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ChurchTech Podcasts

Podcasting is an amazing tool in a church's toolbox! Done right, it is a powerful addition to any ministry! In this article I want to highlight a few ideas that can prevent restricting listeners in either choices or ability. For a church, the whole point of a podcast is to reach a wide demographic and make it easy to get the word out. Unfortunately some church podcasts are difficult to obtain.

Go into all the world, and share the good news with all creation; even those without iTunes!

This is not a technical article on how to set up a podcast. If you are looking for that, start here: Making a Podcast. However, these are a few things to keep in mind while designing and maintaining your podcast.

Test your XML

I know it is easy to assume that your XML is good because it has worked in the past, but you need to be subscribed to your own podcast and test it weekly. Test it with different programs and devices. Make sure that it is working for everyone and not just you! I recently learned this the hard way when I moved web servers. I hadn't updated one line of code that generates my church's podcast feed and it was down for a couple weeks. Test weekly.

Give choices!

It is great that your church can provide HD video content, but where is the "audio only" podcast? If you provide a video podcast of a church service, give the option to subscribe to a MP3 version of the same service. I use an iPod classic for podcasts and I am surprised that sometimes I get a "not compatible with your device" warning from podcasts provided by large churches because they only provided an HD video. I could download the HD video and convert it for use with my iPod, but not everyone knows how to do that. MP3 files are the best way to reach widest range of devices.

Keep it small

I do what I can to keep the audio quality decent and file size small. Most weeks the podcast I upload is around 11mb. Why does size matter? Think of it this way. Not everyone has highspeed. For those on dialup connections, sometimes it can take 5 minutes for EACH MB downloaded. The average is about 2 and 1/2 minutes per MB. It is also being considerate of those using their mobile phones as their primary internet and not consuming their monthly data. If you are still worried about the quality of the audio, provide a high end podcast for the Audiophiles and a compressed version for everyone else.

Not everyone uses iTunes

While Apple products are the standard everyone uses when it comes to podcasting, we need to think outside the iBox. When you look at mobile device numbers, a huge part of the market is using Android. There is also the growing adoption of Linux for desktop computing to consider. iTunes can only run in Linux using an emulator and most times Linux users would rather avoid that. When you provide a "Subscribe to our podcast!" link and only link to the iTunes store, you make it more difficult for people not using iTunes. You can make it much easier for the non-iTunes users by providing a direct link to your XML feed.

Online Archives

We want to get the word out, but we also want to keep it available. One advantage of providing an audio podcast is the smaller filesize. At this point my church uses Amazon's cloud to serve up our podcast files. This takes advantage of their CDN and only costs us about $1/m to use. This covers the podcasts from the past 4 years. Being that inexpensive, pretty much every church can provide an archive of their services to download. Making this archive available online is HUGE as people in your church can go back to a message they know will help a friend and send them a link rather than requesting a CD from the audio team on Sunday morning.

Mobile Friendly

With more and more people using their phones and tablets for their online browsing, it makes sense to make our content easily accessible for these devices. Make sure your podcast page is easy to navigate and see on both tablets and smart phones. Going past typical "mobile friendly", I also provide QR codes on our podcast page that allow for direct download of a podcast if the user happens to be on a desktop computer but wants that specific recording on their mobile device.

Have a tip of your own?

Leave me a comment! I would love to hear more great ideas on how to make podcasts accessible to as many people as possible!


        
  

About Me

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Curt Blanshan / Youth Pastor, Tech, Lover of Bacon

Crazy in love with my wife and best friend, father to a little ball of energy I call my son, and passionate about youth ministry. When I get time, I try to keep up on tech. Oh, and I love bacon.



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