Podcasting for the Penguin!
Once the show is created and exported, it's critical to put the ID tags into the file. The ID tags provide the information that scrolls across the screen of listeners' digital audio players (DAP) or their digital audio applications. Without ID tags, listeners would be hard pressed to figure out what show and episode they're listening to. This information isn't necessary only for logistics, it's also critical for promoting your podcast. Listeners can't come back to find your next show if they don't know what the heck they're listening to.
Audacity has the ability to manage ID tags, but supports only a few fields. The Podcast Network standards required us to supply data for more than those few fields. Therefore, we had to turn to an external tagging application.
We went through a few different tagging applications and finally settled on EasyTag. EasyTag is a nice application that does one thing and does it well. It tags the heck out of Ogg Vorbis and MP3 files. EasyTag is GNU GPL'd and also available from SourceForge.
There's a real science to tagging podcasts and EasyTag has many more features than we use. Along with the basic functionality of embedding IDv2 and IDv3 tags in both MP3 and Ogg Vorbis files, EasyTag can be set to scan entire directories of audio files and auto-fill in the tags. Because we produce a podcast only once a week, we don't have a lot of use for these advanced features. But, if I had a hard drive full of nontagged music files, EasyTag's scanning feature would be very, very useful.
Aside from the technical aspects of tagging files, there are many different schools of thought on what information should go in to each tag. Most audio players scroll the title, artist and length of the file at a minimum across the screen while playing. Although the title and artist are generally pretty easy to figure out, the title tag requires more thought. Some podcasters put the name of the show and the date it was produced into the title tag. Others feel that the sequence number of show is more important than the date. Both sides typically argue that it's easier for a listener to keep track of a (sequence number or date) than a (date or sequence number).
This argument was likely more important in the beginning of podcasting, because podcatching software wasn't as advanced as it is now. What makes a podcast a podcast is that it is delivered via an RSS feed. An MP3 (or Ogg file) that is just linked to download on a Web page is just an audio file on the Web, not a podcast. Podcatcher is the affectionate name given to the genre of software that listeners can use to subscribe to these RSS feeds. Once you subscribe to a podcast, the podcatcher should check each show for new episodes and download them automatically. There are varying degrees of complexity in today's podcatchers, but most offer at least the check and download new episodes functionality.
One of the more popular GNU/Linux podcatchers is BashPodder [see Marcel Gagné's article on page 32 for more information on BashPodder] written by Linc Fessenden of The Linux Link Tech Show. Along with the basic BashPodder, Linc also wrote BPGUI, which is a nice GUI front end for the command-line BashPodder client. In true community fashion, Linc released BashPodder under the GNU GPL, and many people have made modifications to the base application. A quick Google search for the term BashPodder shows the wide variety of improvements and changes the community has made to it. Whatever your taste, it's likely that you will be able to find a flavour of BashPodder that meets your needs.
The stable of podcatchers for GNU/Linux is growing as podcasting becomes more popular. CastPodder [see Marcel Gagné's article on page 32 for more on CastPodder] is another popular podcatcher, and even amaroK has podcatching capabilities.
I cannot stress enough that content is what listeners tune in for. Audio quality is important, but it's not the Holy Grail. Good guests, solid content, credible hosts and regular production are what build an audience.
Jon Watson is the host of the weekly GNU/Linux User Show on The Podcast Network. Jon has written articles for Really Linux, Linux Journal, has been interviewed on the topic of podcasting for Alberta Venture Magazine and is slated to speak at the Calgary Linux User Group Linuxfest in spring of 2006. In his spare time, Jon also writes the New Linux User (www.newlinuxuser.com) blog for b5 Media (www.b5media.com) and can be contacted at email@example.com. Jon lives with his fiancée and co-host Kelly Penguin Girl in mountainous Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
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