If you create audio recordings of sermons or educational programming at your congregation (or want to start), it’s a great idea to podcast them in iTunes.
In today’s Web, it is not enough to just make your content available; you need to serve it up in a way that makes it easy for people to access and listen. Podcasting on iTunes is great for this. With iTunes, people don’t have to sit at the computer and listen for 10, 15 minutes or more. They can subscribe and get them automatically delivered to their mobile devices — which makes people more likely to actually listen.
Setting up a podcast on iTunes is a very manageable process; you just have to know where to begin. To help, iTunes provides an extensive information page. In this post I break it down into five steps and include some advice for getting the most out of your podcast. I just set up my own podcast for my sermon blog using this process and it works like a charm.
In short, iTunes requires you to submit an RSS feed to create a new podcast. RSS feeds — short for “Really Simple Syndication” — are a way of notifying services like iTunes when new content is available. They are generated most commonly, easily and freely by blogs. Here’s how to record your audio, put it on a blog, find your feed and set up your podcast.
1. Record your sermon
You’ll need to record your sermon in an MP3 format. If you already do this, jump ahead to the next step. If you aren’t already doing this, you have some options:
- Tap into your building’s sound system and record audio directly to your computer in Garage Band (Mac) or Audacity (PC).
- Record it on your smartphone or use a stand-alone digital recorder. I’ve used the H2 Zoom with good success, but there are plenty of affordable options. Then download the recording to your computer.
Add value: To enhance the sound on the recording, you can import the audio into Garage Band or Audacity and apply effects like “male speech” or “female speech” that give the audio more presence and warmth. If you feel inspired, you can add a little music at the beginning and end of the recording, but don’t overdo it.
2. Blog it
Whether you want to actually blog your sermons or not, you will need to set up a blog to get an RSS feed.
If you already have a sermon blog, jump to the next step . If you don’t have a blog, create one using a free service like Wordpress.com or Blogger. If you only want to podcast, don’t worry about the design and extra features. Save time and keep it simple.
Create your first blog post. Insert your sermon audio file into a new post. Create a title for the post with the name of your sermon. (Keep in mind that post title will be the name of the podcast episode, so make it self-explanatory.) Save and publish the post. You should see it on your blog.
For each new sermon, create a new blog post, inserting the audio file into the post and giving the post a clear title.
3. Find the URL (Web address) of your RSS feed
In Wordpress and Blogger, it should look something like this:
Add value: Many bloggers (myself included) like to use Feedburner for their RSS feed. It provides a number of good RSS enhancements. For podcasts, they offer “SmartCast,” which allows you to create a little extra content — category, image for your feed, summary, keywords — to the podcast information. (You can’t do this in iTunes itself, so this is a good option if you care about this.)
To set up Feedburner, go to feedburner.google.com and paste your RSS Web address in the box under “Burn my feed right this instant” and submit. Check that you are a podcaster. Feedburner walks you through the steps of setting up your feed. (Your original RSS feed still exists, but you use the Feedburner Web address.)
Your new RSS feed will look something like my sermon blog feed:
Go into SmartCast and add the additional information. Be sure to include a picture. Activate the service.
4. Submit feed to iTunes
Open the iTunes application on your computer. (Do an online search if you need to download it. Set up an account, if you don’t have one.) Go to iTunes Store. Navigate to “Podcasts” at the top menu and “Submit Podcast” on the right menu. Enter your feed Web address and fill in supplemental information. Submit.
You will receive an email confirmation that it was submitted and that it is being reviewed. Once confirmed, which should be in a day or two, you’ll receive another email confirming you were approved and the link to your podcast. Your podcast will be available within iTunes but it will also have a webpage like the one for my sermon podcast. This is where you want to direct people, so they can listen on the webpage or subscribe in iTunes.
Be sure to let people know you are on iTunes. Put your podcast link on your sermon blog or your congregation’s website, and share it on Facebook and Twitter.
Keith Anderson is the pastor at Upper Dublin Lutheran Church an ELCA congregation in Ambler, Pa. He is co-author with Elizabeth Drescher of “Click2Save: The Digital Ministry Bible,” a hands-on guide to social media for ministry.