Podcasting for Small Museums: A How-to-Guide

This guide has been written for museum professionals and volunteers having only basic computer skills who wish to learn more about podcasting and how to produce their own podcast. The guide will walk the reader through the step-by-step process of creating a podcast using the freeware program Audacity. This document was created by the Community Museums Association of Prince Edward Island for the Canadian Heritage Information Network.

What is a Podcast?

The word podcast comes from the words "iPod" and "broadcasting". Therefore, podcasting is a method for creating electronic content which can be broadcasted and played on a portable device such as an iPod or smart phone, and can be produced in either video or audio only formats. In the following document, we are going to explore how museums can use, create and upload audio podcasts. These podcasts are created in a format such as a digital MP3 audio file and can be played on a portable device or a personal computer at the viewer's convenience.

Podcasting has become a great way to share information with a wide variety of audiences on the internet. They can be informational, promotional, educational and entertaining. The website emarketer.com estimates that in , 30.6 million American internet users listened to one podcast a month. They can explore any theme or topic; tell our stories and news; act as a record of events; or bring people and communities together.

Podcasts and Benefits of Podcasting for Museums

Podcasting can be a revolutionary new addition to a museum's programming possibilities. In addition to your regular museum visiting public, you can engage new audiences who are turning to new technologies and digital sources to learn about their community and the world. Having a regular podcast can bring your museum into people's homes providing valuable information to listeners while also promoting your museum and showing people what your museum has to offer.

Museum podcasts can be used to describe a museum's gallery or explore the meaning of the elements in a painting with an expanded audience. They can share engaging interviews with specialists, historians or museum staff; describe an object and its history; promote a temporary exhibit; celebrate recent archaeological discoveries or new works that have been added to the museum's permanent exhibition; or provide a special interest tour for museum visitors. Podcasts are an excellent tool to share information and promote your museum.

Audio podcasts can be used to provide listeners with updated museum news or to describe objects in your collection and their stories. Schools can access podcasts providing students the opportunity to learn about your museum, its collections and the community. Podcasts provide a whole new arena for museums to showcase the wonderful artefacts that have been waiting to have their stories told and enjoyed. Museums can benefit from the increased profile and promotion that a podcast can generate in the community and on the internet.

Some examples are:

  • The British Museum has a series of Podcasts called "A History of the World in 100 Objects." These podcasts are done incredibly well, being both informative and entertaining. The 100 part series by Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum explores world history from two million years ago to the present. These podcasts have been presented on the radio in Britain.
  • The Canadian Museum of Nature has a series of podcasts on various topics related to nature and its preservation. The podcasts give viewers a great understanding of what the museum does. They are available on the Canadian Museum of Nature's website.
  • The Friends of Banff, a not-for-profit organization, has several podcasts on various park related topics. These podcasts inform potential visitors about the many wonders and projects of the Banff National Park Museum.
  • The Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto has a series of podcasts called, "Shoe Stories" and "On a Pedestal Podcast Series" that started in the Fall of . Once a month, a new shoe-related podcast is posted on their webpage. These podcasts are unique.

Incorporating a podcast into your museum's offerings to the public will help you reach new audiences and provide a new way for you to interact with visitors.

Five tips to a Successful Podcast

Listening to podcasts is a great way to learn how to make yours successful. Analyzing their conversational and technical approaches will help you figure out how you want your podcast to sound. Examining podcasts from other museums will give you a sense of what others are doing and what can be successful. Many things come into the equation when creating a successful podcast. They include:

  • Theme: Choosing the correct theme is central to a podcast's success. What exactly will your podcast be about and why? Themes can be educational, informational, promotional, and timely. A theme should be engaging, entertaining, informative and appropriate for your museum's mandate.
  • Format/Style: What format will your podcast take? Will it be conversational, a news feature, or another approach. How your podcast flows, taking into account the information that will be presented is important. Speakers should be animated and give the podcast personality. Listeners want to hear a person behind the microphone … not just a voice. Podcasts should also be predictable with one element flowing into the next.
  • Time: Although longer podcast can be successful, it is usually best if each episode is relatively short (15 minutes or less). Episodes of your podcast should appear on a regular basis if you are doing a series of podcasts. Quick and to the point is best for a podcast.
  • Music: Theme music can add a great deal of the personality to a podcast. Keep theme music brief (about 10-15 seconds) and be sure to use good quality music. Comply with copyright laws. There are a number of sites on-line which offer short copyright free music elements.
  • Professionalism: If the podcast is professionally presented to the public, this will speak volumes to the professionalism of your museum and enhance its reputation.

