Image: Juliette Wallack
Charles Krupa  /  AP
Associated Press writer Juliette Wallack poses while recording her podcast in Boston on July 13.
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updated 7/16/2005 2:21:48 PM ET 2005-07-16T18:21:48
REVIEW

My introduction to podcasting — the convergence of iPods, broadcasting and the time-shifting that TiVo popularized — came when Apple's iTunes recently began making podcasts available for download.

I realized that nearly anybody can make and distribute a podcast. Got the moxie to upstage Howard Stern? Outrap Eminem? Scoop Nina Totenberg?

All you really need to record and offer the public your own podcast — after all, it's just an audio file — is a computer, a microphone and the Internet. Digital voice recorders are optional.

You also should probably have something to say.

I'm 22, just out of college, and don't expect to be the next Garrison Keillor. But I was intrigued by the idea and sampled the menu of podcasts out there. Some sounded as if they'd been recorded on a walkie-talkie, others like they came out of professional studios.

Podcast topics range from the latest in gadgets to fine wines. There's some incredibly polished scripted entertainment and storytelling, and traditional media is now jumping in on the genre.

I started simple. I'd do a two-minute podcast about making a podcast.

OK, but how?

Theoretically, the process is simple: record a sound file and upload it to the Web. After that, anyone can download your podcast for listening on a computer or portable music player.

First you have to capture the audio. I used my two-year-old Dell laptop, though the recording equipment used by podcasters varies widely. Some spend hundreds on high-end microphones and sound editing software.

I spent $13 for a basic microphone.

Ten minutes after I got home with it, the mike was plugged into my computer's audio input jack and I was ready to start talking.

But with no sound-editing program on my personal computer, I had no way of saving the words.

I'd lately been consorting with podcasters, who recommended podcastalley.com. It's got comprehensive lists of podcasts and resources. I checked out ipodder.org and podcast.net, too. Both had plenty of podcasts listed but few resources for novices like me.

Sure enough, podcastalley.com had the best tips for beginners, including a link to free sound-editing software I could download.

Audacity, the best free program I could find, worked seamlessly with my mike and offered lots features more than I would need, including the option of using multiple tracks (in case I wanted to fade music in and out, for example). Audacity is available for both Windows and Mac OS X.

I also needed a way to distribute my podcast to the world — at no cost to me — once I was done recording it.

Several free hosting options out exist, but some I tried either didn't load reliably or looked unprofessional.

I settled for podblaze.com. It has a simple design, quick registration and the uploading was a breeze.

Now all I had to do was record my podcast.

Two minutes later, I had a sound file. My $13 microphone produced astoundingly good sound quality.

Audacity had automatically formatted the sound in a file type unique to the program. It took some maneuvering to convert the file to MP3, the industry standard. I had to download a small file so that Audacity could handle the task.

After that, I was set and transferred to file to the Web.

Three minutes later, my podcast was on podblaze.com. I coerced a friend in New York to listen, just to make sure everything was working. It was. I even earned a compliment for my "on-air voice."

I had started small.

Podcasters seeking more exposure can submit podcasts to iTunes or Odeo.com and get listed in their directories of shows. The more ambitious can also automate the upload process if they want to make a regular habit out of this.

As for me, I'm not sure I have enough to say to become a serial podcaster.

Shall I return the $13 mike?

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