Jennifer Reeves: Podcasting Experience from NLII

I just got this from Jennifer Reeves ( from MOJO … great recap and overall impressions of the podcasting that went on at NLII. Worthwhile little read…

My Podcasting Experience
By Jennifer Reeves
University of Missouri Professor and KOMU-TV Executive Producer

I had heard the term “podcasting” muttered here and there in technology committee emails. But three weeks ago was the first time I’d really thought about it. That’s when I jumped into this project with Apple Computer and Penn State. I was clueless. But now I can podcast and explain it simply to the many people who are curious and want to know more. I plan to share my knowledge to as many people as possible at the University of Missouri and at our radio station and television station.

This podcasting experiment was exciting. I was able to guide a journalism grad and a student to produce good content for the podcasting world. My partners in podcasting, University of Missouri student Kyle Palmer and graduate Sarah Ashworth, were initially wary of the project. They wondered if they could do good content for the internet that is broadcast quality. I convinced them to take this experience in with an open mind: A new technology doesn’t have to be perfect. This trip was all about just doing it and finding out what would happen.

We found out podcasting works and you can produce quality audio. My team took the skills learned at the Missouri School of Journalism and delivered a level of professionalism to podcasting that is new and very enjoyable. Going into the podcasting experiment, I wanted to deliver two different types of audio files: full feeds of featured speeches and panels and “NPR style” reports. My approach at the beginning was very similar to a t.v. news producer: Get people interested early and keep delivering product that they like so they’ll keep coming back. I was able to turn the speeches around onto the internet pretty quickly… And I did it even faster once I learned how to compress my broadcast-quality audio into quicker to download and upload files.

With podcasting, once you’re there, you’ll keep getting content – But that content has to be worth listening to. It’s a little different than the normal audience of radio or television. During one of our first podcasts, I helped edit the script with Kyle and Sarah. I realized they didn’t have to use the same broadcast voice you hear on the radio. They were able to really speak directly to the listener… Anyone who listens to a podcast wants to listen. That means they’re more involved in the topic. So Kyle and Sarah didn’t have to be as general in their scripts. They could use the words “you” because we were talking to the conference members and “we” because we were also part of the conference. It felt a little more comfortable because podcasting is not as formal as on the radio waves.

I let them wander around the conference and find stories while I captured full speeches to help continuously provide more content. But the continuously part wasn’t as easy as I’d hoped. That’s mainly because we had never used the audio editing program Audacity. It gives the simple editing we needed for this trip, but it failed or corrupted files often. It was also much more tenuous compared to the system we already use for KBIA, the University of Missouri-owned NPR station. Being a reasonable novice working just with audio files (I’m more of an expert when it comes to editing audio and video at the same time), I didn’t realize how compressing the audio files dramatically eases the wait in uploading and downloading the podcasts. I also got to a point where I needed to capture more audio from a speech, but hadn’t been able to upload previous speeches at the same time because I completely overwhelmed my computer. I discovered my computer was unable to capture sound and have someone edit another audio file at the same time. Audacity crashed and I lost a small portion of a panel session. It could be Audacity or just user error, but I think it was probably a little of both. Either way I couldn’t multi-task on my computer as much as I’d hoped because I wanted to be sure the audio capture was not violated. After this conference, it is very tired. I’ll have to ask our friendly tech support to give me more memory! The cool part was I did do what I wanted: Provide content on a continuous basis. While Kyle and Sarah interviewed, wrote and edited, I was pushing content they’d already finished and streams of speeches to my blog.

Barring the technical glitches, the upload process was very smooth. It’s simple enough that I can see anyone podcasting: From my parents to my son when he gets a little older (maybe when he’s 4). It also feels like I’m part of a little underground club. Anyone who knows podcasting likes to talk about it. I’m hooked with the best of them. A cool moment came near the end of the conference. Kyle, Sarah and I were working at a table near a conference room. When the meeting ended, a podcast addict asked if she could grab a couple more podcasts before running off to the airport. I just connected her iPod to my iTunes and shared. A couple of other people noticed what I was doing and did the same thing. It was a cool geek moment. I can already see students hanging out when one asks a classmate if he’d listened to the class discussion from the podcast… and since only one person had actually downloaded it, they share the content by simply dragging and dropping it into their iPod.

This was a great experience. I hope to guide journalists in using this technology. They can become some of the first in the journalism profession to use podcasting to help drive our viewers and listeners to extra content or similar content that they may enjoy as they work out or drive around town. The possibilities are endless. The greatest part is helping take this experiment and turn it into a part of our curriculum. Who knows what is next.

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