Podcasting Equipment and Software Needs

To create a podcast your equipment and software needs are relatively simple and inexpensive.

  1. Access to the high-speed broadband internet
  2. Computer
    • All of the editing for the podcast will be done on your computer (PC or Mac).
    • PCs require Windows XP or Vista or more recent.
    • Built-in sound card and in/out jacks (for the transmission and reception of audio signals).

      * PLEASE NOTE: The layout for the Audacity program is slightly different between Windows XP and Windows Vista. The steps for how to upload, edit and export files are, however, basically the same. If you encounter any problems that this guide does not address please use the help tab in the Audacity program.

  3. Microphone
  4. Headphones and/or Headset
  5. Digital Recorder
    • A good quality digital recorder with enough range to pick up voices and sounds 3 – 4 feet away from it, and if you plan on doing any recording directly into the editing program a desktop microphone is a necessity.
  6. Podcasting Editing Software

Finding Affordable Podcast Editing Software

While searching the internet for affordable podcast editing software, there are many sites one will come across - some are completely free and some are trials which are not overly expensive. What you are looking for is one that has the basic editing tools. A podcasting editing program should be able to record, upload sound tracks and edit audio either pre-recorded or recorded directly into the program. They should offer online tutorials and how-to videos.

The podcasting editor we chose was Audacity, which is a free downloadable, multi-track recording and editing software program. This means you can record or import various sections of audio and have them overlap or play at the same time. You can move tracks around and have tracks start and stop at specific times, and users can record audio directly into the program and edit it right away. Audacity is a widely used program and you will be able to find many examples and helpful hints about Audacity on the internet.

Instructions on How to Download Audacity

To download Audacity:

  1. Visit the Sourceforge's download page for Audacity, then follow the web site's instructions to install the software onto your hard drive.
  2. When the installation is complete, Audacity may launch automatically. If Audacity opens automatically, close the program. You will need to download LAME MP3 (a software tool for encoding audio signals into high quality MP3 audio format) encoder before you can start working with Audacity. This is vital to enable Audacity to export files in MP3 format, the most common and widely supported audio file format used for podcasting.

To download the encoder, go to the Lame encoder download page. This webpage contains a table with several download links. Depending on whether you are using a PC or Mac, choose the appropriate link.

Double click to open the file you have saved to your computer. The file you are looking for is called lame_enc.dll on Windows and libmp3lame.dylib on Mac. You will need to paste the file into a new folder. You can name the folder something like "LAME for Audacity". This folder can be created in your Documents folder or another easy to find place on your computer. It should not be deleted. It is important to remember where the file is because you will need to be able to find it when you go to export your files after editing.

How to Record a Podcast

Now that you have decided to do a podcast, this section will take you through the various steps from set up and preparation to the finished product.

Location

This guide assumes you will be recording audio tracks using the computer on which audacity has been installed. The easiest place to do this is in a studio (any enclosed room will suffice) but (depending on your equipment's portability), locations may also include your museum galleries or off-site. The location for interviews will affect the sound quality and the control you have over outside noises. For example, an interview in a quiet room will improve the sound quality and eliminate background noise. If you are doing your podcast off-site, be aware that the sound recording equipment you are using will make a big difference in how it sounds. If you are doing the interview in the museum's gallery choose a time when no visitors will be viewing the space to avoid unnecessary noise and interruptions.

Set Up

Make sure all of your equipment is running properly before the interview begins. Do some test for sound quality and ensure that the space is comfortable. Make the interviewee comfortable and go over your questions with them so they will know what to expect.

Podcast - Introduction

At the beginning of the podcast, there are a few things that you will want to say in the introduction. These include the podcast title or topic, the person being interviewed, the podcast number and date, the name of the museum/organization producing, the name of the interviewer or host, and a welcome to the listener. The introduction can be either followed by or introduced with theme music which will help establish the podcast's brand. (This can be done in the editing process).

Podcast - Main Body

During the planning stages of your podcast, you will have decided what type of format you would like to have. Formats include:

  • 1. Conversational - Uses prepared list of questions but appears quite natural and conversational;
  • 2. Scripted - Uses Cue cards and relies on script;
  • 3. News - Provides news and information for listeners; or
  • 4. Explanatory - Describes or tells stories about an object or series of events.

It is important that you know exactly why you are conducting the podcast and what goals you are aiming for. The host or interviewer acts like an interested investigator and needs to be comfortable, relaxed and engaged in the topic. Speak confidently and try to imagine you're talking to a group of people. It is also important to remember that since it is an audio format, you are the listener's eyes so describe what you are seeing when appropriate.

