How to setup a podcast from your wordpress.com blog

Lets be honest: Many people would rather consume content from a podcast in 2017 than read your blog. I personally spend no time reading blogs anymore on personal interests, but I still spend hours each week walking the dog or biking to work whilst consuming podcast content.

So how do you take your wordpress.com-hosted blog and get it to work on the itunes podcast search engine?

How to do it

 Assign a specific content tag to all of the podcast posts you have (that ought to have an embedded audio file or link to an audio file in them). The obvious category is ‘podcast.’ And if your blog is livingprophets.wordpress.com, then the podcast feed becomes  livingprophets.wordpress.com/category/podcast/feed/.

 Upload some audio files to archive.org (or soundcloud, or any other file storage system) and put links to them in your posts. For my purpose, it HAD to be archive.org, because I am rebroadcasting the best of hundreds of sermons about liberal activist religion, and the origin of this project was to store this content in a permanent place. Archive.org is dedicated to archiving the Internet for posterity, and they charge nothing, and accept no advertisements.

Side note: In every church that I’ve been a member, they have hosted many years of sermons (on their own server) only to have a new webmaster come in and delete everything and start up a fresh “shiny new” website without any of that pesky evergreen content. It infuriates me. I’ve also seen a whole committee of sexagenarians at one church work to digitize old content that was deemed worthless at the time (40 years back). So, fet up with this situation, I started writing python code that would archive these sermons where webmasters couldn’t muddle with it – archive.org.

To upload a MP3 file to archive.org, you need to create a (free) account there. If you’re logged in, click the red arrow (below) to upload.

Once you upload your mp3, it’s not obvious what you need to link to in your blog post. On archive.org, you find your MP3 as a link on the right side (see the orange arrow below). Don’t link to the general page about your mp3 (shown in the screen shot).

https://archive.org/details/WilliamBarberIIWatchNightSermon2017podcastEdit

 Set up your wordpress.com for podcasting and feed itunes the right podcast information as explained here.

  1. From your WP Admin dashboard, go to Settings > Media
  2. Under the Podcasting section, choose your podcast category, our case, we choose Podcasts.
  3. Fill in the meta data for your podcast. This is what people searching for podcasts will see as the summary:
  • Podcast title:Title that will appear in iTunes
  • Podcast subtitle: Subtitle that will appear in iTunes
  • Podcast talent name: Podcast artist / producer
  • Podcast summary: Summary of your podcast that will appear in iTunes
  • Podcast copyright: Copyright information for iTunes
  • Mark as explicit: Mark yes if podcast contains adult language
  • Podcast image: Add URL for specific cover art to appear in iTunes
    (URL must be http:// only)
  • Podcast keywords: Add terms to help your podcast get discovered
  • Podcast categories: Visible under podcast details and in iTunes Store Browse

 Once that is all done, you can start to submit your podcast to the major search engines. Of these, iTunes is the granddaddy. If you’re not on iTunes, your podcast is nearly invisible.

To do that, you need to create an apple ID. Since I own no Apple products, this took a while. I had to download iTunes to my PC, then get an account, and I wasn’t able to verify myself for a while. About two hours just getting into iTunes. THEN, I could submit my podcast here: https://podcastsconnect.apple.com/

Where else should you submit your podcast?

 Format your posts properly! It’s a shame there’s so much secret knowledge needed here to ensure iTunes listeners can actually download your episodes. After a month of trial and error, I was able to consistently post audio hosted on archive.org and listed on livingprophets.wordpress.com and see it on my podcast app, which was reading feed via iTunes. Here is what works:

  1. Embed a link to your audio using a regular href tag, not the fancy embedded audio plugin wordpress uses.
  2. Use http on links. Links to MP3s hosted on archive.org will always be secure (https). Change them to http before posting these links on your blog. Inspect the ‘text’ version of a post in your blog editor to make sure the embedded link is http.
  3. !important! Put the audio link before the embedded wordpress plugin. This rule took me forever to decipher. iTunes will extract the audio out of the first link it finds. If this is https, or wordpress’s embedded player plugins, it will fail to download the content. However, if you put the player AFTER a working http link to the audio, it will work!

    The http://archive.org/some-file-link-here special code will create a fancy click to play audio widget in the post itself, if it is on its own line, and not inside a list like this example. You want this. But you also don’t want it to confuse the many apps reading your RSS feed trying to find the audio to serve listeners. So the order of your content matters. Put the link first and the audio widget after it. I typically put it at the end of a brief description of what the audio is about.

  4. Make your embedded audio look nice by putting an image inside the link to your audio, such as a play button. Remember: some podcast apps will show your blog post in the app itself, so ugly hurts you.

    I chose to make this image a logo for my podcast, and put it first on each post, like this: 

 Don’t waste your money. All this cost me nothing. WordPress was free. Audio storage on archive.org was free. And listing podcasts on iTunes was also free. There are people who will take your money for each of these parts, if you insist on giving it to them.

 Don’t let your podcast get stale. If you don’t intend to post stuff at least monthly, don’t start a podcast. Podcasts with hundreds of older episodes do get sorted at the top of podcast apps, even if not auto-sorted to the top of iTunes. To win in iTunes search, you need lots of good positive reviews of your podcast on the system, and only a few podcasts have the audience to do that. But the apps that pull from podcasts are more forgiving of your newness and smallness, so long as you provide consistent new content.

Also, it’s okay to repost old podcasts after a while. Just change the publish date of your old blog post to now, and it will go out as a fresh episode. Planet money does this about every fifth episode, and they have almost 800 episodes, so nobody is complaining. It’s most likely one you haven’t already heard.

I have considered starting a podcast in each of the last 5 years, but always decided against it, because I wasn’t able to see myself keeping it up for more than a dozen episodes. In the case of the podcast I just launched (living prophets on iTunes) I knew I could. I have over 300 past sermons archived and ready to go, in addition to the new ones that I discover each month.

Currently I am publishing a podcast of some new or old sermon about every other day. I want to get about 100 back episodes listed there, so that I get more visibility in search. After that, I can slow down to posting just once or twice a week, and re-posting old sermons that get the most views.

In addition to these, I am experimenting with recording my own podcast, complete with intro music where I read great speeches that don’t have good audio, like this one. If I can polish one of these off in under 20 minutes, I can keep this up. The biggest time-suck is finding good content to rebroadcast, and screening through oodles of mediocre sermons out there. But that’s a hobby I enjoy, and hopefully my listeners will enjoy getting a digest of the best, more inspirational speakers out there.

Happy podhosting!

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