Starting a podcast often seems like an insurmountable task – one that is only made more difficult by thoughts of mysterious and complicated machinery, used in creating and delivering podcast episodes to listeners.
Fortunately, this is far from the truth. While the machines and process may seem mysterious at first, they are nothing more than a collection of simple things put to good use. Better yet – these pieces can (and should) be mostly automated for you with a podcast host.
So what is podcast hosting, then? And why do you need it?
When you’re setting up a podcast, you need a minimum of 3 things (from a broad overview perspective):
- the podcast episodes (.mp3 files)
- file hosting so people can download the episodes
- an RSS feed so people know what episodes are available, and so their computer can download the episodes
There are a few more things that you should have as well (reports to tell you about your listeners, a blog to talk about your episodes, artwork for the podcast, a way to get feedback from your listeners, etc) but those things can come after these main 3 things are in place.
Episodes and Content Delivery
You need to have content, right? That’s what a podcast is – audio content, split up in to episodes. Without the podcast episodes, people won’t have anything to listen to.
But equally as important, you need a place to put the files so your listeners can download the files. Every time someone wants to listen to an episode, it is downloaded to their computer, iPhone or whatever they are listening on.
You also need an RSS feed to tell subscribers what episodes are available, and to tell iTunes and other podcast apps where the files can be downloaded. If no one has a listing of your episodes, no one will be able to download or listen to them.
But, What Is RSS?
Think of it this way: RSS is like the list of TV show episodes on Netflix or any other streaming video service. You open Netflix, find the show you want to watch and look through the list of episodes find the ones you haven’t seen yet. Once you find the episode you want, you watch it.
An RSS feed allows iTunes and other podcast apps to do the same for your podcast. When you subscribed to the a podcast, you told your computer where to find their RSS feed (probably through iTunes or some other directory). The RSS feed tells your computer, phone or tablet which episodes are available and where to download them from. Once the episodes are downloaded, you can listen to them whenever you want. iTunes and other podcast apps will tell you which episodes are available and which you have not listened to, yet.
It’s all a bit like Netflix, except it’s audio instead of video – and it’s all facilitated by the RSS feed and file hosting.
Ok, How About Hosting?
A podcast hosting service, like SignalLeaf, provides the RSS feed and file hosting for your podcast. Podcast hosts make it easy to upload .mp3 files, tell the podcast what the episode is about, and generate the RSS feed for you. Then, when someone wants to subscribe and listen to your podcast, the podcast host serves the RSS and the files to the listener.
In the end, podcasting isn’t some strange, mysterious machine of parts that can’t be understood. Rather, it’s a good use of some very simple things:
- a .mp3 file
- an RSS document describing the .mp3 file (including the file location)
- a file server on the internet that lets people download the file
A podcast host simplifies and automates both the RSS feed and file hosting and delivering to your subscribers. But a good host does more than just that, as well. A good host will provide useful and valuable reports, to tell you about your listeners. A good host will give you the knowledge you need to be successful, and help you get started with tutorials, blog posts and other information made available to you. And a great host will provide one on one support, to help you through any questions or issues that you have.