Questions should flow sequentially so it is good before recording the interview to chat with the interviewee about your questions and what will be said. Some interviewees may like to see a list of questions so they can prepare their answers and be able to respond with a thought out answer while others may find it easier to speak unrehearsed.

Podcast - Conclusion

Once you have finished the interview share a few words of thanks with the interviewee and provide appropriate contact information. You may also want to end your podcast with a few closing words about the museum and thank the listeners for their interest. At the end of the podcasts, you can play the same music theme that was used in the introduction. This will help establish the music as a brand for your podcast.

Editing and Processing Your Podcasts Using Audacity Software

After you have gathered your information, conducted your interviews and prepared your sound files, it is time for you to create your final podcast. The most important part in the creation of a podcast is the editing and processing of the content into an entertaining and engaging offering for podcast listeners to enjoy. This section will take you through the basics of the step-by-step processing of your podcast using the podcast editor - Audacity.

Audacity Controls

While working with Audacity you will first need to understand some of the basic controls of the program, which are listed below.

  1. You can pause your recording at anytime with the first button.
  2. When you press the second button which is the "Play" button, your clip will start wherever you have selected in Audacity.
  3. The third button allows you to "Stop" recording and to "Stop" listening to your project at any time.
  4. The fourth button "Skip to Start" will take you right back to the beginning of the project.
  5. Clicking fifth button "Skip to End" button will take you to the end of the project.
  6. The sixth button which is "Record" will allow you to record audio from a microphone or headset plugged into your computer. You stop recording by clicking the third button which is "Stop".

Editing with Audacity

While recording your content, there will be most likely some mistakes that happen along the way which you will want to fix. This can include things like excessive um's or ah's, or someone may cough or repeat themselves during the interview. These issues can easily be "Cut" out of the recording using a podcast editor like Audacity. Using Audacity, you are able to fine-tune the audio for your podcast. Following the instructions below will make the process easier.

  1. Open Audacity and use File | Open to open the file you would like to edit.
  2. Go to File | Export to export the file as an MP3 and save the file with a different name so you do not tamper with or change the original file.
  3. In the main window, you will see some wave forms to the right – probably two if it is a stereo recording. To the left of each wave form is a scale and to the left of that box are the file name and some descriptive information.
  4. Go to the top left-hand corner of the top wave form and your cursor will turn into a different cursor. Click near to the beginning of the area of the wave form you would like to cut out. A vertical line will appear to indicate the point in the wave form that you've just clicked.
  5. Click and drag to the right to select the portion of the wave form to be removed. The selected area will appear with a darker blue background.
  6. Move your mouse near the left edge of the selection and it will turn into a hand pointer. Use this hand pointer to push the selected area to exactly what portion of the wave form that will be deleted.
  7. Once you have selected an area to be deleted, click the play button at the top to be sure that you will be cutting the right selection of the wave form.
  8. Ensure that the shaded area you have selected is what you would like to be removed.
  9. To cut the shaded section you have selected use EDIT | CUT to remove it. You may use EDIT | UNDO CUT to put it back.

You might find if very helpful to search for video tutorials online for help with editing. Having a video to help with the process is a great idea. Take time to learn the software and practice editing pieces of sound from one place to another. Getting acquainted with the equipment is a vital part of having a successful podcast. YouTube hosts a "Creating a Podcast with Audacity" video that that we found quite helpful.

Working with Pre-Recorded Digital Audio Files

If you have a digital recorder or pre-recorded digital audio files, you will need to open the files in Audacity in order to edit them. Below are the instructions on how to do this.

  1. The first thing is find the Audacity icon on your computer and click on it. The entrance page will come up. Close any pop ups that come on screen.
  2. If you have pre-recorded sound files on a USB flash drive (thumb drive) or in a file on your PC, you can find those files by clicking File|Open which is at the top left hand corner of the page.
  3. Choose the location for the sound files you would like and open them.
  4. Select the file to import into Audacity and click Open.
  5. This is what the sound file looks like once you have opened it in Audacity.

Cropped image of a sound track as displayed in audacity.

Importing Multiple Files

Not every podcast will require multiple audio files but some may, especially if content comes from different sources. The way in which multiple tracks are imported varies slightly from one release of Audacity to the next. In general, use the Import Audio feature (sometimes found under the File menu option, or if your version of Audacity has it, the Project menu option).

