at $5/month for 1GB of bandwith, it also gives you the tools to easily publish your Podcast and also offers another exciting feature of Video Podcasts. Go Magic Go is using LibSyn the pricing is not based on bandwith or a static amount of storage, it is based on how much space you require to store your audio, e.g. for $5/month you can upload 100MB of files, which are then archived, and your 100MB gets renewed, a bit like the model Flickr is based on. Odeo is another of these services, from the guy that originally brought you Blogger, at the minute Odeo is in beta, which means it has all the catalogue features in place, where you can find Podcasts in their directory, subscribe to feeds, use their Sync utility to download them, the ability to create and publish your audio will be coming in the near future.

For a more DIY version Zefhemel has a good guide to using Audacity a free cross-platform audio recorder/editor. You can then upload the resulting audio to your own server space, or even better if you want to conserve your own bandwith, look at other places to store your audio such as Ourmedia which will save your audio and video clips for free, with no bandwith restrictions, and no time limits, as long as you are prepared to share your content with other people, thanks to the generosity of the Internet Archive. Other pay-for alternatives are Podlot which is $5/month for 150mb and unlimited bandwith, or Podbus which is $5/month for 300mb and 5GB of bandwith.

Once you have found somewhere to store your media, you need to create the syndication in your blogging software, I use Nucleus, and there is a plugin available, similarly I believe the newest version of WordPress will automatically put the required enclosure tags into your RSS feed. Also you could look at using Feedburner which takes your feeds and not only gives you some cool options to publicise, optimise and analyse your feed, but also using their Smartcast technology, you can simply link to your file, like in WordPress, and it will put in the necessary enclosure tags into the Feedburner feed.

So how could you use this? Again recently Skype has seen a great takeup, and with good reason, as people realise what a great way this is to chat with friends, in whatever location, for free, with crystal clear audio. Why not use this to conduct interviews, chats or discussions. Unbound Spiral has a good guide to recording Skype conversations that will cost you around $40, similarly another hardware solution from Make you go Hmm. Or two software packages for this purpose are Freecorder (there is a free version or a premium version at $20, or Hotrecorder there is a free version which is ad-supported, or a premium version for $15, which gives you access to a no-ad version and access to the audio converter.

So you have made your own Podcast, uploaded it, syndicated it, and told your friends. Or you have found a number of podcasts you want to track and listen too, what Podcatching software is out there, well obviously iTunes is a good favourite, but if you don’t want to use Apple’s software, or if you don’t have an iPOD (which is not in anyway necessary to take part in Podcasting!) then check out Doppler which is a podcast aggregator, which will subscribe to RSS feeds, fetch the files and automatically add them into your preferred media player. Then there is iPodder which is a cross-platform piece of software to subscribe and download your Podcasts, or iPodderX which is still in beta, but offers similar functionality.

This post turned out longer than I thought it would, but its helped get this thing straight for me, and I can say that I am very excited to see how this will be picked up by the Magic community, and watch this space as I might even be experimenting with this in the future!