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Back on the Air

Part 2 of a two-part beginning guide to the wide world of podcasting.

If you read last month’s column you probably already understand the general concept behind viewing and subscribing to podcasts with your Windows PC. This month, we’ll explore how to take the next step and set up your own podcasts.

It isn’t as hard as it looks. In fact, all you really need to join the world of the podcasters is a Windows PC with an Internet connection, a microphone and/or video camera, and the right software. And since you’re reading Windows Advisor, there’s a better-than-average chance you already have the first part of that three-part equation. The second part of the equation can be purchased and installed easily enough, (you might even have them already) so this column will concentrate on the third: the software needed to help you create podcasts, and what to do with the broadcast stream once you’ve actually created it.

Unlike most podcast viewers, the programs that enable you to create your own podcasts aren’t usually free. Therefore, you have to choose a little more wisely when deciding on the software you want to use. Propaganda, from Mixmeister Technology, enables you to create commercial-quality podcasts with a minimum of effort. Whether you’re using voice recordings, music or sound effects, Propaganda can record it, import it, and store it. All your audio clips can be labeled and organized for later reference. Then when you’re ready to put together the final product, just drag your audio clips into a show sequence and preview how everything sounds.

You can also reorder clips on the timeline, add more content, delete entire segments at will, or edit any clip to make it shorter, louder, or quieter. When you’re satisfied with your production, simply click the Publish button to share it with the world. Propaganda will upload your completed podcast to your Web site, with full RSS, XML, and HTML support.

The program is very intuitive and easy to use. Within an hour of downloading, I had put together a mini-show complete with music and sound effects worthy of the best that FM radio has to offer. And even though I, a novice at podcasting, was able to quickly and easily put together a podcast, there’s a lot here for more advanced users as well. You can mix, alter, and customize your audio to your heart’s content. One note, however: If you don’t have your own Web site, you’ll have to find space somewhere else. The program does make it easy to upload podcasts, but doesn’t actually provide you with space on the Web. (If you don’t have your own Web space and aren’t interested in subscribing to a service, check out Freewebspace.net for a list of free space on the Web.)

You can download a 30-day trial version of Propaganda . The program costs $50 to register.

OK, so who wants to learn to use yet another piece of software? If you can’t stand the thought of adding yet another program to your already-crowded desktop but still want to get involved in podcasting, there’s hope for you yet. Enter Audioblog.com, a Web site that enables you to join the podcasting elite via calling a telephone number and recording up to 60 minutes of your innermost thoughts, opinions, and diatribes.

Of course, the site also supports uploading previously-created podcast files (in MP3 or WAV formats) and recording audio and video through the use of the company’s BlogRecorder software. Though the phone option is by far the easiest avenue to getting your podcast on the air, the BlogRecorder is a great piece of software that offers features such as audio splicing, sound effects, and more. All you need to use the software is a microphone and a flash-enabled browser such as Internet Explorer or Firefox. And if you have a webcam, you can even take advantage of the software’s ability to record video podcasts.

AudioBlog offers a free seven-day trial membership. After that, the service costs $5 a month or $50 a year. Though ultimately more expensive, if you don’t want to have to learn to use Propaganda and don’t have access to a Web site to host your content (AudioBlog hosts content for you) this might be the route to go.

Contributing Editor Joe DeRouen writes Windows Advisor monthly for ComputerUser.

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