Three sound tracks in Audacity

When additional files have been imported into Audacity, they appear as above. While this manual does not cover all effects and editing features available in Audacity (as there are comprehensive manuals online for this), one commonly required effect for multiple tracks is a transition.

If you choose to use a transitional effect such as fade-in or fade-out, your next step will be to click the Effect menu tab. Select the area where you would like the effect to be. For example, click Effect and select Fade In for the selected area at the beginning of the sound clip and then select the area at the end of the sound clip and click Effect|Fade Out. The sound file will now play and slowly fade in and out.

  1. After the Effects have been created, this is what the file should look like.

Image of multiple tracks in Audacity.

Exporting your Podcast

Podcast files can be exported in various formats depending on how and where they will be used. The size of the file can also vary depending on the podcast length and quality. We recommend that you export a medium quality MP3 version for downloading.

To do this from Audacity in Windows, use the following steps (these steps may be slightly different for MAC:

  1. Select the File Menu tab
  2. From the File Menu, select Export…
  3. Save the File Type as MP3 (note that Audacity will need to know where the LAME encoder is located, the first time you do this).
  4. Select the Options… button
  5. Set the quality to 128kbps for download, and higher for working versions.

Metadata

To improve the odds of users finding your podcasts when using search engines such as Google or Yahoo, it is necessary to add metadata labels to your audio files. Most audio file editors and Podcast delivery services (such as iTunes) will automatically prompt you for this data. The Export feature in Audacity for instance will automatically walk you through the steps required to add metadata, including "Artist Name", "Track Title", "Year", "Genre", "Comments", etc. This feature also allows you to create metadata Tags (i.e. Fields) of your own naming that are more relevant to the work you create.

How to Publish Podcast Audio Files to your Website

Note from CHIN : Instructions on the webpage below provide museums with an easy-to-use method for posting a Flash-based podcast to their website using free software, without having to write or understand code. Note that flash is a proprietary multimedia platform owned by Adobe, to add animation, video, and interactivity to webpages. At the time this manual was created, Flash objects were still being used for special features on websites. However, this is decreasingly true. Webpages containing Flash are generally difficult to use by those with disabilities. Likewise, webpages containing Flash are generally not operable on mobile devices. For these reasons, coders are avoiding the use of Flash in favour of HTML5 (an open standard language for the creation and structuring content for the world wide web, which has been developed with the goal of supporting multimedia across various devices, including mobile), and Flash is not permitted on CHIN-funded websites. As of January 2013, CHIN is unaware of any free software that creates podcasts in HTML5 with the same ease described in the steps below, but this may change with time. Readers are therefore encouraged to perform a web search on the string "Creating easy podcasts using HTML5 software" before proceeding with the instructions below. If newer software has been developed that produces simple podcasts in HTML5, readers are encouraged to explore this alternate solution.

Once you have your podcast uploaded, you will want to insert it into your website. There are a number of programs which help to insert audio to a website. We chose the freeware Web Audio Plus which is easy to use. Below are directions for downloading and using the program.

Web Audio Plus

  1. Step one: Get the program the CNET download page for Web Audio Plus.
  2. Step two: Extract and install the program to your computer.

    The first screen (seen below) that pops up gives you a choice to make a new audio file or load an already created MP3 file. Click the option to load previously recorded/edited files.

    Web Audio Plus Main Screen.

    The next screen will prompt you to open your podcast within "Web Audio Plus". Open your podcast and then select (as seen below) the look and color of your play, pause, stop buttons. Select a style that fits in well with the design of your website. Then press the "Next" button.

    Screen in Web Audio Plus that presents a selection of Play, Pause and Stop buttons.

    Below is the next screen that will come up:

    Web Audio Screen showing the HTML code to be copied.

    The large white box that is labelled "HTML code to insert flash object:" is where you get the code to insert into your website. Now copy and paste the "HTML code" into your webpage where you want it to go. You will need to go into your source code on your website to find the location and place the HTML code for your podcast.

What is HTML?

Hyper Text Mark-up Language (HTML) is a human-readable language that contains computer readable instructions (or tags). These instructions determine how the content (the human-readable component) will be formatted for presentation on webpages or in email messages. For the novice website designer or anyone else who needs to know a certain code or wants to learn how to create an entire website, there are many software utilities, programs and websites that can assist him or her in writing HTML code.

Example:
<head>
<title>the title</title>
</head>

The above example uses software to generate the source code that will be added to your webpage. Another option is to manually create the HTML source code. Instructions on doing this are outlined in Appendix A.

