Resurrection’s Weekly Sermon podcast is now live. Here’s the link to our feed: http://www.cor.org/index.php?id=2485
Read on to learn how we built the podcast and publicized it to the world.
We decided to base our podcast feed on the RSS 2.0 capability that is built in to the ttnews plugin in TYPO3. First, we had to get ttnews working properly and generating the RSS feed. Then we had to modify ttnews to make it add enclosure tags to the feed for the MP3 files. While we were at it, we decided to add the iTunes-specific tags as well.
Next, we had to think about the user experience. We know that podcasting is a new technology that is only understood well by techies and other early adopters. When we release this capability to the 7,000+ weekly visitors to our website, how will the non-techies react to it? Will they be confused? Intimidated?
Podcasting technology is relatively immature and lacks a large installed base of podcatchers. iTunes is the only major media player that can act as a podcatcher. Also, Apple is the leader in integrating the website, music store, client software, and portable player device. Accordingly, we wanted to take advantage of Apple’s market leadership, but without endorsing iTunes or implying that other podcatchers wouldn’t work just as well.
So we did register the podcast with the iTunes Music Store. This is really a pain in the rear. First, you can’t do this on the iTunes website. You have to go to the Music Store inside the iTunes application. Within the iTunes application click “Podcasts” and then “Submit a podcast.” Then, you need an Apple ID. Then you need to sign up for the music store, which requires full contact information and a credit card as though you are going to download songs, even if you never intend to do that. (This whole time we’re thinking, “we just want to register our podcast with your stupid directory!”)
We’re a bit confused about the podcast metadata you supply when you register with iTunes. Once registered, there doesn’t seem to be any way to edit your registration. Yet, Apple does seem to pick up changes to the channel information in our feed. So perhaps it doesn’t really matter what information (such as genre, author, etc.) you give when you sign up? Perhaps the only thing that really matters is the channel information? Also, be aware that Apple is caching the channel information. We don’t know how frequently they poll the RSS feed for new information, but there doesn’t seem to be a way to ping it to let it know your feed has changed (Feedburner is great about this).
Finally, we had to figure out how we were going to explain this whole podcasting thing to non-techie site visitors. We’ve done a bunch of work on this and posted some pages on the site. We don’t know yet whether it is going to be adequate or whether further changes will be necessary. You can see our subscription page here and our FAQ page here. We borrowed the “Subscribe with iTunes” button from Brian Bailey. Thanks Brian! We hope you don’t mind.
The final test was asking my wife to subscribe. Watching her try and fail at this was a humbling experience for me. I had to tweak all the text on the subscription page before I got something that made sense to her. Once I wrote some text that she could understand, she downloaded iTunes. Then she had trouble installing it. When she finally got it installed, clicking the “Subscribe with iTunes” button didn’t work. So I suggested a reboot (thinking there might be something not registered correctly from the installation). Still no luck. She finally gave up on that and tried subscribing manually. This was a disaster too. This whole time I’m thinking, “I sure hope this podcasting thing doesn’t generate an avalanche of support calls! Ugh!”
Bottom line: it seems that podcasting is great for early adopters, but has a ways to go before it will work well for the masses. Feel free to comment if you think differently.