Uploading your Podcast to iTunes

You can submit your own podcast to the iTunes Store (a media library developed by Apple Inc. which is accessed online through Apple's free software, also known as iTunes). Before you begin, you need to download iTunes to your computer. To submit your podcast make sure that you're using iTunes 4.9 or later. You will also need to have the URL of the podcast you want to publish. The URL is the internet page address which holds the podcast you have created.

To make a submission:

  1. Open iTunes.
  2. Click on the iTunes Store
  3. When the iTunes Store opens, select "Podcasts" which is either at the top of the window or along the left hand side.
  4. Once you have opened "Podcasts," under Podcast Quick Links you will find "Submit a Podcast".
  5. Now follow the Directions from iTunes.

Note: You will need to put your podcast on your website before you can submit it to iTunes. The iTunes team reviews each podcast submission. Depending on demand, it may take a week or two before your podcast is added.

Bibliography

Books

Morris, Tee and Evo Terra. Podcasting for Dummies. Indianapolis, Indiana: Wiley Publishing Inc, 2006.

Internet Citation

Appendix A: How to Add Sound to a Webpage

Earlier on in this guide, an example was given of how to publish audio to a webpage using software that automatically generates HTML code, which can then be cut-and-pasted into your webpage.

Audio can also be added by directly editing HTML without the aid of web publishing software. This section teaches you some basic HTML that can be manually created and added to your webpage:

Creating HTML code for Audio

  1. Open your webpage in a software application created for editing webpages. This must have the ability to edit the source code to follow this tutorial.
  2. Start with an object element:
    <object>
  3. You'll add 4 parameters to the object. The first is "src" that tells the browser where to find the sound file. In this example, the sound file is eureka.mp3, which must be uploaded to your website's server to the same directory as the webpage:
    <param name="src" value="eureka.mp3" />
  4. If you want the sound file to play immediately after it's loaded, make the autostart parameter "true", otherwise make it "false":
    <param name="autostart" value="true" />
  5. The parameter autoplay is similar to autostart, just used by other browsers, set it the same as the autostart parameter:
    <param name="autoplay" value="true"/>
  6. Use the controller parameter to tell the browser if a controller should be displayed to give your readers more control over the sound:
    <param name="controller" value="true" />
  7. Inside the <object></object> element, add an embed element:
    <embed />
  8. Add the following four attributes that are the same as the parameters to the object:
    <embed src="eureka.mp3" controller="true" autoplay="true" autostart="True" />
  9. Add the correct MIME type for your sound file into the type attribute:
    <embed src="eureka.mp3" controller="true" autoplay="true" autostart="True" type="audio/mp3" />
  10. Add the plugins page attribute so that people who don't have the correct plugin for your sound file can go download it. For MP3 files, QuickTime is recommended:
    <embed src="eureka.mp3" controller="true" autoplay="true" autostart="True" type="audio/mp3" pluginspage="http://www.apple.com/quicktime/download/" />
  11. When you're done, your HTML for the audio file itself should look like this:
    <object> <param name="autostart" value="true"> <param name="src" value="eureka.mp3"> <param name="autoplay" value="true"> <param name="controller" value="true"> <embed src="eureka.mp3" controller="true" autoplay="true" autostart="True" type="audio/mp3" /> </object>

Tips

  1. Don't validate your webpage with the embed tag. It won't validate because that tag is not part of the specification. But only Safari supports the object tag for sound.
  2. Check out the embed tag for additional attributes. Many of them you can use as parameters on your object as well.
  3. CMAPEI recommends always setting the controller="true" attribute. That way, if someone doesn't want to hear sound on your webpage, they can turn it off.
  4. For the most accessible (and valid) sound, just link to your sound file.
    <a href="Museum.mp3">Museum sound file</a>
    That gives your customers the choice to listen or not.

Downloading Quicktime

To hear the sound, a computer visiting the webpage will require an audio player, such as the Quicktime plug-in (a set of software components that can be downloaded and used as part of existing web browser software). To download Quicktime, go to http://www.apple.com/quicktime/download/ and type your email into the box on the webpage, select your preferred language and click the "Download Now" button. Once the download is complete go through the installation process that is Step by Step pop ups and then Open the Quicktime program. Once this has been installed, you will be able to hear the podcast on your website.

Contact information for this web page

This resource was published by the Canadian Heritage Information Network (CHIN). For comments or questions regarding this content, please contact CHIN directly. To find other online resources for museum professionals, visit the CHIN homepage or the Museology and conservation topic page on Canada.ca.

Report a problem or mistake on this page
Please select all that apply:

Thank you for your help!

You will not receive a reply. For enquiries, contact us.

Date modified: